Palm Sunday is normally a day of drama: the service would begin outside the church, in the marketplace. With palm crosses lifted high we would go in procession around the church – singing! Often we would have a dramatized reading of the whole passion narrative. These dramatic touches set the scene for the drama of Holy Week. Holy Week is dramatic, from the stations of the cross, through foot-washing and the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday, to kneeling at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. We participate in this drama as we walk with Christ to Calvary. But that journey begins on Palm Sunday: we are invited to be part of the crowd, we wave our palm leaves, we shout Hosanna! But our palm leaves have not simply been torn from an obliging tree – it has been shaped into the form of a cross. We know where this journey is going, and our palm leaves point to the cross. The people of Jerusalem, 2000 years ago, did not anticipate the crucifixion when they shouted Hosanna. We may wonder how the same voices that shouted ‘Hosanna!’ could, within the space of one week, turn against Jesus and shout ‘crucify him!’ We are invited to participate in this drama and become those voices, because we are those same voices. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday - a cross of ash is marked on our foreheads in the same place that we were marked with the sign of the cross at our baptism. We are reminded that even though we have been welcomed into Christ’s family at our baptism, our readiness to live for self has marred god’s image in us. The consequences of this are worked out through Holy Week. The people welcomed the Messiah only to reject him when he didn’t do what they wanted. We can welcome the Messiah only to reject him when it doesn’t suit their desires. We physically walk this journey of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday as participants in the drama to remind ourselves that we are part of that crowd, whose shouts went from ‘Hosanna!’ to ‘Crucify him!’, for it is to that same crowd that Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’
This year we may not be able to act out the drama in the way we usually do but we will still be participating – in church and online – in this great drama of our salvation.