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Title:Palm Sunday March 28, 2021 – photo gallery and meanings
Palm Sunday (full size gallery)
We reopened the church for the first time since March 8, 2020. There was a Litany of Thanksgiving that accompanied the usual Litany of the Palms to celebrate. From the flowers in the window to special violin music there were small touches that added to the celebration. We had 24 people in attendance.
Palm Sunday is the hinge between Lent and Holy Week.Lent has been the 40 day season of fasting and spiritual preparation intended to understand in practices, ritual and disciplines critical to living in the way of Jesus and Holy Week. Holy Week is a time of more intense fasting, reading and prayers in which we pay particular attention to the final days, suffering, and execution of Jesus.
While Palm Sunday marks Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the events of that day set in motion Jesus’ death 5 days later before the Passover begins. Zechariah had forecast “Zion’s king” coming “righteous and victorious” on a donkey. It looked like Jesus was proclaiming himself King of Israel to the anger of some of the Jewish authorities.
Palm Sunday has two liturgies – the Liturgy of the Palms where we consider Jesus arrival in Jerusalem from Galilee and the Liturgy of the Passion, a foreshadowing of Holy Week.
We gathered for “Liturgy of the Palms”, this year from Mark and processed into the church with the first hymn “All Glory Laud and Honor” that goes back to the 9th century. At this Jesus knows what’s about to happen – “you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.”
The Gospels go on to recount how Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the midst of the Passover and how the people there lay down their cloaks in front of him, and also lay down small branches of trees. Traditionally, entering the city on a donkey symbolizes arrival in peace, rather than as a war-waging king arriving on a horse. This has been foretold in scripture by Zechariah, five centuries earlier.
Jerusalem will be the place of confrontation with the authorities to fulfill what Jesus would know as the final act in his life Jerusalem with its temple was still seen as “the city of God” that called forth Jewish devotion. But it was also the center of a local domination system, the center of the ruling class, the center of great wealth, and the center of collaboration with Rome.
Palm Sunday summons us to accept both the rule and the kingdom of God as the goal and content of our Christian life. It is about the kingdom. In the first century, “kingdom” was a political term. Jesus’s hearers (and Mark’s community) knew of and lived under kingdoms: the kingdoms of Herod and his sons, the kingdom of Rome.
Jesus talks about a different Kingdom -not the kingdom the people expected. “The Kingdom of God is within us when God reigns in us, when the soul in its depths confesses God as its Master, and is obedient to Him in all its powers. Then God acts within it as master ‘both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13).
The kingdom of God is the life of the Holy Trinity in the world. It is the kingdom of holiness, goodness, truth, beauty, love, peace and joy. These qualities are not works of the human spirit. They proceed from the life of God and reveal God. Christ Himself is the kingdom.
The celebration on Palm Sunday quickly recedes into the passion story that takes place over the week. The passion readings are presented twice this week – from Luke on Palm Sunday and from John on Good Friday.
Today’s readings call us to follow the path of humility modeled by Jesus throughout Holy Week. Isaiah reminds us that God is the savior, who helps those who serve God’s plan. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commends the attitude of Christ who lived in humility and obedience. In today’s gospel, Christ’s passion leads him from the anguish of Gethsemane through the humiliation of the cross to the abandonment of the cold tomb.
The Isaiah reading from 50:4-9a is the third of the four “servant songs” in Isaiah. (The others are found in Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-7 and 52:13–53:12.) It is not certain whom the author intended the servant to represent—perhaps the people of Israel, an actual historical figure or an individual who would embody all the features of Israel’s election and mission.
Isaiah presents the servant as one who submits to God’s purposes, whether in a personal response to God or in acceptance of suffering. The servant knows that he is called to be a misunderstood and ill-treated prophet to a sin-weary people. Nevertheless, he is confidence that God will vindicate him.
The second reading, Philippians 2:5-11 is generally considered to be a hymn to Christ that Paul adopts. The hymn, poetic in rhythm and structure, contains a full outline of Christ’s saving work: his divine preexistence (v. 6), incarnation (v. 7), death (v. 8), celestial exaltation (v. 9), heavenly adoration (v. 10) and new title (v. 11).
The first stanza (vv. 6-8) recounts Jesus’ own action. His “equality with God” is not a prize to be “exploited” for his own advantage but is a treasure to lay down. The second stanza of the hymn (vv. 9-11) stresses God’s action. The “name” God has bestowed on Jesus is “Lord” (Greek, Kyrios), a term used by Jews to substitute for speaking the name of God, YHWH. This name is now given to Jesus, and the honor due to God is now due to Jesus. Jesus’ redemptive life becomes the basis of and model for our own communal life.
The passion story is played out on Palm Sunday to foreshadow to week after the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This year it is Mark’s Gospel
In his account of the passion story, Mark is constantly working to shape the story so that all the major themes of his gospel emerge. Jesus the powerful teacher and miracle worker—the Christ—must suffer. He will be misunderstood and completely abandoned by his disciples as the hatred of the Temple leaders triumphs. But in Jesus’ own weakness, the power of God can be present to bring salvation.
Mark’s account is not an appeal to pity, sorrow or even repentance. He is concerned about its message of salvation and God’s purpose at work in the midst of the passion. The response called forth is faith.
Mark stresses Jesus’ utter loneliness, deserted by his disciples—even Peter. When formally confronted by the high priest, Jesus makes a clear proclamation of his status and destiny. The dark path of the passion is the way to God. Jesus’ true identity is recognized by gazing on the crucified Christ and affirming with the centurion that “this man was God’s Son!”