Palm Sunday: Calm Before the Storm

Palm Sunday: Calm Before the Storm April 2, 2023

Entry into Jerusalem (Annunciation Cathedral in Moscow); Wikimedia {{PD-US-expired}}.

There is a sense in which Palm Sunday is Calm Sunday. Here I am referring to Jesus’ person. He remains calm amid the highs and lows of that day. Jesus remains calm before the storm that is coming. This post reflects upon Jesus’ calmness of spirit amid the turbulent activity, and how we might follow in his footsteps and be in sync with his heartbeat amid the storms of life.

There is a sense of equilibrium, even as the people shower him with praises upon his entrance to Jerusalem, even as he cleanses the temple, and even as he responds to the indignant religious leaders’ questions (See Matthew 21). Jesus does not get too high or too low. According to the biblical accounts, he knows he will be dead by Friday, and then rise again by the following Sunday. All in a week’s work for Jesus.

No doubt, Jesus’ sense of divine purpose and God’s providential care helped him remain in a state of equilibrium amid all the highs and lows. He remains calm before the storm, in the storm, and after the storm. I wish the same were true for me.

There are far more lows than highs with my adult son Christopher’s care. Christopher endured a catastrophic brain injury over two years ago. He remains completely dependent on others’ support. Therefore, our advocacy for him remains on high alert. Last night was no exception. While I cannot go into detail, let’s just say that Palm Sunday eve was certainly not Calm Saturday.

We can debate the relation of divine sovereignty to human freedom, but for me there can be no debate that God has a purpose for my son and us, and that God providentially cares for my son. We do not know the outcome of Christopher’s life, or any of our lives for that matter. But the possibility for a calm Sunday on Palm Sunday and every day this week and beyond is bound up with the realization that God is holding and upholding us. We are in the palm of God’s hand.

Matthew’s Gospel accounts for God’s providential care and purpose for Jesus’ life and the events surrounding his triumphal entry and conflict with the religious and political opposition. Matthew 21 references various passages in the Hebrew Scriptures to emphasize that what happened that day was in fulfilment of prophecy. As we follow Jesus, and hold tightly to him, we will find that no matter the highs and lows, ‘he’s got us.’

In one way or another, we are all on life support, completely dependent for every breath and nutrient on God’s care. I simply need to take this to heart as much as I take to heart advocacy for my son. May God’s Son and Spirit advocate for us so that we all come to realize that we are in the palm of God’s hand.

I close with a Swedish hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.” My late mother of Swedish descent and a trained vocalist used to sing this song so beautifully to me when I was a child. May we find comfort and calm amid the storms of life in the palm of God’s hand:

1 Children of the heav’nly Father
safely in his bosom gather;
nestling bird nor star in heaven
such a refuge e’er was given.

2 God his own doth tend and nourish;
in his holy courts they flourish.
From all evil things he spares them;
in his mighty arms he bears them.

3 Neither life nor death shall ever
from the Lord his children sever;
unto them his grace he showeth,
and their sorrows all he knoweth.

4 Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne’er forsaketh;
his the loving purpose solely
to preserve them pure and holy.

Here’s a word about the author of this hymn: “Caroline W. Sandell Berg (b. Froderyd, Sweden, 1832; d. Stockholm, Sweden, 1903), is better known as Lina Sandell, the ‘Fanny Crosby of Sweden.’ ‘Lina’ Wilhelmina Sandell Berg was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor to whom she was very close; she wrote hymns partly to cope with the fact that she witnessed his tragic death by drowning.” (Please refer here for the hymn and this brief statement about Caroline Sandell Berg)

The author wrote this hymn to provide comfort, hope, and strength to cope in the face of life’s tragedies. Since Christopher’s traumatic ordeal, much of my writing is dedicated to this same end. Such is the case on Palm Sunday and Holy Week’s storms.

For the various entries on our journey with Christopher since this journey on life support began, please refer here. Thank you for your prayers!

I address Palm Sunday and Holy Week at length in my volume on the liturgical calendar, Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse.

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University and Seminary, Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including Setting the Spiritual Clock: Sacred Time Breaking Through the Secular Eclipse (Cascade, 2020). You can read more about the author here.
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