Fresco in the Parish Church of Zirl, Austria.

Amid messy politics

In the Presbyterian church of my youth, Palm Sunday barely rated a nod of the head. There might have been a pot of palm fronds up front, but they stayed in the pot. Nobody waved them around. They weren't placed behind a picture of Jesus in the living room, left to dry and then burned in the spring to produce ashes, like the palms in the homes of my Roman Catholic chums. That all seemed slightly exotic.

Today, however, many of us mainliners impose ashes on Ash Wed­nesday and send palm-waving children down the center aisle as we sing "All Glory, Laud and Honor." It's a little show-offy, but I love it.

We know, of course, that in only five days Jesus will be crucified by the Roman authorities. This reality gives the Palm Sunday event irony, celebration and tragedy, shouts of joy and cries of pain and lament—a convincing mix because it's so characteristic of life in this world.

 

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