BIND THE FESTAL PROCESSION WITH BRANCHES

Crossing Boulevard

with Rev. Rachel

27 BIND THE FESTAL PROCESSION WITH BRANCHES    - Psalm 118

Well, what in the world does that mean? Bind the festal procession...yes, of course, let me run and do that...said no one ever.

Commentary from back in the day says that it is a call to come freely with the offering, which is to be presented to God (A. Barnes, 1870). The one saying bind the festal procession with branches is getting the people fired up about gift giving.

Martin Luther thought that this binding the festal procession with branches had to do with adorning a feast with leaves. Others concur: These words harken back to the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, when the faithful filled Jerusalem to remember God’s provision in the wilderness and to celebrate the promise of an age to come.

I suppose it would be okay to shrug and move on. A problem with that approach is in the dismissiveness. These words are taken from the pages of our spiritual ancestors’ worship. To read a Psalm is to be invited to approach God alongside of those who approached God in the past. Connecting with the images is important!

Bind the festal procession with branches: What are we saying?

I think we are drumming up enthusiasm for a certain kind of entry into the stories of God and into the hopes of God’s people. We are rallying folk, starting with ourselves, to join a procession. We are doing what our spiritual ancestors taught us to do; namely to mark holidays in the present in order to recall something God had done in the past, while looking forward to some future reality.

Actual processions will happen at many houses of worship this Palm Sunday. I don’t think it’s a cop-out to say that we can process in the terrain of the heart—that we can join in the truth and beauty of the moment without literally forming one line and waving branches in the air.

If we are glad to offer ourselves to holy happenings of the past and if we are glad to give what we have prepared to give in the present and and if we want the kingdom to come in the way that Jesus taught us to pray for it to come, then the Psalmist’s words translate. Bind the festal procession with branches. Throw yourself into the festivities. Celebrate. Recall. Long for a new day.

God comes. We gather, with or without branches, to throw the welcome party.