Joy and Pain: Palm Sunday and the Passion
“Why?” The regular church attending Episcopalian is prone to ask, “Do we read the passion on Palm Sunday? Isn’t this supposed to be a festive day?” Quite a few will even suggest that ‘we never USED to do that.” Even I myself, in trying to remember the ‘old ways’ don’t remember the passion being read on Palm Sunday. Just the pageantry of the palms and ‘all glory laud and honor’ and the triumphant procession.
What I have learned (and perhaps you have also learned) is that I was wrong. In fact the Church has read the passion on Palm Sunday off and on since perhaps the beginning of the Church itself. Certainly as far back as the 300’s in Jerusalem. So “why?” Why our dislike for this tradition and why do we ‘forget’ that it happened?
Well perhaps this practice exists to remind us how easy it is to forget. As a people, it is often easier for us to remember the good things we have done than the bad things. No one likes to remember their troubles and their calamities after all, and if we could make them go away we certainly would! And History is littered with the convenient forgetting of the evils done by us or on our behalf, even as we benefit from the outcomes today.
So it is with Palm Sunday. We LOVE to remember the palms, the procession, the celebration, the entry of Jesus as King into Jerusalem! But it is harder for us to remember his arrest, his condemnation, and his death. Palm Sunday is a day when we are torn between Joy and Pain. Between the height of Jesus ministry and the depth of his descent in to hell. Holy Week is a time for remembering. And while it may seem inconvenient, uncomfortable or just annoying to ‘remember’ Jesus death on a glorious spring day, it is important for us to remember. It is important remember because in remembering Jesus’ death we are reminded that God remembers us in our own tragedies and calamities. ‘Then God remembered Noah’ ‘Remembered Moses’ ‘Remembered his people Israel’. God remembers and comes for his people, just as God will come for us, if we, in turn can remember God and his son Jesus.