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Dear Friends in Valhalla Parish—

How many palm trees have you seen recently in the Kootenays? I suppose it's possible that there are some, but if so, they are few. Palm Trees aren't exactly native to this part of the world in the way that they are near Jerusalem. 

Once again this year—in just over a week—we will gather at both St. David's and St. Stephen's to mark Palm Sunday. We will gather for the liturgy of the Palms (perhaps outside!) before heading indoors for the liturgy of the Passion. In the liturgy of the Palms, we join the crowds in shouting "Hosanna," in making way for Jesus, who we know to be our true sovereign. 

On that journey to Jerusalem, a journey that Jesus took—not on the back of a warhorse, but the back of a donkey—the people took what they had at hand to make way. They grabbed palm trees and laid down their coats, as a way of making way for the one who they wanted to show such great honour. They climbed trees and stood on rocks, to see Jesus passing by, just the way we might at the annual Pride Parade, or another important festival.  

And so this year, as you prepare yourself to come to church in a week's time, I want to invite you to think about what you might bring. What might you bring—a cedar branch, a housecoat, or something else—an offering of what you have at your finger tips to show honour to the one who we will celebrate. 

I'm writing this a week in advance, having been working with others in the parish to prepare our liturgies for Palm Sunday, for Maundy Thursday, for Good Friday, and for Resurrection Sunday—Easter. This year, the whole sweep of Holy Week and the Great Three Days is catching me off guard. Of course I know the story. But this year, I'm experiencing it in a whole new way. From time to time I'm finding myself in celebration mode. At other times, I find myself on the verge of tears. 

This story, this great central story of our faith, has such deep power. And it's not just the power of the story as a story, either. It's the power of the God who breaks into our lives from what all too often seems like a distance. It's the power of God to appear in our lives, in our conversations, in our interactions with one another. It's the power of God to appear to us in the forest, or on a mountain, or by the river. It's the power of God to speak to us in the silence, to call us to attention, as with the peal of bells. 

The great mystery of this season beckons us forth. It calls us out of ourselves, to be swept up in the beauty, mystery, and awe of divine love that Jesus embodies with and for us. It calls us out of ourselves, into relationship with one another, as we seek to embody a wondrous love that we can barely fathom.

This great mystery of Jesus' passion holds all other mysteries within itself. It makes space for uncertainty, betrayal, death, and disorientation. And yet somehow, it makes space for the surprise of new life, too. And so today, I want to invite you to enter more deeply into a time of preparation. A time of prayer. A time of vulnerable self-opening to all that God has in store for you and for our community. 

We are entering into the heart of the mystery of God's love in the days ahead. And this, I know, is not always easy. And so, as we move ever closer to the Last Supper, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb, I pray that you will invite Jesus to walk with you. We have a great friend in Jesus. And I am reminded this week that his love goes all the way down. 

May we open ourselves to such wondrous love; 
May we revel in this great gift; 
May we listen deeply;
May we open ourselves to transformation;  
May we respond generously; and
May we walk with one another, 
throughout this journey, 
as we seek to find our way home.

Every Blessing,

Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Valhalla Parish Missioner