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THE SUNDAY OF THE PASSION: PALM SUNDAY A Devotional Guide for You and Your Family

In the life of the Church, a week of dramatic reflection and introspection into the final days of Jesus Christ begins. Beginning with The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, worship on this day presents the entire arc of Jesus’ final week, and interprets our current-day spiritual reality. Jesus is hailed as king by his people and in the end, his people turn on him and sentence him to death. For the whole of Lent, we have pondered what it means to be acquainted with our penchant for treachery against God and one another. At the same time, we have heard the clarion call over and again to be reconciled to God and one another-a reconciliation made possible by Jesus' willing participation in the events that took place during the last week of his life. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the Vigil of Easter all link together the spiritual truth of Lent and the concrete reality that we are sinners of God’s redeeming by Jesus Christ.

The most conspicuous ceremony of Palm Sunday is the procession. The worship assembly gather in a space outside of the usual worship space for a prayer of preparation, the reading of the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the blessing of the palms to be carried in procession into the church.

Palm trees can grow and flourish in the harshest of conditions, the desert. Its roots grow deep into the ground and its leaves are gathered at the top of the tree. Its sap has also been used in wine production. In the Bible, palms have been carried in procession as a sign of victory-that even in harsh conditions those whose God is the Lord will prosper. The use of palms at Jesus' entry in to Jerusalem is a hero's welcome.

The other most conspicuous feature is the reading of the Passion Gospel, the story of what happens to Jesus a few days after his triumphant, hero's welcome. The music has ended. People aren't singing about him anymore. They are accusing him of high crimes, calling for his prosecution, conviction, and execution. The story of Palm Sunday begins with the fervor of a king's homecoming. It ends with the uproarious fever of betrayal of the same king. A rejection of that king as a fraud and a trouble-maker. The same individuals who cried "Hosanna" or "Save us now!" cried "Crucify him" when they presented with trumped-up charges.

What follows are special devotions that incorporate special words and actions to help attune your mind to spiritual things. These devotions can be rendered to God by yourself or with your family.

Besides anything you may already have in your home worship space, whether its your dining room table or a shelf in a walk-in closet, the only thing necessary for worship is your intention to be present with God. You can use what is in this guide to inform your practice in whatever way you are comfortable or you space allows you. You may find that being too self-conscious will make meaningful worship difficult. Be gentle with yourself, trusting that God delights in your desire to worship.

The only thing necessary for worshipping at home or private devotion is your intention to be present with God. It merited repeating particularly because I'm going to ask you to add something to your worship space if you can. If you have a potted plant, or can physically go outside and retrieve a small leafy branch of some kind (something that isn't toxic to humans or animals), please do so. This may enhance your devotion by having a visual focal point.

The only thing necessary for worship is your intention to be present with God.

The Liturgy of the Palms

Once you're settled in your worship space, with your optional plants, having enough for everyone, we can incorporate the element of movement by walking through rooms in our houses. This may not be an option for everyone, depending on your living situation. Whatever the case may be, you can stand in the center of one room and turn to its four corners and recite the prayers, or say them in as many rooms in your home as you'd like. The parts that are read by the leader can be read by anyone, or omitted if praying in private. The other people praying ordinarily read the text that is in italics. Also, you may substitute the pronouns to reflect your situation.

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. / / Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest.

Let us pray.

Assist us (me) mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our (my) salvation, that we (I) may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us (me) life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our (my) Lord. Amen.

The Palm Gospel

Read Matthew 21:1-11 by clicking on this link. Alternatively, you may watch an illustrated narration of Matthew 21:1-11 by looking at the video below.

The Procession

Stand if it is comfortable and say aloud or in your heart

We (I) welcome the victorious King into our (my) home (room).

Then, going to each room in your home where you'd like to invite the presence of Christ, or turning to each corner of your room, you can lift up your branch if you have it, and say aloud or in your heart

Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Alternatively, you can watch a video of news coverage of a Palm Sunday Procession in Nigeria. Notice how lively it is.

If you're feeling traditional this morning, you can watch this video featuring the traditional Palm Procession hymn "All glory, laud, and honor." Take notice of the pageantry.

Take a moment to contemplate the joy you feel knowing that Jesus is present and victorious. What other emotions do you feel? Relief? Courage? After contemplation, you or the leader says this prayer

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we (I), walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Liturgy of the Passion

Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as a king. Before the week is over, he will be prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to a gruesome death. He knew this would happen. And did it anyway. This is the extent of God's great love for us.

The Passion Gospel

After celebrating his entry into Jerusalem, the Church contemplates Jesus' passion-the great extent that his love for us goes. Click here to read Matthew 26:36-27:66 or watch the series of videos below.

What are you feeling? Are you having any insights? Were you surprised by anything in the story? What questions do you have? Think about what all of this means.

Some thoughts from Pastor Estes

You can end your meditation with this prayer offered in unity with Christians around the world

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Credits:

Created with images by Raquel Pedrotti - "untitled image" • Grant Whitty - "untitled image" • Sergey Pesterev - "Oasis" • Aaron Burden - "Cross during sunset" • KTMD ENTERTAINMENT - "untitled image" • Mads Schmidt Rasmussen - "Taking Center Stage" • Marcio Chagas - "untitled image"