The Cure for a Passionless Christ
Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem on a path covered with cloaks and palms. The crowds greet him with cries of “Hosanna.” Then he rises from the dead, and the church shouts, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Part of the account of Jesus’ Holy Week is noticeably absent in that description. For many of our worshipers, however, that is the narrative they hear because they don’t attend midweek services. The passion history of our Lord is not appointed in the lectionaries that churches use for Sunday services. Instead, they are appointed for use during the weekdays of Holy Week. How many people in your congregation will go from Palm Sunday to Easter without hearing those key chapters of the Gospels?
The proposed lectionary for our new hymnal project adds the option of celebrating Passion Sunday on the first day of Holy Week, offering the passion history to more of the congregation. The readings for Passion Sunday come from that year’s Gospel author (Matthew, A; Mark, B; Luke, C) and place the whole passion narrative before the people.
This doesn’t mean that you “lose” Palm Sunday. On Sunday at Faith, Sharpsburg, Georgia, we started with the Procession of Palms and the reading of the Palm Sunday Gospel from John 12. Palm branches were waved and laid; children sang hosanna. After the Prayer of the Day, we began the series of readings from the passion history. Broken up into six parts with hymns between that matched the readings, we followed Jesus from his triumphal entry, to the Upper Room, Gethsemane, trial, and Golgotha.
A sermon isn’t necessary. I gave a six-minute introduction to the series. The whole service lasted about 55 minutes. We used two lectors for the readings. I was the narrator, and our vicar read the words of Jesus. Some congregations print the whole reading and have the congregation read the words of the crowd. This service has been well received in our congregation—even among those who attend every midweek service.
This option for Palm Sunday is currently found in Christian Worship: Occasional Services in the notes following the order for the Procession with Palms. Consider using it occasionally as a cure for a “passionless” Christ.
Chair, Scripture Committee