I read some years ago that the reason that the Church celebrates Palm/Passion Sunday - where we move from joyous hosannas quickly, abruptly to the cries of “crucify him” - all in one worship service; that the reason we cram all of this huge emotion and story into one worship service is because the Church saw how many folks didn’t get to all the worship services of Holy Week and wanted to make sure that before folks arrived to Easter, they also had a chance to encounter the passion - the willing suffering sacrifice of our Savior Jesus. I have no quarrels or qualms with this decision of the Church, but I do find myself wondering if this way of approaching Palm/Passion Sunday feeds into our human tendency to rush to get through our stories and lives, to cram things all into tight spaces and tighter timelines.
I well remember as a teenager rushing, rushing, and wishing away the years until I could get my driver’s license, and then until I turned eighteen and could vote, and then until I was twenty-one and could legally drink. I remember wishing away high school so I could get to college and then wishing that college could be done and “real” life could be begun…
Why, as humans, do we so often seem to rush through our stories? Are we so convinced that the grass will be greener on the other side of whatever present point of time we find ourselves occupying? Is it to avoid having to feel all the too often mixed experience, mixed moments of living with joy and delight but also pain and suffering in our lives and in the lives of those we see around us?
In today’s worship we move quickly from Palms and “Hosannas, praise him” to “Crucify him.” We see that the rushing river has overflowed and the crowd has turned as we all too often turn. Away from those who need our love. Away from those who need our compassion. Giving judgment and blame where there should be a helping hand and hearts honest enough to both mourn our all-too-often lack of love and then get renewed and ready to try again to love better.
This, of course, is why Jesus needed to die for us. This is why Jesus needed to climb on the cross. This world and we ourselves in all our rushing, rushing haste are all too often rushing past that which deserves noticing and headlong into that which we should have avoided. We can be such a rushing, rushing mess. Yet, God’s grace bursting into this world meets our rushing lives and in the person of Jesus, who we profess to be the fullest expression of God’s grace pursuing us through history, in the person of Jesus God seeks to work over for good all that we humans in our haste have done badly or left undone entirely. By climbing to cross. To the grave. And then back to life again. Bringing us to life again.
So, I think we need to slow the story down. And this week, with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday - this week is a great opportunity to slow down. To let the story of God’s loving sacrifice through Christ get in deep under our skin and root deep in our hearts. To practice for the first time or the five hundredth time slowing down enough to let God take center stage in our lives because when God is central - not just this one week but year-round - everything else makes more sense. Helps us clarify that which we had thought was important in our busy, busy, rushing, rushing lives that actually isn’t. What we haven’t been doing for God and neighbor and world that actually is important.
Palm/Passion Sunday might rush us through the story of God’s grace unfolding in the living and dying of Jesus for the sake of love in hopes that more people will hear this story in its fullness, but it also marks the entrance to a week in which we are invited to slow waaaay down and let God help us drink in - for the first time or the five hundredth time - the story of God’s unfolding love for humanity and the world made manifest and made known through Jesus’ journey to the cross, the grave, and into new life.
For this is our journey to new life as well. Why would we want to rush through this amazing story?h Amen.