schizophrenic sunday

Maybe some of my more studious friends out there can tell me when Palm Sunday got mashed together with the Sunday of the Passion, but it all seems very odd to me. In the course of about 30 minutes we go from shouting hosannas and processing around the block in a glorious remembrance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to recalling with the Gospel writers those minutes that seemed so final as Jesus breathed his last and gave up his spirit.

Is it because people aren’t attending as many Holy Week services that this is the case? Or has it happened since the beginning? It all seems very schizophrenic… perhaps bipolar is a better term… as we run through Holy Week in the time it takes Domino’s to deliver a pizza. As I pray over these texts this week I’m wondering if I might not be called to preach on the Gospel lesson from the Liturgy of the Palms. Shouldn’t we spend at least a couple of minutes pondering the complexities of our savior who came not to be served but to serve riding in a royal procession the Sunday before the Passover? Isn’t there a lot to say about Jerusalem being “a city in turmoil” as they struggled to discern who this man was; for he certainly was not Pilate. What about the shouts of those on the parade route, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” What should we make of all of that? What does it mean to us in 21st century America? What can we learn about Jesus and what he came to do by the shouts of the crowd?

I doubt I’ll actually do it. This week is too hectic. I’m too far away from routine. I’m not sure I can pull it off. I probably need something more comfortable. For today, however, I’m thinking that Palm Sunday should be about Palm Sunday and we can save the Passion for its rightful place on Good Friday.

8 thoughts on “schizophrenic sunday

  1. I whole-heartedly echo your sentiment. I have no idea when they conflated the Palm Sunday procession with the Passion Narrative. I think you are right- we don’t have as many folks coming during Holy Week so we got lazy and want people to hear the story (and maybe be able to double dip on the preaching as well)All of that said, I am definitely preaching on the Entry into Jerusalem text. I am planning to play on the whole concept of Jerusalem struggling to identify who this Jesus is. I am going to play with the image of radical welcome in the Triumphal Entry and use a story about not being welcomed to a certain un-named parish. Who do we welcome? Do we know or ever understand the stranger we welcome as Christ or simply as someone new in our midst, etc. It is pretty rough right now, but I am dedicated to pushing through on it. Hope PA is treating you ok.

  2. I am preaching on both the readings using from our homiletics class the idea of preaching on the “trouble in the text,” though this translates this Sunday into the trouble with the liturgy.The root Greek word for how the people felt when they saw Jesus (seio) is translated as agitated. One wonders if the agitation came from different aspects…We know that the people would have recognized Jesus’ royal enterance as a possible mockery, of the power base. We know that these royal entrances during Passover were as much about that, as it was an excuse to non-threateningly bring in more soldiers to keep the crowds under control. There are those who might have been offended by Jesus’ entry this way, or those wondering if this was truly the Messiah. In our pageants we tend to play act as if we are all happy to see Jesus march into town, and then wonder how the same people can say “crucify him…” THIS aspect is what I enjoy in the challenge fo these two readins…and how much like us they are…We enter church on Sunday, praising Jesus and celebrating all that is good, but then our actions during the week tend to go against God’s call…the way we treat the good earth, the way we ignore the needy around us, the way we lesson those who are not in our social realm, or who dress, talk, look different. In all those ways, do we find ourselves going through the week figuratively saying “crucify him, crucify him?” That is the just of my sermon, minus the good news to wrap it all up.

  3. Wonderful ideas, guys. Steve – I have been troubled by this for years and I still haven’t come to a good answer. We all know that we cannot get to Easter without Good Friday, but the only way I’d come up to deal with the dichotomy of the entry and the crucifixion went very close to Peter’s ideas. We’ve been using the movie “Chocolat” for our Lenten program and so I think I’m going to take the tact about facing our own worst fears and marching into the dark recesses of those fears as triumphantly as Jesus entered into Jerusalem. Are we both brave and humble enough to die to the old parts of ourselves and be confident in our own resurrection into the Kingdom in the here and now.

  4. I wouldn’t call myself studious, but I do know you can check out Hatchett’s “Commentary on the American Prayer Book” for some insight into the Palm Sunday liturgy. The earliest we know of it is from the 4th century, and that appeared to be a day of strictly celebration with stops at different holy spots around Jerusalem (yay, 4th century tourism/piety!).By the time our 1549 Prayer Book rolled around the Passion Gospel was being read as the Gospel at the service entitled “The Sunday next before Easter.”Now, the 1979 revision went a long way to uncover the most ancient forms of the Holy Week commemorations (I think that’s the best word we can use), but it didn’t go so far as to keep Palm Sunday as a strictly festal celebration.For a much more thorough, and probably accurate, account check out Hatchett’s commentary (pg. 223).

  5. As for my two cents — I understand Palm Sunday to be a proper Sunday liturgy that prepares for the proper Sunday of Easter. Basically, getting us ready to live into the reality of the resurrection. BUT, all of that depends on my understanding of Easter Sunday being the final part of the Triduum. I understand Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil/Easter Sunday as one continuous service spiritually, even though they are separated temporally.I sympathize with the manic nature of Palm Sunday. I think the liturgy is extremely difficult to make sense of even after studying the liturgical and theological history… let alone explaining that to a congregation. What I don’t like, however (no offense to what’s already been written) is when the passion reading is simply tossed off and ignored through the rest of the service. I think it’s very powerful to transition from the joy of the entrance to the horror of the passion — and not go back. By returning to the triumphal entry, we’re not adequately preparing for the drama of the week ahead. (Caveat: This is obviously and necessarily a pastoral call that must be made according to the needs of each unique congregation.)PS — Thanks, Steve, for bringing this up! I hope we can continue the conversation!

  6. Thanks to all who give their comments, looks like this one struck a chord. I did bail on the Passion, to some degree, and focused on what it means to live as a palm waving, jacket throwing follower of Jesus. In version one of the sermon I did get to Good Friday and mentioned that if we were part of that group, we’d be long gone by Friday noon. But that sermon was too schizophrenic so I went back to Palm Sunday.All this to say, I think Chris has a point about not ignoring the Passion (though I still think that’s covered quite well on Friday), but I think we have to choose one or the other. To preach on both is to run that roller coaster again.

  7. Pingback: The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday – So Which is It? | Draughting Theology

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