Moment for Mission
“I thank you because you answered me, because you were my saving help. The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone!” — Psalm 118:21-22, CEB
The events framed by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his resurrection are some of the most dramatic and theologically important of the entire scriptural narrative. These days feature not only the drama of the triumphal entry, trial, Last Supper and crucifixion but also poignant prayers and prophetic teachings of our Lord. John’s Gospel devotes eight of its 21 chapters to this week alone. Holy Week begins with Passion/Palm Sunday and ends with the triduum, from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Easter Day, the period during which we mark Jesus’ trial, death and resurrection.
The first Sunday of Holy Week is commonly called “Palm Sunday” or “Passion Sunday.” Those who call it “Palm Sunday” tend to highlight Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Those who refer to the day as “Passion Sunday” tend to focus on Jesus’ suffering.
It is important to capture the irony. This is the day on which Jesus entered the city in triumph, but as a part of his journey to the cross; this is the week in which the crowd’s cries of “Hosanna!” would soon turn to “Crucify him!” One helpful approach to Palm Sunday worship is to focus first on the procession into Jerusalem and then concentrate on the suffering and passion of Jesus.
We pray that your Holy Week experience will enrich your faith and call to discipleship.
Loving God, we rejoice that the joy of Palm Sunday and the sorrow of Holy Week lead to Easter. “The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone!” In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Palm/Passion Sunday — Almighty and everlasting God, as we bring our gifts and lay them at your altar, we remember the crowds in Jerusalem who laid their cloaks on the road, shouting “Hosanna” as Jesus passed. We know they were looking for a Messiah who was different from who you sent Jesus to be – not one of political power and military might, but one who came in compassion and mercy to heal, love, and save. Search our hearts that we might be confident that the Messiah for whom we long is the one you know we need – Jesus Christ, your anointed one, in whose name we pray. Amen. (Mark 11:1-11)
How does your congregation observe Palm/Passion Sunday?
Often, on Palm/Passion Sunday, the congregation is invited to think of themselves as participants in a dramatic reenactment of scriptural events. Children, or perhaps the whole congregation, may process into the sanctuary while shouting “Hosanna!” In the reading of the Passion narrative, the entire congregation may shout the words, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The goal of such reenactment is to recount the narratives memorably and to help the congregation sense the significance of the accounts. What do they teach us about Jesus’ ministry, about God’s being and character and about the nature and scope of redemption in Christ?
If your congregation is still gathering virtually, rather than in person, consider alternate ways to mark this special Sunday and Holy Week. For individual or family devotions, for example, read and discuss the Gospel passages related to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Ask yourself or your family members, Had I been in the crowd, how would I have responded?
Adapted from “Palm Sunday—Hosanna to the King,” Mauldin (South Carolina) United Methodist Church website. Used by permission.