Come for Palm Sunday – Stay for Holy Week!

Palm Sunday starts the Holy Week. Our Presbyterian Worship Calendar lists this Sunday as both Palm and Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday does serve a dual role, commemorating both Jesus’ final, triumphant entry into Jerusalem and his journey to the cross on Good Friday. We celebrate singing joyous, victorious hymns and waving palm branches. Yet, the joy is tempered with the crucifixion looming. In a fitting observance of the duality of the day, palms are blessed and burned to ashes to use for the following year’s Ash Wednesday service.

Having witnessed a pastor try to do the actual burning herself as a lesson to the children of her congregation, I purchase ashes that a religious organization has already burned for us. The do-it-yourself lesson I witnessed ended in fire trucks rushing to the Fellowship Hall. The children were very excited about the fire trucks, but they did not learn much about the reason we celebrate Ash Wednesday.

All four gospels describe, with a few differences, the events of the day Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time. The descriptions resemble the kind of celebration Caesar or a victorious general returning from battle would receive. Since Caesar was given the title, the “Son of God,” in the Roman Empire, honoring Jesus in this way made the theological statement that Jesus was the Son of God, not Caesar. The celebration was not only an act of worship, it was also an act of treason against the worldly Roman Empire. Our Palm Sunday liturgy resembles that of Christ the King Sunday which ends the cycle of the Christian Calendar before the new year starts on the first Sunday of Advent.

We end the service of Palm Sunday with an acknowledgment of the upcoming Passion of Christ. The mood shifts from joy to sorrow, just as it did for Jesus’ disciples that week. Come join us on Palm Sunday, April 9, at both the 10:00 am service as well as the 4:00 Jazz Vespers.


© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2017, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church – Peoria, Illinois