Holy Week starts this weekend with Palm Sunday and this year, we’re trying
something new. Or, more accurately, we’re expanding an experiment I started at
the Sunday evening service in 2019.
For a while it’s seemed weird to me that we celebrate Palm Sunday with a brief rite
at the beginning of the service and then immediately pivot to the passion. Once
“All glory, laud, and honor” finishes, everything points toward the passion: collect,
readings, hymns, and, of course, the gospel. Two things catch me about that. One:
the passion already gets its own entire day on Good Friday (not to mention our
celebration of the last supper on Maundy Thursday). Two: The liturgy of the palms
is the ONLY time all year we read story of the triumphal entry in worship. And then,
before we’ve even settled into it, we’ve switched focus to the passion. (For an
explanation of why we do this, see below.)
This year, instead of racing through the palm part of Palm Sunday, we’re going to
focus on it. Here’s what that will look like: Our worship will begin in the narthex
where we’ll bless the palms and then process into the church singing “All glory,
laud, and honor.” (If mobility is a challenge, you’ll be able to see and participate in
the whole rite from your pew.) Our readings, slightly different from the lectionary,
point toward the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which serves as
our gospel for the day. The hymns are generally celebratory and also help to draw
our attention to the triumphal entry.
While the passion does have its own devoted day, it’s still important for us to
consider on Sunday. The triumphal entry is meaningful partly because of what we
know is coming—passion, death, and resurrection. So after communion, we’ll
change our focus to the passion with a collect and then the passion gospel. As in
previous years, the passion gospel is broken up with a few hymn verses to provide additional ways of connecting to the story. Rather than having people read
different characters, we’ll have people read the portions of the story between
hymns to allow the drama of the story to speak for itself. In a nod to the other
Holy Week services, following the final hymn, we’ll depart without a dismissal.
When I tried this out all the way back in 2019, I received good feedback on it.
People appreciated spending some time with the triumphal entry. They also liked
the way reading the passion gospel at the end of the service, interspersed with
hymns, allowed them to dwell in that challenging, complicated, and ultimately
I would love your feedback on this experiment. I’m excited to try it and I really
want to hear how it affected you. In addition to whether you liked it or not, I’d love
to hear what stood out for you or what you noticed in a new way because of the
change. As with all of our liturgical experiments, the goal is to connect more
deeply to the mystery and majesty of God at work in the world and in our lives. I
welcome your feedback, questions, and ideas.
Yours in Christ,