February 25, 2018
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, and it sets the tone as one of ultimate victory and joy. The service begins with celebration as we re-live the entrance of Jesus as a King into the city of Jerusalem, the historical capital of the kingdom of Israel.
This kind of entry into the city was well-known in the ancient world. Historically, the “Roman triumph” was awarded by the Roman Senate to generals and their armies who were returning from a decisive military victory. Roman emperors would stride into the city on horseback with a giant parade, dragging along the spoils of war. As the victory party rode into the city, the crowd would join the procession behind them on the way to the temple.
Jesus made an important statement to the people when he rode into the ancient city on a donkey colt, a symbolic animal of peace. Like an emperor returning victoriously from war, he was greeted by the crowds with shouts of triumph and joy and waving palm branches, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). Jesus’ triumphal entry declares to everyone that he is King and Lord and that he will be victorious in his mission to defeat sin and death once and for all.
Like the crowds in the Gospel accounts (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-40), during the processional we are invited to worship Jesus in all his glory. We see Jesus for who he truly is: our King. As we wave our palm branches and walk with Jesus towards Jerusalem, we experience Jesus’ eternal victory.
The procession on this day holds special significance because it is the beginning of one liturgical movement that arcs through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. Historically, the procession begins outside the church. The palms—an ancient symbol of triumph and victory—are blessed and then waved by the crowd as the cross and Gospel book pass by. The whole congregation joins the procession and enters the sanctuary together. (These palm branches are saved and later burned to be used as ashes on Ash Wednesday of the following year.)
When we arrive with Jesus in Jerusalem there is a dramatic shift. In the service, we hear the Passion reading—the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. The same crowd that was worshiping Jesus now turns against him, calling for his death. Again, we see ourselves in the crowd, realizing our own sin of rejecting Jesus. In the grittiness and length of the Passion reading, we realize the depth of suffering that Jesus endured for us.
The prayers of Palm Sunday focus on Jesus’ suffering. We are called to imitate Jesus in his humility and to walk with him through his suffering and death. We do this so that we might also share in his resurrection and victory—a victory that we have had a glimpse of in this service. This invitation is not to be taken lightly. If, by faith, we embrace the call to share in Jesus’ suffering and allow the Lord to meet us, we will be changed. Whether this is your first or fiftieth journey through Holy Week, the Lord Jesus is calling you to walk this difficult and holy road with him.
Join us on Sunday, 3/25 at 8:30am or 10:30am for our celebration of Palm Sunday. Click here for full service details.
This post is Part 1 of our Peek into Holy Week blog series. Check out the full series to help you prepare to hear from God during Holy Week. Click here to read the next post about Maundy Thursday.
February 22, 2018
“In the course of our life, we accumulate a different kind of waste. We might call it toxic waste for the soul; shameful moments, destructive patterns, and tragic choices… Lent provides forty days for us to behold Christ and His cross, not only to understand it more deeply, but also to cast our soul’s toxic waste upon it.”(p. 62-63 from The Good of Giving Up by Aaron Damiani)
My wife and I have this closet upstairs that we’ve been trying to ignore for a while. Maybe you have a closet like this yourself, the one you fill with everything that doesn’t seem to go anywhere else. Ours has winter clothes, old movies, a few exercise relics from optimistic former times. Recently, on a Saturday afternoon whim, in a moment of clarity, we had a revelation; How great would it be to have that additional, functional space, if we simply cleaned out our closet? It was like an epiphany! Imagine the possibilities of storage, of order, of design that could take place if only we had a fully cleared closet. Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Because of course, there was only one catch. In order to use the closet, we needed to clean the closet, and as we soon discovered, cleaning out our closet was going to take a lot of hard work.
I think some of the beauty of Lent is its invitation to us to clean the cluttered spaces in our hearts. As the year has moved along, and the ordinary time of summer has passed into the colder seasons of fall and winter, so too have our hearts and lives accumulated clutter large and small. For some of us it’s been the simple distractions of home, work, school, kids, and friends. For others of us, it has been significant temptations, enticements, or perhaps even sins that we’ve tried to tuck away, nervously hoping that out of sight will eventually become out of mind. However the Church has been given the season of Lent from our Lord precisely because He knows our need for a season of serious cleansing. A season of examination and self-reflection. A season of fasting and refraining. A season where we give generously, to be reminded of what we’ve been given. The season of Lent is an invitation to clean out the cluttered spaces of our heart, precisely because we’d far rather ignore them. The truth is, this type of cleaning is likely going to take some serious work. But there is a vision set before us of possibility and hope, of what God can do with the new space in our hearts that have been cleaned out for Him. May you therefore be courageous in this season of Lent to open up your own cluttered closets, so that you may behold the cleansing Christ wants to bring.
Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Resurrection church planter Fr. Aaron Damiani.