Thursday, 6 April 2017

Palm Sundays I have known

Image via the "Mirror" Newspaper.  Place not identified  but most likely in Latin America or Spain.  Makes our Palm Sunday processions look very wimpy!


Uh Oh, we are getting close to Palm Sunday. Ministers and Priests throughout western Protestant Christendom are frantically ( even obsessively) planning to make sure that the details of the blessing of the Palms and the processions with Palms are just right, and that no one steps out of line.

Many of them are looking for an exquisite procession  (whether indoors or outside) in which the Crucifer(s). Acolytes, Choristers, Clerics and other sundry Ministers GLIDE  (not walk!) with perfect synchronicity;  and the congregation sings the (terminally boring) "All Glory Laud and Honour" in perfect time, and with perfect pitch, not missing a beat.

My dearly beloved sister and brother Ministers have a insistent inner voice which says  "You must plan  so meticulously that Palm Sunday will be as perfect as a U.K. Royal Wedding, or a State Funeral at the National Cathedral".

I know -   been there, tried that, and failed !

There was the Sunday on which the Sexton when setting up the Hymn Boards had us read that it was PSALM Sunday",   We let it stay.

With many of you I have planned outdoor processions in which we have sung the afore mentioned semi-dirge hymn.  You know what happens, the choir gets back into the building and reaches the High Altar as they begin verse three of the hymn.  Meanwhile the stragglers at the end of the line have just about reached the refrain at the end of verse one.  Might we call it "punk polyphony"?

There was the Sunday on which we had planned a graceful "figure of eight" procession for Acolytes, Choir and Clergy alone, except that we had not told one of our good retired Clerics the details.  As we walked in procession from the Altar he beckoned to folks in the front pews that they too should join the procession.

They did, then the second row row, then the third and so on.

We had a big choir, and a large congregation.  In due course, half way through the figure of eight,the head of the procession met the tail of the procession.  Gridlock ensued. Every route was blocked.
  
There was only one solution.  We all collapsed into laughter and found our seats ASAP.

There was the dreadful Palm Sunday on which I scolded the congregation for not following  the instructions I had carefully placed in the bulletin.    I lost my cool.  I lost the respect of members of the congregation.   And we lost a parish family.

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The Palm Sunday Liturgy itself is clunky.   We have about ten minutes to think about the deep significance of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (**see below), and then we are plunged into  one of the gospel accounts of Jesus' passion.

Of course that gives unimaginative preachers the opportunity to muse on "Triumph to Tragedy", but that's not what it is about.

** That's not what it's all about if we see Jesus' action as deliberate and calculated.   Is it not a "throwing down of the gauntlet" by which the Son of Man challenges the ruling powers in Jerusalem, the Roman occupiers and the Temple hierarchs.

Those ruling powers had struck a cozy bargain: a political accommodation to "keep the peace at all price". ****

That price was paid not by the bargain makers, but by the poor.

Jesus enters deeply into the teachings of his Jewish faith, especially the words of the Prophets: - those who were always on the side of the poor and oppressed, and ever reminding  the oligarchs of God's judgment. 

Jesus chose to upset the apple cart on that "Palm Sunday".   It was a very messy entrance into the seats of power.

That being the case, let's have a few Hosannas in favour of messy and confusing Palm Sunday processions.

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Food for thought

Think of the current political/religious  "accommodations".e.g. in Russia where the Orthodox Church is in bed with the Putin regime and religious minorities are branded as subversive enemies of the State.  The Jehovah's Witness faith was officially banned this week in Russia, for just that reason OR In the United States where the Religious Right has cozied up to Trump and the other White House Oligarchs so that they  (the religionists) will be afforded special protections and privileges under the law.






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