I guess that it's time to post some updates. I have been very busy lately, trying to visit all of my soldiers before I turn them over to another chaplain. After my unit had been here for four months, we were given responsibility for about 400 active duty soldiers. They will be here for eight more months after we leave. This week, I made my last troop visitation trip.
Today is the first day of a dust storm that is predicted to last for several days. There is so much dust in the air that it looks like a fairly dense fog. Visibility is limited to 200 yards or so. These dust storms present a significant danger for us. Surveillance is limited, so insurgents have more time to set up significant rocket and mortar attacks.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. I'm sure that we will have palm branches in chapel. I'm also sure that they will have been shipped over here from some religious supply business in the US, even though we have hundreds and hundreds of palm trees on the base.
My sermon tomorrow is on the significance of the palm branches. It has always struck me as odd that we have this typically joyous celebration during the season of Lent, a time of reflection and repentance. That first Palm Sunday, however, was not the first time that a crowd in Jerusalem waved palm branches and shouted. It occurred earlier in 1 Maccabees 13, when the crowds celebrated their hard-fought freedom from the tyranny of the Seleucids.
With that in mind, the crowds in Jerusalem wave their palm branches and hail Jesus as the Messiah, or the anointed of God. They are hoping, though, that he has been anointed to fulfill their dreams of freedom from the tyranny of Rome. Palm Sunday, then, is the commemoration of a misunderstanding.
So, as we wave our palm branches on Sunday, March 16, 2008, let us confess the many ways that we still misunderstand and misuse the message of Jesus. It is especially heartbreaking in this time of war that Jesus, immediately after the triumphal entry in the Gospel of Luke, weeps over Jerusalem, saying "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace."
Pray for peace...