Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rearranging Lent—Palms and Crosses

There is a great deal of talk about those who attend church twice a year—Christmas and Easter. I’m noticing, however, that there are those who up attendance to three times. Palm Sunday seems to be itching its way towards the top of the list of most frequently attended Sunday services.

I’ve been thinking about the Palm/Easter visitors. While these people will attend both Sunday services, they tend to be absent at Maundy Thursday/Good Friday services. This means that they get the triumphal entry and the resurrection, but no cross.

Is this a problem? If it were up to you, would you keep with the traditional Lenten schedule, or would you adjust the reading to have a Sunday that focused solely on the death of Jesus?


Stu Mcgregor said...

i think it's ironic that it's called the triumphal entry. it seems the accolades thrown at Jesus merely exposed their ignorance even more.
we focussed on gethsemane yesterday at both services. it's a story that often gets missed and we held it in tension with palm sunday. the triumphal entry can only be that when taken isolated from the narrative flow of the passion.

JohnLDrury said...

stu - you are dead on to remind us that the royalty of Jesus is tied up in his passion.

amanda - great post. There is a movement among the liturgy-types to rename Palm Sunday "Passion Sunday" precisely to remedy this problem. Of course, this begs the question: do we adjust the liturgical calendar to fit with when people come, or try to get people to participate in the liturgical rhythms as they come to us????

Lance said...

You're right that Palm Sunday has been renamed "Passion Sunday"—it comes from Vatican II, where it was officially renamed. The Anglicans have adopted it, too. The RCL gives you the option to use either the "Liturgy of the Palms" or the "Liturgy of the Passion," although it stresses that "whenever possible, the whole passion narrative should be read."

As to John's question, I think we should do some of both. Our Good Friday Tenebrae service is one of the most highly-attended services in town, and it is not really an officially liturgical service. The Good Friday liturgy at noon is the more official one, for which we do get a good crowd. But, people can more easily come in the evening than during a work day.

I personally like to have both the triumphal entry and then Jesus' Passion on the Palm/Passion Sunday. Many of the traditional hymns have verses addressing both, if you sing enough of them.

Amanda said...

Thanks for the extra info here, Lance. Our associate pastor managed to tie together the triumphal entry and the cross yesterday...

All of this talk is making me appreciate the huge Easter productions often put on by mega-churches. I'm seeing the importance of communicating the complete narrative.


David Drury said...

We have moved toward a "passion sunday" style unknowingly a bit which I think helps this in a minor way.

But overall if you're an "Easter-Xmas" Xian then you're getting what you want to get: Christian belief without the pain or the lifestyle.

Ben Robinson said...

Palm Sunday, though, still begins the march towards the cross. While I'm not necessarily against a shift in focus, I think the story of Palm Sunday is just as significant to the Passion week as the suffering in Gethsemane. It represents a misunderstood Jesus but it also represents something far more meaningful than just misunderstanding. Knowing the full Passion narrative we can look at Palm Sunday and celebrate the themes of royalty by viewing them through the lens of what it truly means for Jesus to be king. We can celebrate a king who chose the cross rather than to use the perverted powers of the world to usher in his kingdom. We can celebrate a king who willingly went to the cross. We can celebrate a king who is wholly different from the kings of this world and who's authority expands beyond the earthly domain. So it is the triumphal entry, but it's the trimphal entry because of the narrative in its entirety. Praise to the king.

Samuel Bills said...

At our church we do Passion Sunday - I rather miss Palm Sunday. I think there are interesting questions in which of the two - palms or passion - pre-easter worship should focus on.
It is interesting to me that the cross seems more important than the resurrection in evangelism today - is that accurate? Maybe it isn't so bad that the "under"-churched 3X a year types get to triumphal services. Maybe Good Friday is for the "baptized" - They can appreciate its foolishness. I don't know just thinking - I missed the contrast of having Palm Sunday - stupid Vatican II.

Amanda said...

Does it matter if more non-liturgical congregations adjust the Lenten calendar? Does it matter if we have Palm Sunday two weeks before Easter and speak of the cross the Sunday before Easter?

Non-liturgical congregations don't seem to have a problem changing around the liturgical calendar in other situations. It's not much of an issue when we preach on Acts 2 in the middle of October, or if we preach on the transfiguration in June, so why do we bother trying to keep to the liturgical calendar in this instance?


Nathan said...

amanda, here in new york city, Ash Wednesday is the second busiest day on the church calendar.

Amy said...

I don't know about all the liturgy stuff, or how the problem can be best solved. But to answer your question, yes, I think it's a huge problem. As David Drury mentioned, people are seeking the pleasure without the pain.

I thought of your post this morning when I read this quote from Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, speaking of the centrality of the cross in Paul's ministry:

"Paul's emphasis on the cross appears intended to stress that the cross cannot be bypassed on the way to resurrection. Before sharing in the resurrection life and all its fullness, believers must first pass through the shadow of the cross."

Think I'll blog on this myself.

David Drury said...

You got me thinking even more about this issue in preparation for this holy week, Mandy. You already read this but for the others here I'll put the link to my thoughts on Christian Suffering and Pain during holy week: