We are approaching Holy Week, the most solemn week, liturgically, of the Christian year. Whether we are in Year A (Matthew), Year B (Mark and John), or Year C (Luke), all who follow the Common Lectionary hear the same lessons each day, from Monday through Friday. On Palm Sunday we begin the week with the royal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He is acclaimed by his disciples and the Passover holiday crowd with the words of Psalm 118.26: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. This psalm very likely was used to celebrate a king returning from victory in war who comes to give thanks to God in the Temple. But now this King Jesus enters the Holy City not on a war charger but on a donkey. Not in warlike splendour but still in the simple, dusty clothing of a man who has traveled in peace along the roads of Judaea. We also hear the hymn of Philippians 2, which reminds us to imitate the mind of Jesus, the same humility and obedience that Jesus shows by fulfilling Zechariah’s upside-down prophecy of a triumphant king riding upon a donkey.
But the most striking thing about Palm Sunday is not the readings but the way the service ends, or rather doesn’t end. Every other Eucharist of the year ends with a dismissal but this does not. We are not dismissed to return to the world outside the church doors this Sunday. Instead we simply depart without being sent back. And so some part of us remains within the liturgy, waiting upon God, upon the events that are about to unfold before our eyes in God’s kairos, God’s good time, at the appropriate moment.
The lectionary calls us to imaginatively enter into the last week of Jesus’ life through the daily Gospel readings and that imaginative action is strengthened by the liturgical awareness that we are engaged in something that will not end until the Easter Gospel. But it also calls us to explore the deeper meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice of obedience on the Cross through the four servant songs from Isaiah, which we hear on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of Holy Week.
I will be posting each day during this Holy Week, based upon the lectionary readings for that day. Please join me in walking together on the Way of the Cross.