So today is Palm / Passion Sunday. I’m drawing a blank on any other day of the year that draws together two such disparate notions. On the one hand we have Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph, lauded by the crowds with palm branches and cloaks thrown on the road before him. On the other hand we have Jesus being crucified.
Who had the bright idea to put these together? The answer to who is unknown to me but the why is pretty clear. Over time the attendance at Good Friday services, to say nothing of the other Holy Week observances, declined to the point where it was difficult to justify putting on a service at all. The problem, especially for Protestants who can tend in this direction anyway, was the church went from the triumph of Palm Sunday to the even great triumph of Easter Sunday. But, if there is no Passion, no Good Friday, is Easter Sunday much of a triumph at all? Triumph over what? So, whoever it was, decided to add the Passion narratives and story to Palm Sunday. I wasn’t around in churches where there was significant push back on this but I can imagine it . . . and I’m selfishly glad I wasn’t there. Regardless of whether I, or anyone, thinks this is a good idea or not, we now have Palm / Passion Sunday. So what?
The “so what?” is answered by taking these two events, all jammed together as they are, and seeing what this says to us. I think it has a great deal to say to us, especially in the midst of a pandemic. All of us are working through grief at what this pandemic has cost us in ruined plans, dashed dreams, cancelled celebrations, to say nothing of the cost in human lives whether we know them personally or not. At the same time, we are all experiencing moments and days of happiness, joy, even delight. In one way, we are all living a Palm / Passion existence.
Give the sermon below a listen and let me know what you think; it is even pretty short.