The Sunday of the Trojan Horse

16 03 2008

It is a running joke among Anglicans and Episcopalians that we love processions. On Palm Sunday, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin winds its way through Times Square in New York City singing “All Glory, Laud and Honor to Thee, Redeemer King.” They literally stop traffic at the crossroads of the world to remind everyone that, on this day, we remember Christ coming into Jerusalem.

One Palm Sunday, there was a church which, instead of leading its procession on the streets of their town, was content to have its procession within the church itself. They were to proceed in a rather complex pattern in and about the church. At some point, something went wrong and the procession split! Acolytes were heading one way, the choir another, and the clergy were coming up the middle. In the spirit of good showmanship and order, everyone did as best they could to try and rejoin the procession, but such is the nature of this organized chaos that everyone more or less did according to their own conscience. The original path of the procession had disintegrated into a big mess with little hope of coming back together. Eventually, the inevitable happened.

They, and the hymn they were singing, ran out of verses.

Everyone was dazed and wondered what was going on. Finally, they witnessed the crucifer, coming down the center aisle all alone.

This illustration is quite close to what Palm Sunday is like.

We all know the story … Jesus enters into Jerusalem, not as a conquering hero as was expected of the Messiah. He comes humbly on a donkey which was borrowed by his disciples since they were too poor to own one themselves. The inhabitants and the visitors of the city rush to greet him, shouting songs of praise, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!” They lay palm branches at his feet in honor and worship. As the week goes by, more and more people fall away as it becomes clear that this man is not going to do the things they expect him to do. It is clear that the Romans will not be driven out of their holy city or their land. It was perfectly clear that this New World Order which they had been hoping for was not going to happen at this Passover. The week progresses and even Jesus’ closest disciples fall away from him. One even goes so far as to deny he ever knew Jesus, and another one “sells his soul” in betrayal for a profit. At the end of the week, Jesus is all alone, just like the crucifer. There is no one with him as he is carried off to his trial, no one with him as he is flogged, and no one is with him as he carries his instrument of death from the courtroom to the hilltop where he is put on display like a common criminal.

To bring these events into very real terms, it would be as if you were to take your best friend or a favorite teacher, and when this beloved person needs you the most, you say to him, “I don’t need you. I don’t know you. I don’t think we ever met. I would rather keep company with this scoundrel and this terrorist, thank you very much.”

Palm Sunday is properly called the Sunday of the Passion, where there is a dramatic reading from one of the Gospels of the Jesus’ last week before his death. For someone not used to it, a Palm Sunday service in an Episcopal church can be rather disconcerting. We could call this “The Sunday of the Trojan Horse,” or “Schizophrenic Sunday.” We start out the day with a parade, all festivities and brightness, and by the end of the service, the mood is very somber. This is the day where we welcome our King into our midst, and this is the day we cry for his blood. We say “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and we join the bloodthirsty mob as we shout, “Crucify him!”

Not pretty, is it? Christianity is not meant to be pretty. It is so much more than that. Christianity, the way of following Christ, is about the Good News.

The Good News is that the continuing story of how God redeems all of Creation from the mess we made does not end with “Crucify Him.” The Good News is that this is only the beginning of the climax of that story. At the end of the week, “Crucify Him!” changes to, “Hallelujah! He is not here, but is risen!” The Good News is that God is still working through us by the Holy Spirit, who guides and comforts us and makes manifest his Kingdom. It’s as if God infiltrates conquered territory and through one man, starts a revolution which signals the defeat of evil.

In Holy Week, we see how God gives his own Son, God gives his very Self, to fulfill the great rescue mission which began with the calling of Abraham. The cross, an instrument of torture and shame, becomes God’s symbol … our symbol … of victory.





6 responses

17 03 2008
John Woodhouse

Great post!

17 03 2008
Pisco Sours

Thanks for this! I always feel uneasy on Palm Sunday, and this post perfectly demonstrates why.

17 03 2008
Reverend boy

In the Passion reading yesterday I played the part of Judas as well as other villans including the line about “his blood be on us and our children … ”

intense stuff!

18 03 2008

It doesn’t seem like Holy Week to me at all. Why not? Am I unique in this?

18 03 2008
Reverend boy

This year feels different somehow than in the past couple of years … Can’t quite put my finger on it though … maybe because i’m dealing with internal stuff

Maybe because Holy Week is so early and it’s still winter.

Who knows?

But, like my rector said, God does wait for us to be ready or for us to feel like what we think it should be.

18 03 2008
Grandmère Mimi

What struck me at church this past Sunday, as we went from the triumphal procession to the reading of the Passion is that the brief period of time between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, through the Cross, to the Resurrection is filled with life-changing events. The people around must have been reeling.

It feels like Holy Week to me. I welcome one of my favorite times in the church seasons.

Very good words, RB.

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