Alright, Good Reader, I need your help. If you thought the gospel lessons were long for the last three weeks, buckle your seatbelts. We’re in for a doozy. This Sunday brings the Passion Narrative. All of it—at least Matthew’s version of it. We read it as a dramatic reading—splitting up the parts. But a lot happens even before we get there.
We start with the blessing of the palms, a procession around and into the church, the singing of “All glory, laud, and honor.” We continue with the usual readings (no Decalogue this time). Then we have the long Passion Narrative read with a collection of voices. (Have I mentioned that it’s long?) And then, THEN?, the preacher gets into the pulpit to preach? Knowing that we still have the Creed, Prayers, Confession, Peace, Great Thanksgiving, Fraction, Communion, Prayer, Blessing, and Dismissal, does the preacher dare say more than, “Enough said?”
Wait, wait, Good Reader. Don’t give up. No, the preacher need not explain the drama that unfolds before us during Holy Week. Hopefully, we will resist the desire to “delve deeper” into the mechanics of the story. Hopefully, we will stop well short of restating what needs not be restated. But what should we say? What does the congregation need to hear from its preacher on a day of such drama? Should it be a story? Should it be an exhortation? Should it be merely an “Amen?”
Although there’s plenty of time for you to change my mind, right now I’m planning for this Sunday’s sermon to be an invitation.
We stand on the cusp of Holy Week. The days ahead will come quickly, now, and, if we get too busy, we’ll miss all of them. This is our chance to let them fill us rather than tune them out. If the preacher can resist the temptation to say more than 250 words, the people will have a chance to hear an invitation to the heart-changing drama that still lies ahead.
During Lent, one of the proper prefaces (the bit the clergyperson says in between the “It is right and a good and joyful think” and the “Holy, holy, holy” part) has been about getting ready. On Sunday it will be Holy Week, and the preface will change, but it’s not too late for us to hear the words of the Lenten preface and make sure we don’t miss them during the days ahead:
You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you.