Some of you might know it as “Palm Sunday.” Others might call it “Passion Sunday.” Still others will call it “Palm/Passion Sunday.” Me, I just call it “Controversy Sunday.”
Think about it. Controversy Sunday not only describes what is happening in Jerusalem during both the Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Word, but it also encapsulates the myriad arguments happening in clergy groups, Diocesan Offices, and on facebook pages around the Church as preachers, liturgists, and church nerds the world around argue for Palms over Passion or Passion over Palms or the for the merits of the train wreck of both.
All of that hullabaloo aside, because we’ll read the Triumphal Entry from Mark’s Gospel instead of John’s, at least at Saint Paul’s in Foley, we’ll miss the biggest controversy of all.
Why does the RCL end John’s Triumphal Entry at verse 16?
The most important line in that well rehearsed story of Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem comes from the lips of the Pharisees in verse 19, “We’ve lost. Look, the whole world has gone after him!” (NLT)
Literally, they say, “the whole kosmos has departed behind him.” Idiomatically, they say, “all of creation has become his disciples.”
In their book, “The Last Week,” John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg argue for a politically charged reading of the final week of Jesus’ life. And, despite my reservations surrounding both of them and The Jesus Seminar, I’m apt to agree with them in many ways. What they miss, at least in my recollection, is this key piece of John’s Gospel. Sure, Rome will put Jesus on the cross, but it’ll take the chief preists, scribes, and Pharisees to get him there. The same Pharisees who have resigned themselves to failure on Sunday, will do what desperate men do come Friday.
There is controversy everywhere this weekend. I’ll steer clear of it, this year, while praying for you, dear reader, that you might find Jesus in the midst of all the muck.