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How Do We Hold the Turn?

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on April 06, 2022

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
 —Collect for the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
 
Palm Sunday is always a day I anticipate with joy, despite all that it carries for us. The full title of the day is “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.” It was revised to include the reading of the Passion when it was acknowledged that not everyone would attend the intervening Holy Week liturgies. If one goes straight from Palm Sunday to Easter, it is just one parade to the next. We all know there are many moments in between our celebratory times, and our community life needs to carry the fullness of that journey.
The news from Ukraine this week has been unbearable. We knew the aggression being waged by Vladimir Putin was immoral. Now we have pictures of civilian casualties that turn our stomachs and make us feel even more powerless. We can participate in the ways that will encourage a resolution to this conflict, but meanwhile we must hold the image of those atrocities and still go about our daily lives. I believe we are still called to enact hope and joy in the world—not as an avoidance of what is broken, but as a symbol of something that transcends the bleakness.
 
This is where I find Palm Sunday helpful. It somehow holds it all as we go from joyful to hosannas to the crowd demanding the death of Jesus. There is no element of the human condition that is not contained. My boss at the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Sam Candler, used to say the essence of Palm Sunday is “the turn.” The turn of the crowd, the turn of the mood, the turn from the entry music to the silent exit. It can feel a bit like whiplash, and frankly that is the point. We are meant to feel a bit off kilter at the end. But that does not take away the joy. We can still shout hosanna when terrible things are happening in the world. Because “the turn” of Palm Sunday is not the final turn. 
 
The real joy we find is grounded firmly in Easter Day. It allows us to look at the suffering in the world and not be overcome by it. It allows us to have the courage to confront our own complicity in things done and left undone. And it makes our joy at the things that are true and beautiful in the world a faithful posture. We do not need to feel guilty about it, but we can use it to give us strength for the days that seem like anything but a parade.
 
We have much to celebrate this year. We can gather in ways that will feed our souls and, in good St. Mark’s fashion, feed our bodies as well! We will joyfully congregate on Easter Day in Gosnell Hall, which represents so much more than a completed construction project. I pray every blessing for us as we enter these holy and important days.

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