We are back from our 30th birthday trip to Italy, and it was truly a more meaningful and more magical experience than we could have ever hoped for. We can't wait to share some stories with you soon. In thinking about these last few days leading up to Easter, along with this week's devotional topic, I can't help but be transported back to where we sat less than a week ago, in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Palm Sunday.
This sixth week of Lent, the topic is: "I am the True Vine"
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing". (John 15:5)
St. Peter's Square on any Sunday morning is a singular experience, much less on the Sunday morning that kicks off the most holy week in our faith. As we will detail later, it seems if you must use a wheelchair, Italy is the place to do it. Our jaws literally dropped as we were whisked, solely by virtue of Katherine sitting in a wheelchair, to the aisle directly in front of the communion table. The moment and the crowd and the anticipation nearly overwhelmed us. The beauty of a corporate experience of worship, especially in a large crowd context, is so palatable, and in that moment, we could somehow place ourselves in that ancient crowd cheering "Hosana" at Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem.
The palm and olive branches filling the air, fervently waving and shaking, seem a striking visual of creation rising up, declaring the glory of God. But even greater, the morning sun glinting through the silhouette of the branches recalls a deeper meaning. If we are in Christ, we are intertwined with Him in a union as close as the vine sprouting off those branches.
“As long as Christ remains outside of you, all that He has done and suffered for the human race remains of no value to you.” – John Calvin, Institutes
The palm branch traditionally signified victory or triumph, and the practice of covering one's path with branches or garments was reserved for those held in the highest honor. Those branches lifted heavenward are a kind of declaration, a symbol of our desire to be united with the victor. We shout "Hosana!" ("Save, now!") as we know the truest heart of our walk with the Lord is not to be a good person or even to be forgiven or to get to go to heaven but to be given the incomparable privilege of communing with Jesus--communing as closely as the intimacy between a husband and wife, the bricks in a house, the limbs of a body, the vine in a branch. As we paid homage to Christ's humbly triumphant arrival into Jerusalem, the tradition of Palm Sunday foreshadows Christ's triumphant arrival into our hearts and the ensuing union that changes everything.