Faith Matters: A tale of Palm Sunday (from the donkey)

By JANET KEYES

Clerk and Lay Worship Leader, Robbins Memorial Congregational Church

Published: 03-31-2023 3:38 PM

I am “Hamor.” My master is an 11-year-old boy named Zechariah. His father has a vineyard in Bethphage, near the Mount of Olives. My master has never given me a name. Hamor simply means “donkey.” When I was very young, he called me Ayir, the sound of a colt. In another language it might be “Hee-haw.”

My master’s father, Josiah, has told Zechariah that I should have a real name, but Zechariah says there is no name more real than Hamor, and I am too special to have any human name. Zechariah spends much time with me. He ties me to our front door with a long rope so I can lie down near him in the shade of the fig tree beside the house. Zechariah’s older brothers have spent time in that shade studying the scriptures so that they could become men worshiping in the temple with others on the Sabbath. Zechariah listened closely to learn as much as possible before he becomes 13, when he too will become a man.

He asked his oldest brother, Seth, to beg the rabbi to give him some verses from the writings of the prophet Zechariah, so that he could learn early about the prophet for whom he was named. The rabbi is a kind man and he gave these verses to Seth.

“Rejoice, rejoice, people of Zion!

Shout for joy, you people of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you!

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He comes triumphant and victorious,

but humble and riding on a donkey —

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

There were more verses, but Zechariah did not remember them exactly — something about the king destroying war, and making peace, and ruling to the ends of the Earth. Zechariah told me that he believes the king has already been born. He also believes I am so special that I may actually be “that” colt.

Zechariah is talking about a man called Jesus, from the house of David. He goes from town to town, preaching about God, feeding large crowds with only a few loaves and fishes, and healing sick people. Some say he has walked on water and raised a dead man to life. Some have whispered that angels were heard singing at the time of his birth. I do not know what to think. All I know is that I am a very special donkey.

Zechariah tells me that the Jewish people have many great traditions and great history. One great festival is the Passover, remembering God’s mercy in sparing the Jews from the last great plague of Egypt. Passover is celebrated in the week after the vernal equinox, and many people march to the temple waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna,” and the traditional Psalms 113 through 118.

Zechariah has told me that if the new king needs me, I should be ready and be calm. He has placed small burdens on my back to prepare me. This week is the time of Passover.

Now I hear people marching and singing. Zechariah has left me alone while he goes to watch the Passover crowds, and to sing with them. I hear the words they are singing and I understand them. One verse says, “The Lord is with me; I will fear not.” Another verse says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men or in human princes.”

Now a man I do not know has untied me, and Zechariah’s father is asking, “Why are you untying the colt?”

The man answers, “The Lord needs it. We will bring it back.”

He leads me gently, and I am unafraid. They throw cloaks on me, and Jesus climbs on me. His weight is like my small practice burdens. I think this may be a miracle. We move toward Jerusalem. As we approach, the men near me sing, “Blessed be the king! Peace in heaven, and glory to God!”

Some men in fine robes scold the men singing, telling Jesus, “Command your disciples to be quiet!” Somehow, I know they fear insurrection. They do not understand that people only want justice and peace. Jesus answers, “If I tell them to be quiet, the stones on the street will start shouting!” I think I hear angels singing.

Jesus walks into the temple.

Somehow, I know Jesus will die, and will rise again to life. That day will someday be celebrated even more than Passover. When Jesus’ friends return me home, I will not have words to tell Zechariah all I have learned today. He will know only what he already knows — that I am a very special donkey.

Praise be to God!

Robbins Memorial Congregational Church was founded in 1892, originally serving residents on the west side of Greenfield. Its name honors its founder, the Rev. Francis Robbins. The church became affiliated with the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches in 2006. Worship services are held at 10 a.m. on Sundays, with lay worship leaders at present. Email RobbinsChurchGreenfield@gmail.com for more information.

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