Web Meditation 26 March 2009
We are rapidly approaching Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. For clergy, altar guilds, church staff/musicians, and all the volunteers that make these special services happen it can become too hectic a time to maintain the devotional nature of these services. However, truly, they are my favorite rituals of the church calendar. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter are my favorites because they are, as my wife the teacher would say, active learning. It is a well known fact that the lowest retention rate comes from lectures. We learn more by doing. As a professional preacher I don't like this fact, but it is true nonetheless. The Episcopal liturgy Sunday to Sunday is participatory; in many way more participatory then the Baptist services of my youth. We take that basic participation level up a notch or twelve during holy week. Over the next few days I'm going to write about the Palm Sunday and Holy Week services in hopes of both providing a deeper understanding of why we do the things we do and to encourage you to attend and participate in these services wherever you may be.
Let's begin with Palm Sunday. It is different because we do a different procession then normal and we have a different way of doing the Gospel reading. First, we all process into the church waving palms and singing All Glory Laud and Honor. This is a direct re-enactment of the procession of Jesus into Jerusalem. Metaphorically think of the Altar as Jerusalem and we are processing from outside the city into it. This immediately makes us participants in the story not observers, witnesses, or merely people remembering the story. This immersion into the story is continued when we get to the Gospel proclamation for the day. Instead a normal Gospel reading, we dramatically (different people are assigned parts) read the passion story of Jesus' final hours. The congregation plays the part of the crowd in the story and yells "Crucify Him!"
It is moving and poignant that we who were singing All Glory Laud and Honor a few minutes ago are then shouting "Crucify Him!" I think there is a direct parallel to our lives. Each and every day we have the option of joining Jesus' non-violent triumphal procession or we can claim the violence of this world as our path and shout "Crucify Him!" In this service we reflect the reality that sometimes, maybe even often times, we do both. Palm Sunday is an invitation to pick the non-violent procession by entering into and being transformed by the other services of Holy Week.
This meditation is also posted on the website of the Church of the Resurrection.