Holy week begins with the noise of a thousand “Hosannas!” ringing through the air. Jesus, riding on a donkey, says nothing. It is the throng of worshippers who are left to put words to this Christ they see before them. Words that change quickly from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” How dare he not be who we expected.
Like that palm-strewn street, Jesus enters into our lives in ways comical and unexpected. And it is up to us to find the words, to translate into speech and action our response to Christ. When expectations are met, the words flow easier. But when we see the Messiah not in the strength of a political conqueror, but riding lopsided on a donkey, silent, looking for all the world like some kind of holy joke, we have two options: ignore what we see and shout “Hosanna!” anyhow, hoping that by our words we will remake Christ into who we want him to be; or, enter into the unexpected, embrace the Christ who is, and find in that moment both faith and joy.
Reinhold Niebuhr says: “Laughter is the beginning of prayer…. The intimate relation between humor and faith is derived from the fact that both deal with the incongruities of our existence.” Moments of comedy (described by Frederick Buechner in The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale) come from the unexpected moments, moments echoed through the life of Christ and the parables he spoke: the holy surprise of losers becoming winners, of outcasts being healed, the happy shock of lost coins found and sons welcomed home, of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to get one that has left, a boss who pays workers the same wage at the start of the day or end of the day, a God who waits in hope for all of us to come home again.
This easter, may the God of the unexpected find you in places you are most lost and delight you again with laughter and the improbable, unexpected, unfailing hope of the redeemed.