Liturgy of the Palms
- Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
- Second reading
- Matthew 21:1-11
- First reading
- Isaiah 50:4-9a
- Psalm 31:9-16
- Second reading
- Philippians 2:5-11
- Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54
Those of you who have been going to church for awhile may have noticed that Palm Sunday sometimes stretches for a longer time than Easter Sunday. There's so much we cover these days. We start with the Palm Sunday story--some churches actually have their congregants start out seated, then they rise and march around the church, either inside or outside, and then they sit down again. And then, when they get to the readings, they hear the whole story of the Passion. We get Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday all in one Sunday. It's almost a relief to show up on Easter and only have to deal with one part of the story.
Easter is the part of the story upon which our Christian faith is rooted. It's the place where most of us like to fix our focus. But Holy Week reminds us of essential truths too.
Palm Sunday, which is now called Passion Sunday, reminds us of life's journey. No one gets to live the triumphal entry into Jerusalem day in and day out. If we're lucky, there will be those high water mark periods; we'll be hailed as heroes and people will appreciate our work. All the transportation and dinner details will work out like we want them to. Our friends will be by our side.
Yet the Passion story reminds us that those same appreciative people can turn on us just as quickly. The cheering crowd today can be the one calling for our blood next week. If we're lucky, we'll have friends who stand by us, but we're also likely to suffer all kinds of betrayals: from our friends, from our governments, from any number of societal institutions, and ultimately from our bodies, our all too fragile flesh.
What do we do with this knowledge?
The corridor between Palm Sunday and Easter instructs us in what to do. We can watch out for each other. We can find like-minded humans and stay together in solidarity. We can make meals and take time to eat together.
We can go even deeper into our care for each other, and on Maundy Thursday, we get a glimpse of that kind of care. Some churches will read the Maundy Thursday text of the woman anointing Christ's feet with oil. Some churches will read the Maundy Thursday text that shows Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.
Good Friday reminds us that we can do all these things, and still we may have to stand by helplessly as those whom we love are ravaged. Or we may find that we are ravaged.
The Palm Sunday/Passion Week trajectory reminds us that we worship a God who has experienced this truth of the human condition first hand.
But we also worship a God who has been working through time and outside of time to transform this human condition. We don't always see it, but Easter assures us that the process is in place and that resurrection will break through, even in the most unlikely circumstances.