Holy week, the final week of Lent, commemorates the events of Christ’s last week before his death. For many of Christ’s followers it was a roller coaster ride, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his death on the cross.
Holy week begins with Palm Sunday, and the celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the “Son of David”, the Messiah promised long ago by God. This I think is a preview of coming attractions – a glimpse of that wonderful triumphant parade that will accompany Christ’s return at the end of this age. An enthusiastic crowd spread palm branches along the road as a symbol of triumph and victory, shouting Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matthew 2:9), This was an occasion on which the whole of Jerusalem must have buzzed with the news of the coming of the Messiah. Jew and Gentile alike must have been caught up in the contagion and welcomed into the crowd rejoicing with enthusiasm at the passing man on the donkey.
Not surprisingly, services on Palm Sunday traditionally begin with a joyful procession into the sanctuary with worshippers waving palm leaves or palm crosses as they walk. Some church congregations walk around their neighbourhood in procession before entering the sanctuary. Sadly these congregations rarely reach out to embrace others who could be enthusiastically drawn into the crowd of expectant followers. I have yet to hear of a congregation that used their Palm Sunday procession as an opportunity to reach out to their neighbours as they walked or to invite local people to join them. This should be a wonderful occasion for sharing the good news of the Messiah with others and yet it rarely moves us out of our church families and into the streets.
One of my dreams is to plan a Palm Sunday procession around the three mile path that encircles a lake near our home. At the head of the procession would be someone on a donkey representing Christ and behind him people would follow waving palm fronds and singing. Anyone we encountered as we walked would be invited to a huge feast at banqueting tables set up in the picnic area by the lake.
How could you change your Palm Sunday celebration to include people from your neighbourhood or even from across the world in this celebration of the good news of Christ?
Here are some suggestions:
1. As you walk around your neighbourhood for your Palm Sunday procession knock on doors around your church and invite people to a Palm Sunday potluck celebration at the church.
2. If your church is a little more adventurous you may like to plan a larger celebration and invite people several weeks in advance. Get permission to cordon off the road in front of the church and plan a BBQ or meet in the local park. Then on Palm Sunday do a procession through the neighbourhood and invite people again to make sure that they know they are included. Don’t neglect the marginalized people in your community. Make a point of visiting the local homeless shelter, or visit the local senior care facility and bring out the people in wheelchairs for the feast.