Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday is one of the most joyful days of our church year. We begin the service outdoors, with a long processional that begins on the sidewalk by the street and wends its way up the driveway of the high school where our church meets. Most of us stand and watch, waving our palm branches and singing as the priests, deacons, prayer ministers, banner bearers and dancers pass by, following the cross lifted high. Then we fall in behind them, entering the school and continuing into the auditorium, still singing and waving our palms. It is an occasion for true, heartfelt joy and celebration for the children and adults alike.

"The joyful coronation quickly turns to the paradox of a thorny crown as we learn in the Passion Reading [usually memorized and recited dramatically in our service] that our Lord's Kingdom is inaugurated through His suffering and death. His Kingdom is not of this world's order, and indeed this world has misunderstood and rejected Him. The same who received Him as King, nail Him to a cross that is derisively labeled "King of the Jews." We, likewise, by our own sin, show a fundamental misunderstanding and rebellion. The hopes we attach to Him, the requests we make of Him, are often of this world's order. Our understanding and humility are grown only through the remembrance of His passion, which is now begun in earnest. Our palms are laid aside and kept to be burned for next year's Ash Wednesday service. We are discovering a different order, a Way that is higher than ours. To everything else we must die as we follow Jesus in His sufferings." (From a booklet Papa Rooster wrote for our church, explaining the liturgical symbolism of Lent and Holy Week)

From To Dance With God (by Gertrud M. Nelson):

"Remember, we are a marvelously human lot, and our feeling and passion was never meant to be checked at the church doors. If sports can bring thousands to shouting and waving flags and banners, what is it about our church-related rituals that make so many reticent and self-conscious? Liturgy is exactly concerned with what is most human about us. Theology and history do not tell us everything we need to know about religion. Beyond the rational, ritual and symbol allow us to risk powerful feeling expressions within the safety of a discipline or form. The powerful liturgy of these holy days must tap also our deepest and most human place, the feelings of the human heart... Yes, we risk putting ourselves out. But to hold back or deny out of fear is to deny people a form to contain their human expression; it is to rob people of a religious life."

I have never known a church which provides such an environment for worship as ours. Freedom of expression is everywhere, yet within the safe bounds of the liturgy, you never worry that it will go off the rails. A college student told me recently that he came back because of the father who hoisted his little son to his shoulders during the worship. A relatively new member of our church said, "I'd never stand up in the middle of a hymn and throw my hands up in the air, but I need that other guy who does!" The arts flourish there--we have banner makers, floral artists, carpenters, liturgical dancers, dramatic readers and incredible musicians who exercise their gifts in our body. And this week--Holy Week--is when we pull out the stops!

We cancel all other church meetings this week, but have services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (usually 4 hours) on Saturday night, then Easter Sunday morning. Now, I know that sounds like a lot of church for even ADULTS to sit through--but guess what our kids say?

"I'm so glad that Holy Week is here--it's got all my favorite services!" (Blondechick 13)


Anonymous said...

Ours is next week and we Orthodox have something every night and then some! My kids love them, too, though we ALL get tired. I imagine the Rooster will have a lot to keep him busy, too.

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter, friends! Greet everyone there for us.


At A Hen's Pace said...


A blessed Easter to you as well!

Love to ALL of you.