Monday, March 17, 2008

Palm Sunday - 2 Pathways

really enjoyed our palm sunday service yesterday and I enjoyed preparing it even more. It was one of those ones, for me, where the texts really come alive.
The 'lightbulb coming on' moment was when I put the gospel reading (Matthew 21: 1-11) next to the epistle reading (Philippians 2: 5-11). It was in the contrast between the 2 readings that I had an 'aha' moment as to what was going on.

In the triumphal entry we see, what we called in our service, 'the path of ascent' : the invitation of the crowds to Jesus to take the path of power, success, prestige, strength. These things aren't always necessarily wrong but Jesus wouldn't be defined by them. It was inconceivable to the crowds on Palm Sunday that Christ would 'give himself up to death' i.e. go to the cross.
In the epistle reading we see Christ instead taking the 'path of descent' - giving up human notions of power and success for something so counterintuitive to us that we just don't know what to do with it.

And of course - the story of Christ is our story. What happens to Christ happens to us.

In our service we created two stone-lined pathways - one littered with palm branches, the other with palm crosses. On the first one - the path of ascent - we had words associated with ascent on pieces of paper for people to pick up. On the second one - the path of descent - people were invited to put down the values of ascent and pick up the values of descent.

lay down success, pick up apparent failure
lay down status, pick up lowliness
lay down significance, take up insignificance
lay down power, take up trust
lay down pride, take up humility
lay down strength, take up weakness
lay down ego, live out of a different centre
lay down privilege, seek solidarity with the least

The palm branches need to become palm crosses.

The path of descent led to the altar - i.e. leads to death - where we celebrated communion, the great continuing participation in Christ's death where we too die - we fall back into the arms of God in the hope of resurrection.

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