Palm Sunday. A lot happens on Palm Sunday. Over the years, I’ve read several posts and heard several preachers talk about the lectionary’s loss of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. One of those critics has been Steve Pankey, who rightly observes that the lectionary has acceded to the reality of church-going life by lumping all of the Passion story into Palm Sunday. We used to be able to wait until Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to hear those parts of the story (Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion, and Death), but things get sped up now because too few people are in church throughout Holy Week. (That fact isn’t helped by the local school system’s decision to make Spring Break the same as Holy Week—a death knell for clergy with children who won’t get a Spring Break this year.)
Yesterday, Steve reblogged something he read on Lay Down Your Nets. It’s a good article, and you can read it here. For me, it reinforced the powerful image of Jesus coming into Jerusalem—a story we miss if we omit the reading before the blessing of the palms (which many churches do). Palm Sunday is supposed to be about palms. We’re supposed to cry out, “Hosanna!” We’re supposed to bring our palm branches and lay them on the road that leads into Jerusalem.
Except this year.
Has anyone noticed that there are no palms in Luke’s accountof the triumphal entry into Jerusalem? Instead of leafy branches, the people put their coats and garments on the road to keep the dust down. So what does that make this Sunday—Coat Sunday?
Sure, the image of palms being laid on the road is strong enough to overcome Year C’s palm-free text. But this seems to be a particularly good year to sing “Ride on, ride on,” the first stanza of which concludes with the phrase, “thy humble beast pursues his road with palms and scattered garments strowed.” For me, this year we’re celebrating Scattered Garments Sunday. And I’m curious how that changes things.
What are we bringing to the dusty road? Are we clipping some shrubbery from our neighbor’s yard and lining the streets with branches? Or are we scattering the path with the coats off our backs? The latter seems more costly to me. It seems more self-giving. It seems like the kind of think we would do for a king and not just an icon of pop-culture. When Justin Timberlake visits Decatur, we cordon off the sidewalks to keep the crowds back, but no one (at least I hope no one) bows with reverence and casts his or her jacket on the street as a sign of obedience.
We have a part to play in the Passion Story. And it’s not just yelling out the chilling words, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” during the dramatic reading of the gospel. We start on the dusty road. We start by taking off our coat and throwing it on the road in front of the king who enters the holy city.