We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Palm Sunday, the Setting: “We are Going Up to Jerusalem”

From Killing Jesus – Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard 

It is Sunday, April 2, A.D. 30. Pontius Pilate has just returned to Jerusalem and taken up residence in Herod the Great’s palace. Herod Antipas, the tetrarch, arrives in the city and stays just a block away, at the Hasmonean Palace. At the same time, Caiaphas prepares for the biggest festival of the year at his palace home in the Upper City.

Passover week is now about to begin.

The purification process is vital to properly celebrating Passover. It creates a physical and emotional state of mind that prepares a worshipper to embrace God’s holiness—thus the need to arrive in Jerusalem almost a week before the holy day

Anticipating the smell of roast lamb that will hang over Jerusalem as the Passover feasts are being cooked in ovens, the pilgrims count their money, worrying about how they will pay for that feast and the inevitable taxes they will incur in the city. Despite their sore feet and aching legs from walking mile after rugged mile through the wilderness, the travelers feel themselves transformed by the magnetic pull of Jerusalem. Their thoughts are no longer set on their farms back home and the barley crop that must be harvested immediately upon their return, but on holiness and purity

“We are going up to Jerusalem,” Jesus tells his disciples as they prepare to depart for the Passover…  

“Jerusalem is just a forty-minute walk from the village of Bethany, where they stop for the night. They stay at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, rather than risk traveling after sundown and on the start of the Sabbath. This will be their base throughout Passover week, and Jesus and the disciples plan to return here most nights for the promise of a hot meal and easy rest   

“Just on the other side of Bethpage, the two disciples stand waiting. One holds the bridle of a donkey that has never been ridden. The animal is bareback. A disciple removes his square cloak and lays it across the animal’s back as an improvised saddle. The other disciples remove their cloaks and lay them on the ground in an act of submission, forming a carpet on which the donkey can walk. 

“Following this example, many of the pilgrims remove their own cloaks and lay them on the ground. Others gather palm fronds or snap branches off olive and cypress trees and wave them with delight. This is the sign everyone has been waiting for. This is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. “Blessed is the king!” shouts a disciple. The people join in, exalting Jesus and crying out to him. “Hosanna,” they chant. “Hosanna in the highest.” 

“Jesus rides forth on the donkey, and the people bow down. “O Lord, save us,” they implore, thankful that the Christ has finally come to rescue them. “O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” The words of thanksgiving are from Psalm 118, a psalm sung at Passover. This is the moment for which these simple peasants have waited so long. Of all the thousands of pilgrims who set out from Galilee, these are the lucky few who can tell their children and their children’s children that they witnessed the grand moment when Jesus the Christ rode triumphantly into Jerusalem.  

“But not everyone bows down. A group of Pharisees has been waiting for Jesus and now look on with disgust. They call out to him, giving the Nazarene one last chance to avoid a charge of blasphemy. “Teacher,” they yell, “rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus refuses. “I tell you,” he informs the Pharisees, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.” 

“Others who have heard that Jesus is near have run out from Jerusalem, spreading palm branches across the path of the Nazarene. This is a traditional sign of triumph and glory. 

“The donkey stops atop the Mount of Olives. Jesus takes it all in. Tents cover the hillside, for this is where the poor Galileans camp during Passover. Jerusalem calls out to Jesus from just across the small Kidron Valley, and the Temple gleams in the midday sun. Throngs of pilgrims line the path winding down into the valley. The mud-and-limestone trail is remarkably steep, and Jesus will have to use great caution to guide the donkey downhill without getting thrown. This is his day. Jesus’s whole life has pointed to this moment, when he will ride forth to stake his claim to the title “king of the Jews.”