What ever happened to Palm Sunday?

asian palm sundayWhy is there no time to sing Hosanna? 

2×2 generally follows the Common Lectionary for our weekly slideshows and object lessons, but 2×2 also comes from the tradition of celebrating Palm Sunday. Do you remember this joyous church festival?

At Redeemer we typically celebrated with a congregational ham dinner. Members were invited to bring a ham with them. We packaged each ham with the makings of a meal and delivered them to the needy for their family’s Easter celebration.

Palm Sunday is an important celebration.

But in recent years (about the last 25 or so) the Church has joined Palm Sunday with the reading of the Passion story—Palm/Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday is relegated to an opening hymn and procession before diving into the despair of the Passion. (Consequently, a generation of Christians knows only one Palm Sunday hymn!)

Theologians came up with this idea for the modern worshiper—the worshiper who doesn’t come to Holy Week services. The Church is attempting to fit the entire Holy Week experience into just one Sunday morning.

The teaming of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday makes sense only to theologians who are hoping to get all the readings of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday into one marathon Sunday morning church service — that probably isn’t any better attended for it. They devise ways to make the long story palatable. Various readers. Various voices. A little drama to reflect the epic drama of the actual event.

It’s an emotional roller coaster with just one short high before a huge plunge.

It doesn’t work. It’s too much. Both Palm Sunday and the Passion story suffer.

We need the Palm Sunday experience. We need to sing praise and plea joyously for salvation. We need to cry Hosanna and recognize with all the world that at last, we know who Jesus is. We get it!

Those of us who come to church every Sunday have been building up to this moment. If we shortchange Palm Sunday, we do a disservice to all the Sundays that have led up to this week’s message. Take this away and we lose the opportunity to interpret. We miss important points. This leads to poor understanding. This is already happening!

One of the modern translations of the Bible doesn’t use the word “hosanna” in telling the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It substitutes the word “hurray”!

“Hosanna” (at least in the Bible) does not mean “hurray.”

The word “Hosanna” is a prayer. “Save me.” We, the people, are pleading for salvation. We stand along the city streets with the others who finally understand, and we plead for salvation. Jesus is finally recognized as Savior.

Important concept! Important progress!

Give us our victory! It took the miracle at Cana, the late night talk with Nicodemus, the curing of the blind man, the encounter with the woman at the well and the resurrection of Lazarus. But now, we see. Each of these stories read over the last few weeks teaches us about Christ’s role as Messiah, the anointed one. We finally have arrived at a critical understanding. Jesus is Savior.

Hosanna! Save us.

If people truly understand the meaning of Palm Sunday, they might be more inclined to observe Holy Week!

2×2 will spend time celebrating our new understanding. We will celebrate Palm Sunday.

Let Holy Week be Holy Week. Give us Palm Sunday.

Art: Asian depiction of Jesus entry into Jerusalem