This coming Sunday, April 2nd, is called the Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday, which is the beginning of Holy Week. On Palm/Passion Sunday, Christians around the world mark Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem to complete the work of our salvation. During our worship, we follow in his footsteps as we enter the church, acclaiming the one whose throne was the cross. At Bethlehem Lutheran, we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem by waving palm branches outside the church and singing “Hosanna!” and the hymn “All Glory, Laud and Honor” as the congregation enters the sanctuary. It is a worship service of “opposites” – we go from praise and joy at the start of the service, and the mood turns solemn at the end of the service, when we read the passion narrative of Jesus’ suffering, death, and burial.
I’ve been to other church denominations that have different traditions for Palm Sunday, including one whose tradition was to bring in a real donkey, dress up one of the children in costume, put them on the donkey, and have the congregation process along with the donkey all the way into the sanctuary! It was something the children of the church looked forward to each year.
Some churches also have different people assigned the different people who speak during the passion narrative, to bring color and additional drama to the already intense scripture reading.
We then return to church on Maundy Thursday, which begins the Three Days during which we participate once again in the saving power of Jesus’ passing over from death into life. This service includes the words of Jesus’ new commandment to love one another. Following Jesus’ example of humility and service, we may wash another’s feet as Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. We also celebrate the Lord’s supper.
At the end of the Maundy Thursday service, the altar guild will strip the altar area of all furnishings as a sign of Jesus’ abandonment.
May you be blessed during Holy Week as you remember Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection for our salvation! Amen.