The music starts while heads turn to the back of the church where a crowd of little ones has gathered. Palm branches suspended by small hands wave in our sight, Hosanna’s escape from lips like butterfly kisses that float in the air. Eyes searching for parents, elbows bumping one to the other, they make their way to the front, where they lay their branches on the altar. I smile hoping no one will notice the pink in my cheeks, and the tears that burn in my eyes, threatening to spill over staining my cheeks. I take a deep breath, lift hands to my mouth and exhale.
Paths crisscross with children searching for seats; I wave to Madison who holds the hands of her brothers, trying to guide them toward us. They find their seats, settle in, and the music continues to play. I sing a little, but wonder if perhaps it’s best I hold back, my throat is sore, and congestion has gotten the best of me. Noticing the woman beside me has flashed a smile my way, I pull lint from my sweater and smirk, revealing my imperfections in hopes that they may mask another. I continue to sing.
Nathaniel is clapping alone, unaware of the beat, until my husband grabs hold of his hands and leads him along. He doesn’t notice or care that he’s a one man marching band, so he continues to clap while we worship. Then he stops, tugs on his big brothers sleeve and speaks over the music, “Can I sit on your soldiers?” he asks.
Brendan unable to understand what he wants throws him a puzzled look. “He wants to sit on your shoulders,” I translate.
Brendan smiles, but shakes his head, “Not right now guy.”
I continue to worship.
The pastor speaks, while I write. He asks us to turn to the book of Matthew, and I do while in wonder I ask myself why I carry the Bible when the words appear on screen. I leaf through the onionskin pages, till my eyes rest on the passage at hand where I follow along. Marveling at the annotated reference notes, I wonder if others know the secrets I’m learning, my eyes rest on the page for a while until the silence tells me I’m lagging behind. My eyes rise to meet the eyes of the pastor, while I lean in to hear more.
Michael moves closer and whispers pointing out how the couple in front of us looks identical to the other couple just down their row. Together we study the back of their heads, discovering that they do look alike except for the fact that the women have slightly different lengths in hair, and the color is a shade or two off.
The woman sitting to my right passes her baby behind her. Taking the opportunity, I turn and smile to the people behind me, admiring the baby they hold.
I pick up my pen and continue dictation, trying my best to absorb all that I can.
Hearing the music I return to my feet, smoothing my skirt and clearing my throat. Tugging on Michael’s sleeve with one hand, and scratching his nose with the other, Nathaniel calls out, “Can I sit on your soldiers Daddy?”
We smile, while Michael answers, “Maybe later, my soldiers are sore now, ok?” Nudging his arm I hold in a laugh.
The music winds down, while closing words dismiss us from the service. I drop to my seat, and pick up my pen sliding it past the smooth leather wallet where it finally comes to rest. Picking up the notebook, I take one last look at the scratches I’ve put down on paper, hoping to remember all that I’ve learned.
What kind of worshipper are you? It asks…
Are you one of those who found themselves caught up in the moment singing “Hosanna in the highest” waving her palm branch high in the air, because it felt right? Perhaps you’ve said, “Why not? It seems fun.”
Or, are you one of those who liked the company of this man who took care of her. Perhaps He fed you in the group of five thousand, or healed a friend that was sick. You like Him because there’s something in it for you.
Or, lastly perhaps unlike the others, you know what the cheering is really about because you have a relationship with the One that you worship. You know that there’s nothing else that you’d rather do than cheer and wave your palm branch high in the air; you know that He is the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You want nothing else but to find your way through the crowd to get a glimpse of the one they call Christ.
Bowing my head I whisper a prayer, “Teach me to find my way through this crowd I call the world that pushes around me and takes my eyes off the one that I love. And, when it does press in, Father,” I ask, “can you lift me high on your shoulders, so that I might glimpse the man who died for my sins?”