Maybe I’m growing up. Maybe three summers at Sewanee are taking their toll. Maybe I’m just getting soft. Whatever the reason, I found myself advocating for a return to reading the Passion narrative in its properly assigned place in the Palm/Passion Sunday liturgy. I honestly couldn’t believe my ears were listening to my own voice. After years, almost a decade of vocal opposition to the conflation of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, I was arguing to go from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” in a matter of minutes. Someone should check my temperature.
Of course, this return to 1979 Prayer Book prescribed normalcy (The 1928 BCP has Lent 5 as “Passion Sunday” on which the Passion was not read and the Sunday next before Easter as “Palm Sunday” on which the Triumphal Entry was not read, but the Passion was) won’t be without some added drama. Prior to the 10am Family Service, we’ll begin 8 blocks from the church at the corner of US-98 and AL-59.
In the good Sarum tradition (Hatchett, 224) we’re going to make a big deal about the Palm part of Palm Sunday, before making a big deal about the Passion part of The Sunday of the Passion, which will most likely have the effect of making the Passion feel that much more strange, which I’m beginning to think is the point of it all.
Holy week makes no sense. That God would die on a cross as a traitor to Rome, having been handed over by one of his closest disciples, makes no sense. That through that death on a cross, God would defeat death makes no sense. That three days later he would be alive again, able to walk through walls yet capable of being touched by his disciples, makes no sense. Going from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” doesn’t either, and I’m beginning to realize that’s OK.
Part of what makes us human is the desire to follow God. Part of what makes us human is the desire to follow the devices and desires of our own hearts. In the course of our daily lives, we go from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” and back again more times than many of us would like to admit. The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday makes that point clear. We are sinners seeking after a merciful God. We shout “Crucify him” by our actions while crying out “Lord save me!” with our lips and in our hearts. As Paul says, we do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want to do, and yet God is faithful, full of compassion and his never-ending love will never end. That’s the good news of Palm/Passion Sunday.