Tag Archives: Palm Sunday

Not “Black” but “Good”

I have said to the LORD, “You are my God; *
listen, O LORD, to my supplication.
O Lord GOD, the strength of my salvation, *
you have covered my head in the day of battle. (Psalm 140:6-7)

Days of Special Devotion

“Good Friday, and all Fridays of the year, in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion, except for Fridays in the Christmas and Easter seasons …” are days of special devotion for Christians, according to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP 17).

Fridays, which Christians have observed as fast days since about 60 AD, are to be observed with “special acts of discipline and self-denial.”

For generations of Roman Catholics this has meant not eating meat on Fridays, for example. Here in Wisconsin, we all enjoy “Fish Fry Fridays” because so many of our neighbors do not eat meat when they go out for dinner.

Fridays for Christians are about doing without, sacrificing even a little something in imitation of our Lord, who sacrificed everything for our sake.

Blessed is the King

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as he heads toward his final confrontation with the religious authorities.

We commemorate the last week of Jesus’ life each year during Holy Week, and we often reenact this scene as we process into church on Palm Sunday, carrying palm, branches and singing “All glory, laud, and honor / to thee, redeemer King.”

Three of the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — tell the story of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the courts of the Temple, a deliberately provocative act as the feast of Passover approaches that effectively sets him on “the way of the cross.”

Throughout the rest of Holy Week the tension mounts as Jesus says farewell to his disciples, prays that he be spared from the trial, determines to do God’s will, and faces arrest, beatings, and denunciations from soldiers and from the crowd that was with him just days before.

“My kingdom is not from this world,” he replies in response to Pilate’s questioning. The Roman governor can do nothing but send him off to be crucified.

From the Society of St. John the Evangelist -- www.ssje.org

From the Society of St. John the Evangelist — http://www.ssje.org

Not “Black” but “Good”

The prayers in the Daily Office remind us that every Friday is for us a commemoration of that “Good” Friday, just as every Saturday we rest and remember God’s goodness in creation, and every Sunday we rejoice in the power of the resurrection.

Though that Friday was a dark and terrible day, we call it “Good” because in it we see the first act in a three-day drama of salvation.

Every Friday — this Friday after Thanksgiving Day just like all the rest — the Church invites us to live a cross-shaped life, imitating our Lord, “who stretched out [his] arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that the whole world might come within the reach of [his] saving embrace” (BCP 101).

A Collect for Fridays

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Following the way of the cross

From the Society of St. John the Evangelist -- www.ssje.org

From the Society of St. John the Evangelist — http://www.ssje.org

A Facebook friend whose opinion I respect, William Henry Benefield BSG, posted yesterday about reading the Passion Gospel during Holy Week:

“Perhaps one day, parishes throughout the world on Palm Sunday and Good Friday will have all of us present — the baptized Eucharistic assembly — saying or chanting the part of Christ during the Passion and not playing the ‘crowd’ as our liturgical tradition so often dictates. Our theology teaches us we are the Body of Christ … so it looks and sounds rather strange, not to mention theologically questionable, for us to be shouting ‘Crucify, Crucify’ and ‘Give us Jesus Barabbas.’ Maybe one day we the Church will finally realize who we actually are, break with the previous liturgical tradition when chanting the Passion on these two sacred days, and claim our true identity in the world.”

I’ll admit I had never heard of that being done before, as William said he had experienced at an Episcopal church in New York City.

His thoughtful post got me thinking, and I enjoyed figuring out why I disagree with him.

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It seems to me that while we are the Body of Christ, we are not Jesus. The tension in our lives of faith is between living “in Christ” or “following the crowd.”

I think playing the part of the crowd in the Passion is entirely appropriate as a way of realizing that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 4:8). It also helps us accomplish the movement Paul describes to the Colossians: “You have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator” (Col. 3:9b-10).

Our creator, “being found in human form … humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).

In our old self, I think we are the crowd, preferring spectacle, resistant to change, and easily led. By the grace of God and through the self-offering of Jesus, we are given a new way.

Being the Body of Christ means stripping off the old self and following the way of the cross instead of following the crowd.

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While I completely agree with the ancient homily for Holy Saturday that William shared — “together [with Christ] we are now one undivided person” — I’m also conscious at this time in my life that I am not always the “one person” I want to be. Like Paul, I “find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21).

Like AA members do when they share their stories of encouragement, hope, and strength, perhaps we in the Church use the Passion Gospel during Holy Week to remind ourselves “what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now.”

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The collect for today, Monday in Holy Week, is very familiar to us as the Collect for Fridays at Morning Prayer.

I hope it will remind you as you journey with Jesus during this Holy Week what you used to be like, what happened as a result of his obedience and death, and what you are like now.

May this Holy Week open the way to life and peace for you.

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99).

Enthroned above the flood

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The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.

(Psalm 29:10-11)

May this Holy Week be for you a time when the flood waters of your busy life recede just a bit and the Holy Spirit comes to you with a glimpse, even just a slender branch, of the Tree on which our Lord is enthroned.

“Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double” (Zech. 9:12).

May your worship this Palm Sunday and throughout this Holy Week renew the hope that is in you, that “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”

Prayer for Mission

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP 101)