Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord

There are only 4 occassions when I, child of the Reformed traditions that I am, think a sermon or homily or almost any extraneous words at all, is unnecessary, when I think we should just let the story wash over us. The other three are Good Friday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. This is the fourth one: Palm Sunday.

Of course now, in many churches, we have to lump together Palm Sunday with Passion Sunday. Time was we did them separately: triumphal entry one week, tragic consequence the next. Perhaps we don't have the time now, and we want to take our medicine all at once. Perhaps we don't really want to take our medicine (how many of us try to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter Vigil, if available, and then Easter Sunday? There's a reason pastors talk about the hard work of getting Jesus resurrected.). One explanation I've heard is that people want to skip the passion and go straight to the empty tomb; which is a terrible cheat.

Maybe it's that we're all Docetists now. It disturbs us to think we worship a crucified God. The Absolute Paradox of God becoming human is too much to wrap our heads around, so we object when Jesus is portrayed as a true adult male. Crucifixion, of course, is too crude for modern sensibilities, so we don't think much about it anymore. The cruelty of death on a cross has been documented. But cruel death was a commonplace in 1st century Palestine. The Romans added true shock value to the torture by hanging the victim naked. Not that the victim much cared, of course; or didn't care for long, given the agonies of death crucifixion inflicted. The shame of nakedness was for the public; death they expected to be cruel, but shame....

We still don't like shame, of course, so we don't want to see Jesus on the cross without a loincloth either. Perhaps it's just as well. Or perhaps it would help us take a bit more seriously the story of the passion. Links to the Liturgy of the Palms and the Liturgy of the Passion can be found here. No other sermon today. After all, I've got enough to say on other topics.

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