Palm Sunday 2020

For several years our father tried to have a new donkey colt for Palm Sunday. We had Spanish burros, which have a dark cross marking across their shoulders. Tradition says that the cross is from carrying Jesus on Palm Sunday. Since Palm Sunday moves around the calendar, you have to anticipate a year in advance. Then you have to factor in extra time because not all pregnancies are the same length in burros. If you keep all of the right feed and conditions are just right, the colt will be born about 11 months after conception. But it can take longer and a blizzard at the right (or wrong) time can extend the gestation period. Although it never happened to us, we know stories of Jennys who have carried their colts for as long as 14 months. Add to that the fact that we were doing this in the days before artificial insemination so the exact date of conception was impossible to control - well you get the picture. Old Buff might have her colt in time for Palm Sunday and she might not have it until after Easter.

Once, when we had a tiny colt and the weather was bad we took it inside the church for Palm Sunday. Some years we had a Palm Sunday parade outside of the church. Some years our only donkey was a very pregnant Jenny - too pregnant to ride. That was the case in the year when Buff produced her colt on Easter Sunday. We hoped for a Palm Sunday colt we could name Hosannah. We ended up with a colt named Hallelujah. She was a tiny and spindly little thing. Donkey breeders say that a donkey colt reaches its peak value the day it is born and becomes worth less each day that it lives. Once we sold an old Jack at auction and he brought only $2, which might have been a bargain, but the brand inspection fee was $4. When we found out that the one who bought him was the brand inspector, a bit of intense and good humored negation began over the price of the brand inspection. We broke even in the end.

Hallelujah wasn’t up for sale. We decided that we would keep her. That would give us more options for Palm Sunday colts. From the beginning that colt was trouble. She laid down next the the fence and got up on the other side. She took a bite out of the back side of one of our father’s customers. We thought it was funny. The customer did not. She tried her hand, or I guess her leg, at crossing a cattle guard. It didn’t work. She got stuck and ended up breaking her leg. It healed up very well, but had to keep her then. We had so much invested in vet bills that her only chance of adding value was to produce colts. And there was the problem of her name. Hallelujah was much too long for a donkey. You need a name that you can call out with a bit of sternness in your voice. The name got shortened to Lulu and it fit a lot better when you considered the animal’s personality.

Lulu continued to get into trouble and into the garden and into the shed. She definitely didn’t like to touch the electric fence with her nose, so she would just turn around and back into it until the wire broke.

When she was finally bred, we thought it might calm her down. And we thought we might have a shot at a Palm Sunday colt. But there was no colt on Palm Sunday morning. We loaded up Lulu and took her to the church where she stood at the curb out front and refused to be led or pushed or chased or moved in any other fashion. Even a bucket of oats wouldn’t get her to do anything but stand there and bray.

When the cold arrived, weeks after Easter had passed, Lulu had no interest in being a mother. She ignored the little creature as if it belonged to someone else. It was a struggle just to get her to allow it to nurse. Her instincts seemed to be wired backwards.

As a result of our donkey business, I have a lot of memorable Palm Sundays in my history. I can remember waving palms and walking down the streets of Hyde Park in Chicago with hundreds of other people. I can remember Palm Sunday in rural North Dakota with only a handful of palms from the florist shop. I can remember our first Palm Sunday parade here in Rapid City with participants from six churches. I have a lot of Palm Sunday memories.

Today, however, is going to be another one to add. It will be a Palm Sunday like no other. Following the social distancing guidelines, there might be seven people in the room when we turn on the livestream camera to broadcast our worship. I’ve been joking with our son about how I’ve decided to become a televangelist late in my career. But I’m not a big fan of distance worship. We are adapting because we must. I prefer worshiping with other people. And this morning will be my first ever long-distance communion service. Holy Week being Holy Week, I’ll be an old hand at livestream communion by the end of the week, but this morning, I can only imagine how it is going to go. Will people at home actually get a bit of bread and a drop of something o drink? Or will they just watch as a static audience while I become the symbol for a congregation? What does it mean to share a sacrament when you can’t even share a handshake? We’re in a steep learning curve here.

Nonetheless it is Palm Sunday. And Palm Sunday comes even when plans don’t work out the way you’d imagined. The colt might not be born. The donkey might refuse to even walk a block. I imagine it was a bit that way on the first Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem didn’t happen the way people expected. And when it was all over someone had to clean up the mess.

The Christ enters into our lives in the most unexpected ways. And this Palm Sunday will teach us once again that it isn’t about us and our plans. Christ comes. Hosannah!

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!