By Monique McBride
First UMC, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
First, read Mark 11:1-11
When I was a little girl, we attended my paternal grandfather’s conservative synagogue in Pompano Beach, FL. I was five years old when he passed away. But, in a few short years, Rabbi Morris Skop and his faith in God made a lasting impression on me which continues to this day. A man after my own heart, my grandfather had a passion for sharing the traditions of his faith with future generations.
Though I was only four years old at the time, I clearly remember him hosting a sukkah decorating contest in efforts to get families from his congregation excited about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot. I still have a newspaper article with my friends and I standing in a sukkah built and decorated by parents next to my grandparents’ pool.
Also called the Festival of Tabernacles or the Festival of Booths, Sukkot takes place in the fall and is one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals during which our Jewish brothers and sisters remember their time in exile in the wilderness.
During Sukkot, families construct temporary structures or forts outside of their homes with four walls and a roof. The simple structures are meant to have roofs with openings big enough to see the night sky and adorned with harvest items such as a collection of branches called lulav and citrus fruits native to Israel called etrog.
During the holiday, a parade is to take place during which the faithful hold the lulav (palm branches) and sing Hosannas to the king - a well-known verse from Psalm 118:25 which asks for a savior and offers blessings to the king. Sound familiar?
Though it was time to prepare for Passover, not Sukkot, the Jews of Jesus’ time would have been as familiar with Psalm 118:25 as we are familiar with the words of John 3:16 or The Lord’s Prayer. They would have known exactly what Jesus was doing by riding into the holy city on a donkey to fulfill the scriptures of Zechariah. So, they got their palm branches or lulav and recited the blessings of Sukkot from the Psalms. “Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
As we know, the story changes greatly after this little parade. The very same people shouting Hosanna during Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem would quickly change their tune when they realized Jesus’ version of “savior” was not really what they had in mind. Though they had the tradition down, they were not quite ready to accept all that it truly meant.
Before we begin to shake our heads at these faithful folks, let us take a minute to pause before our own palm parades and choruses of All Glory Laud and Honor.
Prayer: Dearest Lord, thank you for the traditions and stories of our faith. They are beautiful, rich and connected in many ways. These stories connect us to you and to your love which weaves through the fabric of time. Let us not stop at the celebration of traditions without letting their meaning seep into our souls. Let this be the reason to teach these traditions to our children and celebrate them again and again each year. As we enter into this most Holy Week, may the stories and traditions change our hearts and help us to follow you in thought, word and deed. In Jesus name we shout, Hosanna. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. And, may we truly mean it.
- What sort of savior do we have in mind for this upcoming Holy Week?
- Are we willing in our heart of hearts to give ourselves in faith to He who calls us to be last and servant of all?
- Will our own Hosannas change to Crucify Him?