What do we do when the lectionary transforms Palm Sunday into Good Friday?2014-04-08 11.49.45

Depending on your setting, you may have some options. For instance, we do Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services but the liturgy and Scripture for the latter is already set (aka: sacred cow). Maundy Thursday is flexible so I could use any of John 19b-42 this Sunday. Some folks have community services or no services at all through Holy week also availing the rest of Chapter 19 to use on Palm Sunday. There will be Narrative Lectionary posts on the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday texts covering the rest of chapter 19 on this website so be sure to check back during the week for commentary on those.

John 12:12-17
In my context we’ve been disciplined about sticking with the arc of the story given to us by the good folks at Working Preacher. It feels disingenuous to go back in time just to accommodate the eco-friendly palm order that has already been placed.

On the other hand (palm?) placing our liturgical feet in every footstep Jesus took since his arrest is starting to feel a bit overwhelming. I’m playing with the idea of sticking with Palm Sunday only or, more likely, probably a lessons and carols type of service that will review where we’ve been so far in the Gospel of John. Let us know in the comments how your community will be worshiping this Sunday.

One thought I’ve had is that since we’re deeply embedded in the Gospel of John, one of the keys to both the John 12 and the John 19 texts is to recognize and name what is in them and what is not. John 12 is placed just after Lazarus and then the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary. There are no directions about a room and a donkey from Jesus to his disciples. There is only a crowd that seems to suddenly catch on that Jesus is headed into Jerusalem. There are palms. There is reference to Psalm and Zechariah, and there is a donkey. There are also two other points that seem particularly important to the community that wrote the Gospel of John: 1) the disciples did not understand and 2) the Pharisees recognize that things have spun out of control.

So the disciples don’t understand and the Gospel of John tells us that they will not get it until after the Resurrection when they finally put the pieces together. Meanwhile the religious authorities at the very least understand that this man on a donkey is gathering power and influence among the people. There’s definitely a preaching nugget in that juxtaposition.

John 19:16b-22
Meanwhile, back to the passion narrative Jesus has been handed over to be crucified. He is carrying the cross by himself – there is no Simon of Cyrene. The name Golgotha or Skull does carry through all four Gospels. Then we have this scene between Pilate and the religious authorities that is only played out in the Gospel of John. In all four Gospels the inscription reads: “The King of the Jews”. However, only in the Gospel of John do the chief priests ask Pilate to only write, “This man said I am the King of the Jews.”

What’s in a name?
What does ‘King of the Jews’ mean in comparison with other names we’ve seen used for Jesus and by Jesus.

I Am.
Logos/the Word.
Son of God.
Lamb of God.
King of the Jews.

Blessings upon you as we try get that balance between palms and passion. Please let us know in the comments where you are headed and what would be helpful.

6 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Palms or Passion Edition (John 12:12-17; 19:16b-22)

  1. We’re sticking with the Narrative Lectionary as designed. We’ll do palmy stuff during the Call to Worship, first hymn, children’s message, and choir anthem. The confession makes the turn from Palm Sunday to the NL reading since it begins with a reflection from the point of view of someone who participated in the triumphal entry, but is not look at Jesus on the cross.

    I’ll read and preach from John 19:16b-22, I think. What I’ll preach is still up in the air.

    We do Maundy Thursday on our own, but there aren’t a whole lot of traditions I have to stick to. Communion, yes, but other than that it’s relatively open. For a few years I set up prayer stations, but this one lady who ONLY comes to Ash Wed, Maundy Thursday, and Easter Sunday worship services complained a few times that we always do weird stuff in worship. For a while I just ignored it, but then it started to weigh on me that I just gave in and went back to “normal” worship. I try to do whatever I can to avoid writing a sermon for MT – – read a reflection from a book or poetry or simply do an extended invitation to the table that relates specifically to Holy Week.

