For regular readers of this blog, this post will be nothing new, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not a big fan of the mash-up of Palm and Passion Sundays. I’ve written about this ad nauseam: having posted on this issue in at least 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013. My liturgy professors last summer, The Very Right Reverend Doctor Alexander (is that the title of a PhD retired bishop who is now dean of a seminary?) and The Reverend Canon Doctor Turrell, were adamant that the disjointed nature of the Palm Sunday liturgy, that we move from waving palms and shouting “hosanna!” to crying out “crucify him!” in a matter of minutes is the only proper way to celebrate this particular special day, but to be honest, I still don’t buy it. Here’s why.
The Church has become fatalistic. Because we don’t believe that people will come during Holy Week, we make provisions to enable them to not miss anything. In so doing we perpetuate the problem by a) assuming they won’t come, b) enabling that behavior, c) skip a bunch of holy and good stuff in the name of “they would have missed it anyway.” I’ve decided recently, however, that I’m not concerned with those who, for various reasons both good and contrived, won’t make it to services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. My level of discomfort with them missing the Passion Narratives is waning as I become more and more interested in the experience of 25+/- disciples who will walk the way of the cross, the way of life and peace, with us every day from Palm Sunday until Easter Day. I’m excited about offering those who desire it a full immersion into Jesus’ final week. I want to be with them at about 12:30 on Good Friday when we stand at those haunting words, “when they reached the place called ‘the skull.'”
To me, the answer to the question posed in the title of this post is simple. It is Palm Sunday, the first day of a Holy Week, the Holy Week. It is about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and Pilate is making his royal entrance across town. It is about cries of “hosanna” which means “Lord save us,” from a crowd of people who desire God’s real presence in their lives. It is about the whole city of Jerusalem boiling over with turmoil at the sight of Jesus riding on the foal of a donkey.
This isn’t to say we won’t read the Passion this Sunday. I’m coming around the truth that as an ordained clergyman in The Episcopal church, I can’t just skip it because I don’t like it, but I’ll be darned if you’re going to hear about it on this blog or in my sermon this week. Nope, this week is about Palms, the Passion is important enough to have its own day.
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Almighty God, who Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized in to his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Psalm 84 or 84.1-8
Matthew 2.13-15, 19-23
or Luke 2.41-52
or Matthew 2.1-12
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Canticle 3 or 15
OR Psalm 80:1-7
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
or Malachi 3:1-4
Canticle 4 or 16
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warning and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.