“Then they brought [the colt] to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.” – Luke 19:35-36
The kids at my church skip worship on Palm Sunday every year. I would consider that a problem if they weren’t doing it for such a beautiful reason. While the rest of us are in worship, the kids and their handlers are out on the street making ready for Jesus. Using lowers gathered from florists all around town, they make an alfombra, or carpet, of flowers all up and down the street in front of the church. People throughout Latin America make wildly complex alfombras out of colored sawdust (and sometimes other stuff) for a variety of religious processions, mostly centering on Holy Week.
Ours aren’t quite as astonishingly complex as those traditional ones, but what they lack in complexity and technical precision they make up for in heart. Smiley faces, rainbows, and peace signs made of colored petals mingle with sunbursts and abstract designs made of entire flowers. They line the street to welcome the rest of us when the doors open after church and we head out for a Palm Sunday procession around the neighborhood.
Ask our kids why they do it, and they’ll tell you this: here on Palm Sunday, Jesus starts a very difficult journey. He’s about to walk a hard road to a terrible place. Before he’s done, his feet will be bruised and battered. So they lay these flowers at his feet, in the most beautiful way they can contrive, to try to make the journey easier. To cushion his feet. To soothe his eyes. To let the last things he experiences before the betrayal be acts of devotion and kindness and beauty.
You might not have a roomful of free flowers to work with, but I bet if you look around today, you can find something to do that might make Jesus’ journey this week easier. Make a piece of art for him. Feed a hungry person for him. Walk a mile barefoot in solidarity with him. Pray with a broken heart for him. Sing the most beautiful song you know to encourage him. Let him—and all who walk hard roads—know he’s not alone.
Oh my dear, precious Jesus: I am with you.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.