Tag Archives: Palm Sunday

A Household Holy Week

As we prepare to journey to Jerusalem next week in our homes, many have been sharing ways to create a sacred space at home. How might we use these spaces for Holy Week? What objects might we place on our altars each day to remember the final week of Jesus with his disciples?

The concept of a Holy Week Box is not new, in fact I had gathered supplies to put together bags to give out to our households at my church based on what Building Faith had posted a few years ago. The original idea came from Camille LeBron Powell in the UK some years ago. Due to health and safety concerns, these won’t be distributed this year (and we’ll save them for next year). So I’ve transferred and adapted the concept into one that individuals and families can create on their own. Follow along below, or download the document here which includes the readings.

Continue reading A Household Holy Week

Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Basilica of the Agony (Church of All Nations) in Jerusalem, June 2019 (c) John Pearson

Churches are scrambling to find creative ways to mark the events of Holy Week while we are unable to gather in person. Attending Holy Week services daily from Palm Sunday thru the Easter Vigil is something I have never missed, at least in my adult life. I’ve been wondering how to help folks connect to the deep readings our lectionary offers on these days, so I went back to look what I have posted on my other website, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Based on the book (3rd edition) that I edited and updated with Robyn Szoke, for many years I posted a weekly reflection based on the Sunday’s lectionary readings. All three years are now online, so the website simply sits there for folks to tap into.

So, I thought it might be helpful to link the posts from Holy Week for Year A here for easy access without having to use the website’s search engine. Hope these are helpful for any groups via Facebook Live or Zoom or simply for your own personal Bible study and reflection.

Continue reading Resources for Holy Week (at home) Part 1

Stones Cry Out

Yesterday we proclaimed the arrival of Jesus with “Hosanna” and the waving of palms. And we suddenly are confronted with how easy it is to rejoice, but even easier to walk away – not sticking around for the hard part. How many of us go right from waving palms to Alleluias a week later, skipping over Jesus’ journey to the cross. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

Lent has not been a contemplative time for me this year. It has involved lots of travel, lots of ‘feeding’ others through workshops, presentations, and planning. My intentions have been to read reflective texts while at 39,000 feet, but I have fallen back to playing word games on my Kindle or reading a mystery novel. I’ve filled my time with work projects and worrying about tasks undone and the well-being of parents.

Yesterday, I stopped by the hospital to visit with my mother-in-law who has been hooked up to numerous tubes and machines there for a week. She’s 90, now frail and perhaps drawing her last labored breaths. She seems to be at peace, but is still talking up a storm . . . talking to anyone and everything . . . a conversation that only she can comprehend. My daughter and future son-in-law accompanied me yesterday – it was an Ash Wednesday moment for them. A recognition of our mortality. And my husband has patiently sat with her every day since her arrival on “the hill,” even as tax season reached it’s peak.

Before we headed to the hospital yesterday, I met Becca & Jamie at the florist in New Haven; the person who is doing the flowers and centerpieces for their wedding in October. They brought a bag of stones, the bottom tearing open just as we entered the door. They brought them back from Acadia National Park, one of their favorite spots. They have meaning for them, and will be a focal point for their wedding. I collect rocks also – not so many – from my travels. I have a small glass jar with a stone from Iona, one from a beach in Virgin Gorda, one from the Grand Canyon, …. all reminders of places that have touched me with the beauty of God’s creation. (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to have taken them.)

Somehow, all of this has prepared me for Holy Week. I’m not sure how. I wonder, how do airports and hospitals, hotel rooms and dining room tables, stones and trees, earth and oceans cry out? about holiness? about life and death? about violence and peace?

“Never doubt the meaning of Lent. It happened a long time ago, but it happened. Jesus walked this earth. He practiced a ministry of radical inclusivity, drawing to himself all the despised and rejected members of society. He lived what he taught: a life of justice and love, of profound compassion for all people. He lived a life acceptable to you, O God. His death terrifies us, because it reveals how committed the world is to its own way, and the price the world exacts from those whose commitment is to you.”

As we extinguish the light this Friday, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of all God’s children, young and old alike, in the world who suffer in body, in mind, or in spirit.

What we contemplate this week is beyond words, beyond understanding. May the Holy Spirit intercede for us and give voice to what, for us, is inexpressible. Amen.

The above quote and prayers are adapted from several resources: “Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship” edited by Maren C. Tirabassi & Maria I. Tirabassi (2007: Pilgrim Press) and “An Improbable Gift of Blessing: Prayers and Affirmations to Nurture the Spirit” by Maren C. Tirabassi & Joan Jordan Grant (1998: United Church Press). 

Triumph or Tension

Today is Palm Sunday. It begins Holy Week, the time the church dramatizes the events leading up to and including the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

I wonder . . . do we rush into Jesus’ crucifixion too quickly?

It is unseasonably cold in Connecticut for the end of March. I wore my wool coat to church and brought my gloves, knowing that we would begin worship outside in the church’s courtyard, each being handed a palm branch for the Liturgy of the Palms. But alas, there was much grumbling, so we packed ourselves into the Narthex for the reading and then followed the choir into church to find our pew, singing the tradition hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor.” And we moved right into the Liturgy of the Passion.

As a child, I remember gathering outside with everyone, palms in hand as words were said and hymns sung as we processed around the entire church building, onto the sidewalk, then up the front walk to enter the church. It was a big deal if you were an acolyte (especially the crucifer) because you got to lead everyone – the choir, clergy and the rag tag bunch of congregants, many of whom hadn’t set foot in church since Christmas. The procession would not just move up the center aisle, we would do a few ‘laps’ around the sanctuary – up and down and all around. There was a sense of anticipation in the air; Lent was over, spring was coming, Easter would soon be upon us and the somber tone of the past 40 days would be over. My family was not particularly ‘orthodox’ in that we did not give up anything for Lent (although we might have talked about it). We did have fish cakes on Friday sometimes. But Palm Sunday was a fun day – it was a parade, a triumphal celebration of Jesus as King, doing something different and out of the ordinary at church. (And we knew that the rest of the week was going to turn somber because we went to church on Good Friday to experience the Passion.)

Today in my church, and I suspect in most Episcopal churches, Palm Sunday has become a liturgical-combo day. We start by commemorating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem by our ‘procession’ with palms. The tension between suffering and glorious triumph is set immediately before us: first joyful hosannas ringing out, Jesus riding on a donkey to his destiny. All of us who shoot “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” will soon chant, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Do we take enough time to sense how we so quickly change our tone? How the foreboding builds throughout Jesus’ week before he shares a last meal with his disciples and is betrayed in the garden?

For the moment, I need to reflect on today – Palm Sunday. Jesus has entered Jerusalem, hailed as a king. Not Caesar, not the appointed Roman governor. A new king –  one for the poor, for those without voices, for those left behind. He was the stones shouting out by example. And for the time being, we are all willing to follow.