Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palms and Hosannas. . . Rejection and Crucifixion. . .

Growing up LCMS, Palm Sunday was less about Jesus than me.  It was Confirmation Day.  I never had palms and never paid much attention to the lessons or even wondered why it was called Palm Sunday.  It was about boys in their first man suits and girls dressed in white dresses, about examinations in front of the whole congregation, solemn promises, and a professional photographer to capture the moment.

Not all of that is bad, of course.  Confirmation is still a worthy practice though the suits and white lacy dresses have long since departed.  I live with a certain amount of nostalgia for old practices that have been lost and not replaced with something equally as study.  Catechism students today hardly know the catechism with the precision and memory I had to learn it and that is not good though they may get a rounder and deeper introduction to other things I never learned about (from church history to liturgy).

Palm Sunday was probably chosen because it usually falls before field work and planting -- something vitally important in an agrarian economy.  I really don't know much more than this.  But Palm Sunday was there long before it was my confirmation day and long before it became common timing for this rite among Lutherans.  And that is where we ought to focus.

Palms and hosannas were not ends in and of themselves but the prelude to rejection and cries to crucify the Son of David.  Jesus did not enter Jerusalem for the heady atmosphere of a crowd but for the cross.  He was set like flint for this purpose and kept it before the disciples over and over again until Peter insisted Jesus put such talk away.  We love palms but we do not like crosses.

When the lectionary was revised, Palm Sunday became part of the Sunday of the Passion, remembering what the hosannas gave way to and how the palms turned into a cross.  Again, I have mixed feelings about this but over all it is very important not to leave it at palms or hosannas but to connect why He came to the destiny He embraced for us and for our salvation.

Here we make our procession (from out doors, weather permitting) and shout hosannas and wave our palms but it always ends up in the same place.  Where veiled crosses draw our attention to what we know is hidden and where alleluias long to be sung but for another week are foregone.  It is where the passion that counts is not impetuous infatuation or lust but the drive to love sacrificially that did not shrink from the cross, bearing its pain for us, and paying for sin's awful price that we might be ransomed, redeemed, and restored.  It is not what I grew up with, not the glory days of palms that had their own full Sunday, but it fits better the Biblical progression of a welcome that was less about the crowd than the cross that stood awaiting.

Ride on, King Jesus.


Anonymous said...

My parents were confirmed on Palm Sunday. It was a rural setting in Nebraska. I remember hearing their recollections about the events, and that they showed piety, and were somber when they were asked questions about their faith. Pastor, I am not going to disagree with your premise, but want to show a different perspective. Ted Badje.

David Gray said...

I'm pleased to say our pastor still does a fantastic job of teaching the catechism over two years.