Sunday, March 29, 2015

Re-entering Jerusalem with Jesus for the First Time, or, I Think I Would Fall Off My Donkey

So today is Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, depending on which particular denominational tradition you come from. This morning while I was worshiping with my faith community, I came to the conclusion that this first day of Holy Week is one that just fundamentally feels off, and I think it's for a very good reason. I saw it stated well this morning on Twitter:

Chris Balding's tweet resonated with me because it's a good summation of what my experience of Palm Sunday has been. We start off shouting and happy; Jesus has come into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey! He is regarded as the King of Kings and the Messiah! We can honor him with palm fronds and lay our cloaks on the dirty ground for him to walk on. But before we leave church, we are the ones who are shouting for him to be crucified.

A little bit of history that I learned from Holly and Brendan at The Collect Call (okay, fine, I can't remember whether it was them who said it or someone else... but I'm going to give them the credit anyway): It used to be the case that the Passion story was read on what is now just the Fifth Sunday in Lent (for those of you keeping score at home, that was last week). That left this reenactment of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem kind of unadulterated for today... except for the fact that the Passion story would still be hanging over us from last week and, one way or the other, we know that this magnificent entrance into Jerusalem isn't so magnificent on the back end.

But today, I joined my faith community for worship as we started outside of our sanctuary, all the way downstairs and only stopping just inside the doors that go to the parking lot (yes, before anyone says it, I know that there are other congregations that make this entrance even more extreme). I mean, on the one hand, I get it. I get that there is a spirituality and physicality of actually entering into the sanctuary as participants to Christ's story and there is something about actually waving the palm fronds that are mentioned in the Palm Sunday story.

At the same time, I think we could do a better job of owning the particularity of this liturgy... I mean, here we are, waving these palm fronds around, but we don't usually directly address why we're waving them around. Or why we mess with the flow of our normal liturgy. I think that, instead of expecting people to get it, we could unpack a bit more of this symbolism so that the commemoration of Christ's Passion could really open up.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like the way that Jesus Christ Superstar portrayed the humanity of this day in the life of Christ. I think that that movie was really trying hard to open up some of the elements of Christianity that had started becoming a bit erudite and stodgy. And I still really like this video:



I don't know... in the end, I don't know what to do with the duality of this particular day with this particular liturgy. It all feels like it's pushing me off kilter. And maybe that's the way that it's supposed to be.

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What has been your experience of Palm Sunday? Does it all make sense to you, or are you like me and there's some dissonance? Please leave your reflections in the comments below. I would love to hear what you wish to share. Otherwise, you can join with me in conversation on Facebook or Twitter! Additionally, you can subscribe to my blog by email with the subscription bar in the navigation menu on the right-hand side of this page, and/or send me a friend request/follow me to make that social connection and participate in a deeper dialogue that way. Thanks!