Thursday, March 29, 2012

Celebrate Palm Sunday with a Passion!

Does that sound snarky?  Celebrate Palm Sunday with a Passion?  It might be a little bit.

Coming up this Sunday is what we call Palm/Passion Sunday.  We, at my current church, like most Methodist churches it seems, lean heavily more towards the Palm side of things.  And for good reason, like other Methodist churches I've had the privilege to serve, we observe the full selection of Holy Week services with Holy Thursday and Good Friday services.  We don't observe an Easter Vigil, but this year we will be offering a Sunrise Service on Easter which will have some close ties to an Easter Vigil liturgy.

Like most churches around this area, our Palm Sunday celebration will indeed be a celebration, with every single one of our children's music ensembles offering their gifts and talents after a semi-raucous Palm processional by the kids.  The children will get us in the mood for worship, for sure, but we often, because we usually bill this Sunday as a 'celebration', neglect the irony of the day: the crowd that greets Jesus as a triumphant and long-awaited King puts him on a cross by the end of the week.

Fortunately, this irony will be on full display this Sunday in worship, as our Pastors have elected to preach to us on the betrayal of Judas. 

We'll be experiencing worship this Sunday in a very profound way with a service that is half full of celebration and half full of the dark night of the soul.

But that's what Holy Week is supposed to be about, isn't it?

Jesus rides into Jerusalem to a hopeful and expectant people, who in a matter of days completely turn on him because he wasn't who they expected.

This is why in the Revised Common Lectionary for this Sunday there is an option for an alternative Gospel Reading: reading aloud the Passion of the Christ.  I invite you this weekend to take out the Word and read the journey Christ took in that short week that brought him to the cross.  This year's passion narrative is from the Gospel of Mark, 14:1-15:47.  Mark is a quick read, so do yourself a favor and pull it out and dwell on the story for a bit.

How does your faith community observe Palm/Passion Sunday?