Welcome to worship for this Palm/Passion Sunday, landing on April 10, 2022!
We are back to fully online hopefully just for this week due to a slight COVID mishap in our household. This service is recorded as I don’t know what condition I’ll be in come Sunday, and I wanted to make sure that there was something for everyone for this special Sunday.
The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will have the order and words of worship, the hymn and page numbers out of the ELW, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included on this page below the video and the words that you need to know will be up on your screen as well.
As it is Palm Sunday, you can have some kind of greenery near by, be it a potted plant or a full leaf or branch, and you can hold it up during the Processional Hymn and even wave it around if you wish. You can also have a lit candle in your space for the whole service, and can extinguish it after the Sending Hymn when the chancel candles are put out. Also you can have something small to eat and drink for communion, and further instructions will be given during the service. These are all optional, please do what is most comfortable and helpful for you.
May God’s grace and peace bring you joy and comfort, this day and always!
Eternal God, increase our humility as we seek the same mind of Christ within us, that we might follow your leading and truth to pick up our crosses as live as your servants, through Jesus our risen Lord and Saviour. Amen.
So this was unexpected. I had a whole sermon and stuff planned out and was so excited to be back in the space for our first Palm/Passion Sunday after the pandemic, and here we are. Ok ok maybe it was just the intro to the sermon written, but still. Back online only. Sigh.
In case you missed the announcements at the beginning of this service or are just reading or listening to this sermon by itself without any context, we’re back online only this Sunday because one of our kids tested positive for COVID-19 this past Thursday night. While for now the rest of us feel fine, we thought it best to play it safe and move worship online so none of you would have the chance to catch any of the lingering germs that I might be exuding.
Funny enough though, this exact child, the one who caught COVID, was born on the Thursday before Palm/Passion Sunday, my first one here in fact, making that Sunday a little difficult. And now on the Thursday before the first Palm/Passion Sunday back from pandemic, he is tested positive for COVID, making this Sunday a little difficult. I don’t blame him at all, mind you, I just wonder what he has against Palm/Passion Sunday.
While it’s probably nothing as all of that was completely out of his control, Palm/Passion Sunday has always been a hard one for me, even without a kid being born or that same kid catching the bug that is going around the entire world like 13 years later. I’ve mentioned my difficulties with this day before, in fact every year if my memory serves me correctly: it’s too convoluted with its opposing themes of the Triumphal Entry to the Passion Narrative, it’s too confusing to squish so much of this very large story into one day, and it’s too enabling for the people to skip out on the Good Friday service, which might have to be online only again this year, if even that. But the one thing that really gets me this time around, is just how long these texts are for this day. Like seriously, I even chose the shorter option and it still feels like I’ve been reading forever because we have not one but two gospel readings, and the passion narrative is always pretty lengthy to catch all those fine details that we might just gloss over.
Actually, we probably do gloss over them. I know I do. It’s not hard as there are just so many things going on that we ignore because we know the point: Jesus is crucified, and Jesus is crucified because of us and our sin and our own selfish wrongdoing and wanting him out of our lives. And if that isn’t guilt inducing, I don’t know what is. So I don’t blame people for knowing the story but not really knowing the story. I don’t blame people who would rather skip the “crucify him” part and just go from the “Hosanna” to the “Alleluia”. I don’t blame people for not liking this day because I don’t really like this day. Mix all that with my track record of things happening around Palm/Passion Sunday to make it even harder, and you have this disgusting cocktail of difficulty, stress, and guilt. Not really something to look forward to.
And so this time around something different caught my eyes in these texts. This guy, Simon of Cyrene, who might be better known as “who from where?”. We don’t know much about this Simon guy, I mean he only gets like one line in each of the first three gospels. So all we know is that he’s from Cyrene and he was forced to help Jesus carry his cross. Actually, he carried it solo to give Jesus a break. This was common practice in those days as the condemned could be beaten so badly that they wouldn’t be able to make that walk of shame on their own with a cross on their back, so some unexpected bystander would be voluntold to carry the cross with them so the execution could carry on without further delay.
It’s pretty sad if you think about it, the condemned being so messed up that they can’t carry this heavy cross by themselves so they need to force someone against their will to help, but also in a way it’s kind of beautiful. I mean, it might not beautiful be for the ones who were forced to carry this heavy, splintered, and untreated log on their back, but it’s beautiful for the condemned to experience, perhaps for the last time, some grace, and for those watching to see two people side by side, perhaps strangers, sharing in the burden and helping each other through the unexpected difficulty that they have found themselves in.
And I guess this is why this part of the story struck me so much this time around, because I’m feeling really burdened right now. I’m feeling a lot of weight on my shoulders, what with this pandemic, with everything that is going on in the world, and what is happening in my own home, it is a lot. And I’m not saying that I’m Jesus in this story and that someone needs to be Simon to help me with it all, but I’m saying that I feel like I’m Simon and was unexpectedly thrown into this situation where I’m holding up this heavy cross that I didn’t want or ask for.
And perhaps some if not all of you have felt the same. Perhaps you too, have found yourself unexpectedly carrying these burdens that you didn’t want or ask for. Perhaps you feel like you’re buckling under the weight and pressures of life, and that you don’t know how much longer you’ll last. Perhaps this story of Simon from Cyrene speaks to you too, as much as it speaks to me right now.
Because this burden isn’t ours, is it? At least it shouldn’t be. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t sign up for it. We don’t own it. Why should we carry the Son of God’s burdens when they’re really his burdens to begin with? I mean if God is in control then God should deal with it. If God is so sovereign then God should take the blame. If God wants us to love God back then maybe we shouldn’t have to bear all this stuff that isn’t our fault to begin with. It’s just not fair.
And that’s right, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that we have to go through this, it’s not fair that we get beat up and harmed, it’s not fair that we don’t get what we want because the powers that be say otherwise. It’s not fair that we are found carrying Jesus’ cross from time to time.
It’s not fair… to him either, actually. We might say that these burdens aren’t ours and they’re his, but who gave it to him to begin with? Who got Jesus to be tried by the officials? Who stood in the crowds yelling “crucify him”? Who hated him and his teachings so much that they just wanted him dead and out of their lives?
As much as these burdens might be Jesus’, we are the ones that put him there to begin with.
But the good news in this very long and glossed over text is that while we carry Jesus’ burdens for a while and it’s really tough and heavy, Jesus does eventually take back his cross and he obliterates it. He takes the hurts and pains that we go through and he somehow heals them and restores us to wholeness. He takes the anger, the hatred, and the death, and he abolishes them with grace, love, and (spoiler alert) resurrection.
This isn’t to belittle the burdens that we have gone through or are going through, or the crosses that we feel we’re nailed to or are carrying, believe me I know that it’s tough. But it is to remind us of the hope that we have in the resurrection, that while life can be darn near impossible, there is healing, there is redemption, and there is Jesus, walking alongside us and ready to graciously and lovingly take that weight off our shoulders and give us peace.
So as our “hosannas” of Palm Sunday, which mean “save us, we pray”, are turned into the shouts of “crucify him” out of anger and misunderstanding of what Jesus is about of Passion Sunday, may we look forward to the “alleluias” of Easter and the Resurrection, as we are filled with love, hope, and relief. Thanks be to God. Amen.