Against Passion Sunday
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I am thinking of starting
a campaign to bring back Palm Sunday, without the additional observance of
Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday was always one of my favorites growing up as a
preacher's kid, and it was all about the palms--and a lot of them. It was
celebratory, festive, when as child I got a chance for a hands-on worship
experience and a glimpse of what royalty could look like.
I understand the practical
reasons for the more recent liturgical emphasis on the day's dual themes: most
people won't be coming back during the week, so they need to hear the
crucifixion story now. The church needs to make sure that the story of Jesus'
death is given its due before acknowledging any reports of resurrection
But are such practical
concerns rationale enough for downplaying the Palm Sunday experience of faith?
What is Passion Sunday's theological
raison d'être? Should we really try to hold the palms and the passion together
in a single service? Even between Good Friday and Easter Sunday we get a day to
move between sorrow and joy, between suffering and glory, between death and
I wonder if we need Palm Sunday's moments of praise for what they are,
not what they will be in a few days. A celebration of Palm Sunday alone might
bring back a pattern of faith that we need: the moments of pain, of suffering,
of the victory of the world, are bracketed by hosannas and alleluias, by glory,
laud and honor. It's a structure of belief that is inherent in the Gospel
Palm Sunday can give us language to express "God with us." The crowd
gets it: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name
of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" The one at the center of this
parade of palms is none other than Immanuel. Hosanna indeed.