“LOOKING TO SUNDAY” Palm/Passion Sunday Year B

Lectionary Readings:

This is a difficult Sunday to plan worship for.  I remember when it used to be Palm Sunday, plain and simple.  Then the lectionary elves realized that many folk don’t attend Holy Week services and so jump from the Triumphant Entry on Palm Sunday to the celebration on Easter Day.  This change in the liturgy for this Sunday has been done with the best of intentions, but it does pose difficulties for worship planning.  There is a lot of text and story this week that perhaps ought to be allowed to speak for itself with the sermon taking a less dominant role.  If the whole of the worship can be framed in such a way, that it is a dramatic retelling of the story it may help folk to enter into it and make it also their own story.  What we do matters greatly this week as we enter into the Passion and Death of Christ in Holy Week. 

Liturgy of the Palms: Mark 11; 1-11

Today all roads lead to Jerusalem.  From far and wide the people gather for the great Passover Festival.  Perhaps they come with mixed emotions.  They are going to re-enact the great moments in their history and recall the promises and doings of God in their history.  Yet for some the joy of this festival will be tempered by the all too obvious yoke of the foreign power that has conquered their country.

There will be two parades today.  The first parade is intended to be a reminder to the people that they are living  under the Roman occupying forces.  The Roman governor will ride into town on his white charger flanked by Roman soldiers to take up residence in the town.  Passover is an occasion  when patriotic feelings run high and could lead to unrest and disturbances.    The power of Rome needs to be visibly displayed.  The second is a more impromptu parade.  Jesus, riding on a donkey, not the most compliant of animals, also enters the town with his followers.  There is in this procession no pomp or ceremony.  Flags and banners take the form of Palm branches torn from the roadside trees and the cries of their Hosannas counter the cries of  allegiance or submission to an earthly emperor.

On That Day:

On the day when Jesus arrived in town, Joe Farmer was busy choosing a new car.  He heard the distant cheering “Hosanna, Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.  Mentally he made a note and promised himself “I’ll hear the prophet one day, but not now.  Joe was far too occupied with the trade-in price, fuel consumption and the virtues of the different models, and whether either car was better than his neighbours.

Having a coffee, 22-year-old Esther Romantic also heard the uproar coming from the High Street.  She felt an impulse to go and join the crowd.  The story she had heard of the prophet had attracted and encouraged her, but Esther’s Wedding Day was only six weeks off and she still had many things to do, about the flowers, shade of eye shadow and whether on the table she wanted with every place-card a wish bone.

For Jim Smiley, the real estate agent, it was infuriating.  Time was money.  Here he was stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of town, thanks to these idiots with their grins, slogans and Palm branches, supporting this man called Jesus who had said some pretty rotten things about real estate.  Jim was due in five minutes to meet a wealthy client.  He yelled at a policeman “How about some law and order”.

Professor Nicodemus was lecturing at the university.  He noted the small numbers that had turned up today.  Those who had were restless.  He asked the reason.  They gave him the news that a prophet was leading a demo in the Town Square.  On an impulse Nicodemus dismissed the surprised students and hurried off down the High Street where somewhat embarrassed he joined the crowd and found himself shouting “Hosanna”.  At the sound of his own voice the Professor felt his own soul jump as if a birth was about to take place.  It seemed as if all things were becoming new.

Palm Sunday is for each of us the moment of opportunity, to take with both hands or to let slip through our fingers.  Will we turn disinterestedly away occupied by our own things, or will we walk with Jesus to the city, to Good Friday and His Cross.


Liturgy of the Passion:  Mark 14;1 – 15;47 or Mark 15; 1-39

The reading, either the long one or the shortened passage, takes us through the events of Holy Week.  In the brief, quick changing scenes Mark vividly portrays the drama of Jesus’ last days.  In the story there is tragedy, conspiracy, betrayal, loyalty, awe, the supernatural, the mundane.  The back drop is the Passover Festival, a recalling and celebration of what God had done in the past.  How many though saw superimposed on these events what it was that God was doing at that moment?  The story Mark tells requires no embellishment or preachy explanations.  In its retelling in our worship it will allow us to step firmly into Holy Week.  May we find holiness in unexpected places and prayerfullywalk with Jesus to the Cross.  The love for us of our crucified Saviour opens the door to all things on earth and in heaven.  “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s prove of his love for us” (Romans 5:8 REB). 

“One Friday in Eternity

A man was framed they say,
A man was framed but why the fuss,
It happens every day;
With all the trappings of the law
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
One Friday in Eternity
A man was flogged they say,
A man was flogged, but why the fuss
It happens every day;
Imprisoned, brain-washed, tortured, starved,
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
One Friday in Eternity
A man was hung they say,
A man was hung but why the fuss
It happens every day;
Hung, shot or crucified, who cares,
It happens every day,
One Friday in Eternity
Repeated every day.
One Friday in Eternity
That man was God they say,
If that is true – If God was there –
It happens every day;
If God is sharing mortal pain
It happens every day.
One Friday in Eternity
It happens every day.
(From, “One Friday in Eternity”)
John R

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