    We observe Good Friday with the Baptist church in town. This year it’s my year to host the service and prepare the liturgy, but not my year to preach. In light of that I will probably squish the MT and GF readings from the NL into just MT, or maybe this Sunday use the Sunday and Thursday readings, saving Good Friday for Thursday. Hmmmm…now I’m just babbling.

    Anyway, as odd as it has felt for me, one who doesn’t dwell a lot in passion/Holy Week texts, I’m going to stick it through to Easter.

    Now – – to figure out what that means for Sunday, that’s the next task.


  2. We are doing both as it’s listed, too…
    we begin in the Narthex for the call to worship and to hear the processional text (ch. 12). Then we’ll process into the sanctuary via the center aisle, and I think I’m going to have the prop-door there for us to walk through. I’ll invite people to place their palms in the center aisle near their pew when they sit down. Then we’ll move to the children’s time, where we’ll make palm crosses, and that’ll be the turning point toward Jesus carrying his cross out of the city…and that’s all I know right now. ack!


  3. I feel like I just graduated seminary. I am having a difficult time planning everything. [For the record, it’s my 4th year in my first call, which followed a year long CPE residency.] What I have done in the past, which may or may not be like what was done a few years before, different answers to that question, is to have the palm reading, liturgy, hymns at the beginning and then have the full passion reading at the end. Two years I preached on the palm text, the other year a mini-sermon on the passion. This year I am less clear. We have been doing a lighter version of the NL during Lent. We added John 14 and John 17. Last week we had Peter’s denial. Still, we have gone from the raising of Lazarus, to the footwashing, through the farewell discourse, to the denial of Jesus. I feel that we have pretty thoroughly gotten the drift of what is coming. So, I am thinking of doing something similar to what Stephanie describes at the beginning of her post with the palms, then some sort of transition to reading parts of the scene before Pilate and then this text. What remains to be seen is whether I preach on the palm part, the part about Pilate that we didn’t do last Sunday or the assigned John 19 reading. I better make up my mind quickly because I need to get the bulletin done.

    Maundy Thursday will be a potluck meal with a handwashing and communion. In the past, the sacred cow that I have disturbed somewhat (although quite minimally imo but quite a lot in former pastor’s widow’s opinion) is to read the passion with an extinguishing of a candle following each reading. Really, since we have done that as well each year I have been here I cannot think of what upsets widow (other than the obvious that it isn’t her beloved leading or his exact liturgy). But I digress. I am still pondering whether to include any part of the passion reading on MT because…

    …we are having our first GF service in decades, several decades. We may have ten people total, my family and the family of the faith ministry team convener and a couple of others. I would like to do something slightly alternative. I have had the kabosh put on prayer stations at MT, even by someone who has asked to have things like that. I respect his reading of the congregation and agree with it. I may do something like that on GF but I will probably have a CTW with Psalm 22, readings of the Passion Narrative interspersed with prayers and poetry. Some poetry will be interspersed with the John texts I think. I do not want to give a GF sermon and so may use the poetry in lieu thereof or do anywhere from 1-3 brief reflections.

    Does “I don’t really know” work as an answer?


  4. I think the sermon is somewhere in that “King of the Jews” and “This man said, I a m the King of the Jews” because he doesn’t, does he? He doesn’t deny it when it’s put on him, but does he ever say it himself? Help me if he does because where I might end up going is somewhere in the direction of all the different things we say about Jesus that he doesn’t say about himself — the things we try to pin on him.

    I’m thinking myself in circles which means it is time to go home. I’ll come back to this tomorrow.


  5. Stephanie; the Synoptics record Jesus saying “it is as you say” when Pilate asks Jesus about being King of the Jews. In the fourth gospel, Pilate (chapter 18) says “you are a king then?” and Jesus’ reply is “you say that I am a king. It is for this purpose I was born….”

    Matthew has the Magi refer to Jesus as the King of Jews, I think Mark uses King of Israel and King of Jews interchangeably. It appears it was a well-known title, but I think you’re on to something in that Jesus never said it. Perhaps the declaration from Pilate at the Crucifixion was enough to solidify that idea? Thanks for your thoughts.


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