In times gone by, my usual practice would have been to allow the liturgy and hymns, the marching with palm leaves and the singing of “Hosanna”, to speak most loudly on Palm Sunday. However, in their absence (due to Covid restrictions this year), there is both a need and an opportunity to take a closer look at what Luke’s gospel tells us about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Here we will find a few unexpected surprises, for Luke’s gospel does not include the three things we imagine we need to celebrate Palm Sunday – palm branches (or greenery of any sort), the proclamation of “Hosanna” and the triumphal entry are all absent in this text! What, then, can we preach? A few suggestions come to mind:

🌿 You could examine the omissions I’ve mentioned, and look at why the writer of Luke’s gospel made them. A good article on this, from a Canadian perspective, written by Scott McAndless can be found here:

Palming off the palms

🌿 You could preach on the Pharisees asking Jesus to get his disciples to ‘shut up’, and Jesus’ response that if they stayed silent the very stones would cry out. You might ask, who is being silenced in our world today, or explore the human need to make our voices heard. As I write, I’m very aware of the recent marches, demonstrations, and riots which have taken place in the U.K.. This along with moves by the government to ban protests in the light of Covid-19. Whatever our political views, the need for people to make their voices heard is echoed here in this passage. They cannot be silenced, for if they were, the very bricks in the walls, the cobbles in the streets would shout out against the injustices of this world.

🌿 You could focus on the the part we don’t usually read on Palm Sunday – that Jesus stopped at the sight of Jerusalem and wept over her. Jesus mourned over the city’s future, perhaps because he was unable to stop the course which had been set for his beloved city. I’m reminded of the climate crisis, with its trajectory toward calamity. There is not much that we can do to stop it, yet at the same time there seems to be little, or no desire to even try.

🌿 You could finish by acknowledging that Jesus will go into Jerusalem, but not triumphantly. If we were to read on we would find him in the temple (v 45), driving out the dealers. With this we are heading into Holy Week and, along with Jesus, we are bound for the cross and the tomb. Many in our churches will leap straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and crucially, will miss out on the sadness and injustice of the cross. Which is why you could also observe Passion Sunday with a reading from Luke chapter 23 toward the end of the service.

🌿 This slightly dampened Palm Sunday allows us to tell of praise mixed with pain, singing followed by sighing, rejoicing turning to weeping, triumph hand in hand with humility. Your congregation will recognise these paradoxes within their own experience, especially in the midst of this crisis of pandemic. They can be encouraged because we worship Jesus, the royal one “who comes in the name of the Lord.” Our hearts beat faster, our lungs fill with air in anticipation of the noise we will make. For now we are quietened by circumstances, but not forever. The time will come when we will celebrate again, and it will be loud and joyous.

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Rev Dr Jean Kirkwood is a parish minister, serving in the east of Scotland. She spends most of her spare time caring for two rescue dogs, cooking and cleaning. Her blog can be found at Scottishkirk.wordpress.com

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One thought on “Narrative Lectionary: What, no palm branches? (Luke 19:28-44)

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