In the Lectionary

March 20, Liturgy of the Passion: Luke 22:14-23:56

Read the author's column on the liturgy of the Palms.

Many years ago, before I was ordained, I attended a Good Friday service with an unusual twist. The liturgy featured the Passion story from the Gospel of Luke; every last verse of it was read aloud. As is often done, some lines of dialogue were parceled out to the congregation. But we did not read the words of the crowd, or even of the officials. We did not deny we knew Jesus, did not demand the release of Barabbas, did not shout “Crucify him!”; we did not mock or revile him, did not beg to be remembered in the kingdom. We didn’t even proclaim his innocence as the centurion does.

Instead, the congregation read aloud the words of Jesus. We said what Jesus said at the Last Supper, words we laypeople were used to hearing spoken only by clergy at communion. We broke the news to Peter that he would deny his Lord three times. We prayed for the cup to be removed and chided the disciples for sleeping. We read cryptic lines like “You say so” and comforting ones like “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” During the trial, we mainly sat in silence while the events played out around us. We told the daughters of Jerusalem to weep for themselves. And we cried with one loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”