Palm Sunday 

Family-friendly | Nursery provided

8:15am | Liturgy of the Palms and Procession through the neighborhood and through the doors of the Church. Bring your kids in their strollers or backpacks - we love to sing and shout Hosanna to the Son of David! on the sidewalks of Bangor as we wave palm branches.

8:30am Sunday Celebration of Word and Sacrament

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the entrance of Jesus as King in to the city of Jerusalem, the historical capital of the Kingdom of Israel and the eternal capital of the Messiah.  By the time of Jesus, this was a celebration reserved of the Roman Emperor and his family alone.  Historically, the “Roman triumph” was awarded by the Roman Senate to generals and their armies who were returning from a decisive military victory.  Roman emperors would stride into the city on horseback with a giant parade, dragging along the spoils of war – both riches and prisoners.  As the emperor, his soldiers, and those who were part of his victory party rode into the city, the crowed would join the procession behind them as they made their way to a temple for a sacrifice.

 

Jesus made an important statement to the people as he rode into the ancient city on a donkey colt (a symbolic animal of peace).  Like a great emperor returning victoriously from war, he was greeted by the crowds with shouts of triumph and joy and waving palm branches, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38).  Jesus’ triumphal entry declares to everyone that he is King and Lord and that he will be victorious in his mission to defeat sin and death once and for all. 

 

The Church has preserved this celebration and enters into Jesus’ triumphal arrival to Jerusalem through the liturgy and celebration of Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Palm Sunday sets the tone for Holy Week as one of ultimate victory and joy.  The Procession on this day holds special significance because it is the beginning of one liturgical movement that arcs through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.  Historically, the clergy would begin the procession outside the church building.  The palms – an ancient symbol of triumph and victory – are blessed outside, prior to the procession, and waved by the crowd as the cross, Gospel book, and clergy pass by.  The whole congregation joins the procession and enters the sanctuary together.

 

WHAT YOU SEE AND HEAR

WAVING PALM BRANCHES:  In Matthew 21, it says that crowds waved and placed branches at Jesus’ feet as he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  Palm branches are an ancient symbol of goodness, victory, and triumph.

A PROCESSIONAL:  We march through part of our neighborhood both to participate in Jesus’ own entry into Jerusalem as a victorious king and to announce the beginning of Holy Week.

SHOFAR:  The blowing of a ram horn is a Hebrew custom based on the Bible’s description of its use as a herald of the coming of a king.

THE PASSION READING:  This passage from the Gospel is read dramatically by a number of people in order to orient the congregation to the ruling story of Holy Week.  The congregation participates in this reading by acting as those who call for Jesus’ crucifixion. 

INCENSE:  Burned as a tangible reminder of God’s presence with us in the Old Testament, incense is traditionally used on holy days.  The incense is carried by a person called the thurifer.  The incense also represents our prayers rising to God in heaven. (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 7)

LITURGICAL COLOR CHANGE FROM PURPLE TO RED:  This shift is meant to capture the dramatic arc of the service.  Purple, a royal color, is under for the processional as we usher in King Jesus.  Then, after the Passion reading, purple is changed to passion red, which is the liturgical color for Palm Sunday and a symbol of Jesus’ death and crucifixion.  The changing colors capture the dramatic juxtaposition that takes place, as the same crowd of people goes from praising Jesus to calling for his murder – a stark picture of our own vacillations. 

 

DEVOTIONAL

Palm Sunday is an invitation to the journey of Holy Week – a journey to healing.  As we wave our palm branches and acclaim Jesus as our King as the people in Jerusalem did that day, we walk beside Jesus toward Jerusalem, toward the place of sacrifice, as we experience his inevitable and eternal victory.

 

However, when we arrive with Jesus in Jerusalem there is a dramatic shift, we hear the Passion reading – the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.  The same crowd that was worshipping Jesus now turns against him, calling for his death.  Again, we see ourselves in the crowd realizing our own sin of rejecting Jesus so often.  In the grittiness and length of the Passion reading, we realize the depth of suffering Jesus endured for us.

 

The prayers of Palm Sunday focus on Jesus’ suffering.  We are called to imitate Jesus in his humility and to walk with him through his suffering and death. We do this so that we might also share in his resurrection and victory – a victory that we have had a glimpse of in this service.  This invitation is not to be taken lightly.  If, by faith, we embrace the call to share in Jesus’ suffering and allow the Lord to meet us, we will be changed.  Whether this is your first of fiftieth journey through Holy Week, the Lord Jesus is calling you to walk this difficult and holy road with him.

 

YOUR RESPONSE

How is the Lord inviting you to walk with him this week?

What does it mean to walk with Jesus in his suffering?

 

 

 

Material used with permission from: © 2016 Church of the Resurrection. All rights reserved. 935 W. Union Ave. Wheaton, IL 60187 churchrez.org Editor: Meghan Robins