When I first encountered Palm/Passion Sunday I must say I didn’t like it. It seemed like a poor response by the church; ahistorical and too concerned about an antagonistic culture. I felt that if the church couldn’t muster whatever it took to have a Palm Sunday service on Sunday and then a Good Friday service on Friday then perhaps it deserved neither. Needless to say, these are the thoughts of a young and idealistic person arrogating to himself the right to pronounce on the church’s practices. I have changed.
As I have gotten older I am much more likely to try to understand that people are making many choices every day and they are frequently forced to choose not the best from the good but the best from the good, the bad, and the awful. I am hardly a paragon of good choice making so it seems just a bit rich for me to be saying that people should be choosing to go to a Good Friday service regardless of their circumstances. For many, a Good Friday service is not an opportunity to get in touch with the passion of the Christ who loved them enough to become like them and suffer with them. Instead it is another thing added to a too full schedule of requirements. If nothing else, I realized that I had become one of those people and some years a Good Friday service was simply impossible or too much. So what to do?
All of this reflection pushed me to look at what a Palm/Passion Sunday can provide and discovered that in a very real way it provides something no other Sunday does. This Sunday forces us to look directly into the confusion that is life. When we are required to encounter the Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his crucifixion in the space of a few minutes we are no longer able to pretend that only one of these events is the “real” one. When we read or listen to these to diametrically opposed stories we have to deal with the difficulties this juxtaposition can present and that is a good thing. It is all too easy for us to live as if only one side of this Sunday exists; today we simply cannot.
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