We begin in the Garden, with the Liturgy of the Palms. There we will hear Mark’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As he rides along the way on a colt, people spread cloaks and branches on the road. They wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” This echoes the “messianic demonstration” surrounding Elisha’s anointing of Jehu in 2 Kings, where palm branches are waved in celebration of victory. Jesus’ own messianic demonstration establishes that he is fulfilling prophecy, accomplishing God’s promises to his people. We will join in this celebration as we enter the church singing “All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer, King!”
Once in the church, our lessons from scripture will continue to affirm Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, even as the nature of his accomplishment is revealed to be darker and more costly than we are prepared to acknowledge.
In Isaiah the prophet speaks, establishing his obedience and willingness to speak the word God has given him and to suffer the abuse directed at him, knowing that God is with him and will ultimately save him from disgrace and shame. This suffering and shame is given voice in the psalm, which also affirms the trust that our “times are in the hand” of God, who will save us through his loving kindness.
The great Philippians hymn also echoes the prophets as it describes Christ’s self-emptying, his willingness to be mortal—to suffer and die on a cross—in order that he should be highly exalted by God that all might confess that he is Lord. The emphasis here is on his humility and his willingness to be obedient, and we are urged to “let the same mind be” in us.
We will all participate in the reading of the Passion Gospel from Mark. We will walk with Jesus through his anointing for burial, the prediction of his betrayal, the Last Supper (eaten in anticipation of the coming kingdom), his arrest, Peter’s denial, his condemnation by Pilate, his crucifixion, death, and burial. We will enter the quiet and sober realization of Christ’s sacrifice.
Then, we will prepare ourselves to reenact that Last Supper in our Holy Communion, acknowledging again that “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” Following the post-communion prayer and blessing, our liturgy will conclude in different way. Demonstrating our awareness of Christ’s passage into the darkness of death for us, we will strip the altar as our choir sings a setting of Psalm 22, interspersed with the “Seven Last Words” from the cross. We will depart the darkened church in silence, prepared to walk in the way of the cross through Holy Week. We will return to the church only for our Good Friday liturgy, to remember again Christ’s passion and to pray the solemn collects in preparation for the resurrection.
This Sunday will be a beautiful and powerful great drama that establishes the foundation of our faith. I hope that everyone is present to participate.