Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."

This is how the story begins - a king on a donkey, children singing, palms waving - and we raise our voices along with the crowds to cry out "Hosanna!" Except that we, like Jesus, know how the story ends. We know that his triumphal entry will end in his tragic death. We know that these very crowds who exult him will be the crowds that mock him. This is why over the years, Palm Sunday has evolved, liturgically, into a combination Palm/Passion Sunday. This is why we read about palms and Hosannas at the start of our worship, but also hear these words during the Gospel reading:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor's headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews."

And as we as a congregation participate in reading this Gospel, we find that our own voices - the ones shouting Hosanna - are also the voices of the crowd that cries "Crucify him! Let his blood be on us and on our children."

The palms we wave will be kept and dried, will die and be burned, will be turned into the very ashes that will be marked on our foreheads next Ash Wednesday, when we recall our sin and our mortality. On this Palm/Passion Sunday, we are asked to connect our Hosannas to the powers of sin, death, and brokenness that drove Jesus to the cross.

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