This Sunday has an image problem. For many churches, there will be waving of Palms and enthusiastic singing that marks the end of lent. Those who attend worship this day and return next Sunday for Easter, will largely miss the point of the week.
For these folks the Holy Week experience is similar to attending a grandparent’s big birthday bash with family gathered in celebration, not seeing Grandma or Grandpa at the end in their suffering and death. These folks will skip the wake (some the funeral itself) and instead go right to the funeral lunch or reception. After all they want to remember Grandma/pa “the way s/he was” and do not want the messiness of the realities of life.
So in many churches this Sunday, there will also be a reading of the Passion, to remind them of the realities of the week they will miss. But the Triduum or three-day experience of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter are the reality of Jesus the Christ and our foundation of faith as Christians. For me it is like listening to Christmas music in November, eating Marshmallow peeps in Lent, or eating a Fenway Frank purchased in the grocery store and cooked at home.
For those who skip over Holy Week, they open the present without understanding how or why it was given. There is something missing, the experience is hollow (just like those chocolate bunnies whose ears you are tempted to bite off today) and the most holy important feast of the year becomes not much more than singing Alleluias, a celebratory gathering to wear new clothes to, and a short sugar rush that will fall flat in a matter of hours.
So for those who will experience both Palms and Passion this Sunday, I share Martin Luther’s insight on the Palm experience and significance that one might miss and I encourage you to experience the Passion via the three days at a church near you…
Behold, our King comes to us, meek, and sitting on an ass.
LOOK AT CHRIST, He rides not upon a horse which is a steed of war. He comes not with appalling pomp and power but sits upon an ass, which is a gentle beast to bear burdens and to work for men. From this we see that Christ comes not to terrify, to drive, and oppress, but to help and to take for himself our load. We read further that he came from the Mountain of Olives. Now the oil of the olive was the symbol of that which soothes. His entry was marked not by the clash of weapons and cries of war, but by singing, praise, rejoicing, and the blessing of God.
Observe that he comes. You do not seek him; he seeks you. You do not find him; he finds you. The preachers come from him, not from you, and their preaching comes from him and not from you. Your faith comes, not from you, but from him.
Source: Martin Luther’s Easter Book (p. 23-24)