The following are the preliminary words to a Palm/Passion Sunday service on March 25, 2018. In them, I make connections between the March 24 “March for Our Lives” in Washington D.C. and elsewhere and the entrance of Jesus and his friends into Jerusalem — Ian
Today is Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week. During its seven days, the church reflects on Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. We remember his entry into the capital city on Palm Sunday, his Last Supper on Thursday, and his crucifixion and burial on Friday. It is a week of joy and pain; of hope and anguish; and of glory and loss. During Holy Week, we end the Season of Lent with flares of light. It is a week of surprising grace that leads us to Easter, one week from today.
Today, the entire service is devoted to communion as we sing through the communion prayers. Communion always begins with Palm Sunday as we remember youthful crowds who sang “Hosanna!” as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Re-enacting the Last Supper forms the heart of communion. And communion ends with the Risen Christ in a garden outside an empty tomb.
Today, by listening to Mark’s account of Jesus’ last week and by singing through each section of our communion prayers, I hope we will gain a deeper appreciation of the beauty and power of the journey this sacrament traces.
Palm Sunday is a day for children and youth. Jesus and his friends were young rebels, and tradition has it that it was children who spread palm branches on the ground to welcome them into the capital city.
Yesterday, millions of children and youth rallied against gun violence. This included a rally at the Legislature here in Edmonton, which, of course, is a capital city.
The largest rally was in the U.S. Capital, Washington D.C. I feel heartened and moved by the eloquence of the youth from Parkland Florida who built a movement after 17 people were killed in a high school there in February; by the huge numbers of young people who gathered in Florida, Washington, and hundreds of other places yesterday; and by their determination to shake the foundations of political corruption and violence.
For this reason, when we sing “Hosanna” this morning, I will think not only of Jesus and the youthful rebels he led, but also of the youth of Edmonton, Washington, and the rest of the world. Like the children and youth who rose up on the first Palm Sunday long ago, today’s young people are filled with a Spirit of change born of anger, hope, and solidarity.
Recalling the story of Holy Week might leave us chastened since it ends in arrest and execution. But communion reminds us that death doesn’t have the last word; as surely as Good Friday comes each spring, so does Easter Sunday.
Like the friends of Jesus long ago, the youth of today may be surprised where their enthusiasm and activism leads. But I am confident that whatever strange resurrections they experience will bring them closer to the God who is Love; because when you rise up in a spirit of solidarity and love, you can’t go wrong.
Today is the first day of Holy Week — the most sacred week on the church’s calendar. So, let us now worship God — in song and silence, in prayer and sacrament, and in awe and wonder. Let us worship for our sake, for the sake of the world, and for the sake of Love.