Sunday, April 13, 2014

Another Palm Sunday

I’ve been in The Episcopal Church since it found and rescued me in 1996.  And I have never been comfortable with this Sunday. Some call it Palm Sunday.  Some call it Passion Sunday.  For me, it is always a Sunday of deep grief and mixed emotions. 

I love our liturgy and our lectionary!  I really do.  But this day – called “Palm Sunday” or “Passion Sunday” depending on where you are – just tears me up. We start with the marvelous procession with palms and hosannas out on the street.  Then in the long reading of the Gospel, we crucify him again. 

I always have liturgical whiplash at the end of this Sunday’s service.  Today was no different. 

I’m reminded of these lines from Richard Wilbur’s poem
It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls
To shake our gravity up.
And surely this young man from Galilee has shaken up our gravity.  He has turned the Torah upside down.  He has brought the outsiders inside.   He has brought promise of a whole new reign of justice and caritas

And this week we’ll go liturgically through his death. Again. Yet again. Just like we do every Holy Week.   Year after year after year. 

Today, as all our parishioners gathered on the sidewalk outside our little parish, with palm fronds in hand … and then processed into the church singing “All glory, laud, and honor,” it was difficult for me to join in the joyful chorus.  Because I knew where the Gospel reading was going to take us.  Where it takes us every year. It was going to take us to a man abandoned by his closest friends.  To a man crying, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  To a man dying a horrible death. 

We go through this cycle every year.  Advent.  Christmas. Epiphany.  Lent.  Holy Week.  And it’s always the same.  We wind up killing this sky-blue juggler who shakes up our gravity.  The weight of it today was almost more than I could bear …  as the liturgy moved from “All glory, laud and honor” to “O sacred head, sore wounded, defiled and put to scorn.” 

And so I wept through too much of today’s service. 

When will quit killing the sky-blue juggler who shakes up our gravity? 

Lord, have mercy. 


Blogger JCF said...

In my parish, our new rector decided not to do The Passion on Palm Sunday.

Good Friday will come soon enough.

[And today there was news of murder at a Jewish Center in the Kansas City area---God help us if the killer was influenced by the scurrilous blood libel of the New Testament!]

4/13/2014 11:36 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

JCF, I have heard [but do not know] that the churches adopted the combination Palm/Passion Sunday because so many people only to church on Sunday, and so they miss all the days of Holy Week. I would love to be in a community where Palm Sunday could just be Palm Sunday ... and then we could walk slowly to Maundy Thursday ... Holy Friday .. and eventually to Easter.

I'd love to hear more about what led your rector to this and what you all are doing this week.

4/14/2014 12:08 AM  
Blogger liturgy said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reflection, Lisa.

The reading of the Passion of St Matthew on Palm Sunday is an ancient tradition of the church. That of St Luke was read on Wednesday, and St John's on Good Friday. St Mark's was added on Tuesday.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with people not coming to church on Good Friday.



4/14/2014 3:10 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for that information, Bosco. I had no idea. And (obviously) I stand corrected. I'm actually glad to know it's not just a newfangled thing. You are so helpful.

4/14/2014 8:59 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I cried, too. I almost always do. It was political upheaval. It was turning over of the unknown, the worrisome, the different, the radical. It was "Give us the criminal" and "take that guy who doesn't understand how our world works". It was a day to destroy the one who destroyed the status quo.
We walk this painful week and burst forth with the news of the risen Lord (so scarey that the women in Mark's account ran away and told no one). It was a rocky time. It still is... and I cry.

4/14/2014 9:14 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for those thoughtful comments, Anne.
Thursday night's going to be even worse, with the stripping of the altar and all the beautiful, hopeful things that adorn the church -- reminding us all how it must have felt on that long-ago Friday and Saturday.

4/15/2014 8:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

When will you stop asking rhetorical questions so that you can feel superior to your readers?
Religion is so pathetic.

4/30/2014 11:10 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Stan, I wasn't asking rhetorical questions. I was reflecting on my real experience of Passion Sunday.

This is your one and only chance to engage in dialogue ... or be banned. Take your pick.

5/01/2014 11:54 PM  

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