This Sunday we’ll be reading the whole story of Christ’s passion from the Gospel according to Luke (Luke 22:1-22:56). Each year on Palm Sunday, we do this. Different members of the congregation read the individual parts, and the rest of us participate as the Crowd, or All. It’s always an amazing Sunday.
Sometimes people ask me what they can do to make worship more meaningful. There are two things we can do. One is to pray about it during the week, ahead of time, of course, and ask God to open our hearts, minds, and souls, every part of us to worship. The second very helpful thing is simply to read the lessons for the coming Sunday every day. Read them slowly, linger over the words, ruminate on the words, chew on them. We rush too much, most of the time in reading. Slow down, and take time to notice phrases which stand out, or phrases which don’t touch you. As you are reading, place yourself in the story, or the scene. Who are you? If there’s more than one person in the text speaking or acting, try out the different perspectives.
I guarantee that such active reading will change the experience of worship, and if you have to make a choice about which lessons to read, at least read the Gospel. Not because reading by itself makes us different, but the Word acts upon us. Something will happen.
Palm Sunday gives us a chance to enter the drama of the passion. We enact this powerful, painful, life-changing, gripping drama together. There’s no sermon on Palm Sunday at St.Paul. We focus completely on the Passion.
The lead article this week at www.textweek.com is called “Palms and Passion: The Work of Holy Week.” It calls our attention to the dynamic participation of the “people” in the liturgy of the Passion. Liturgy means “work of the people” and Holy Week, of all the liturgical events of the year draws us deeply into that work.
Debra Dean Murphy, author of the article writes:
Romantic readings of Jesus’ passion…keep us at a safe, neutral distance. The liturgy of the palms and the liturgy of the passion put us in the thick of things where we play many parts. And they are clarifying roles: we see our duplicity and our honest striving; we know ourselves culpable and forgiven.
You can find the link to the rest of her article at the “textweek” link above.
Her invitation to enter in to the liturgies is in keeping with the ancient spiritual practice of the church. This is not a new invitation. Christians have been dramatizing these events in worship, in the great services of the Triduum, in Easter plays and dramas, in music, in art, in poetry, in every possible way human beings use to express their faith. But Holy Week gathers us up in a way no other week does, a great sweeping movement from Palm Sunday to Easter. Each day is different, and each day tells a piece of the story. In some ways, these liturgies are like the prodigal father waiting for the son. Come and be found by them, find yourself in them, watch, wait, pray, go with Jesus to the upper room, be fed by his Last Supper, stay awake in the Garden, stand at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday.
We often sing on during, “Were you there?” The liturgies of Holy Week are a dramatic Meditaiton on the Passion. They help us be there.