I love Palm Sunday, the pep rally before the big game. Up the old stone steps we walk, an assortment of colored pencils in my daughter’s hands. With a tug on the wooden doors, a handful of children turn, holding the most perfect palm fronds, waiting for instructions from the music lady. “Oops. We’re really late. They’re almost ready to do the Hosannas,” I thought.
We continue to climb up to the Rif-Raff room. 11 noisy steps to our pew, front-left balcony, –I can see everyone from here!–waiting for us. The music begins, choir joins in and the kids march dutifully to their front positions. There’s no crazy waving and shouting; after all, it’s an imaginary Jesus riding an imaginary donkey. Perhaps the kid ringleader, the one who’s a foot taller than the rest said, “Let’s hold off on the excitement, OK?”
Singing and liturgy proceed. We also celebrate a baptism this morning. The kids scoot forward to watch from the front. They gather around the funny, loud pastor as he talks about baptism and what it means. Smiles all around; excited for the big event. He turns his focus to sweet Helen, the one who’s asked for this sign of God’s love. As they take their places near the baptismal font, one of the twins can’t contain her excitement. She leaps across the floor and offers up a purple, glittery My Little Pony. “The pony wants to be baptized,” she declares. And the pastor says, “Let’s have the pony watch from right here,” as he props the toy precariously on the edge. He gently dips his fingers into the water and touches Helen’s forehead. It’s almost too good to be real. The kids lean in, mesmerized. We erupt in claps and cheers. Break out the lollipops and pizza. Helen is presented to the congregation; the kids, and pony, look on.
Now’s the time for action! The pony’s owner plunges her charge deep into the water as the congregation laughs. Scanning the scene, the pastor turns, reaches in and rescues the doused pony. No Reformed sprinkling here…it’s a full-on Baptist immersion. He finds himself marking the toy with the sign of the cross and declaring the pony baptized into God’s family.
The kids can hardly believe it. “Yes! We’ve done it! Rules? There are no rules! He’s blessed the pony!” High fives and fist bumps I imagine in heaven. Cut loose from our jaded attitude about church and ritual, we continue worship with robust singing.
“Hosanna in the highest!’ That ancient song we sing,
for Christ is our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven, our King.”
Drop those palm fronds and clap for joy. Laugh, guffaw, whoop and holler. Another member joins the family of God.