I have wondered most of my adult life why we give a cursory wave to the triumphal entry that Palm Sunday celebrates before we rush to the crucifixion in the very same service. Surely, said my hopeful self to my cynical self, the only reason is not because most everyone stays home during the week and would thus miss the Good Friday events if we didn't include them on Sunday. More often than not, my cynical self wins that argument, by the way.
Our Lenten program this year was reading the last five plays of the radio series A Man Born To Be King, by Dorothy Sayers. We really got into it, even those who were sure they would never read in public were asking for parts. The plays helped us "be" in that time, living the events with Jesus, the disciples, the Sanhedrin and everyone who was in Jerusalem that fateful week. It made me begin to think about time.
Have you ever noticed how time can stand still and rush by seemingly at the same time? Of course, time is terribly regular with every hour having sixty minutes and every day having 24 hours but sometimes a day can seem about six hours longer than normal and other days don't seem to have nearly enough hours. And the 24 allotted to that day often seem about 30 minutes long.
I remember when my dad was dying, time went by too fast but there were parts of the day that seemed to drag. When I remember those ten weeks, they seem about a month long. Do you suppose that's what it was like for the disciples and Jesus? Were there hours in those last five days that seemed interminable while others flew past and then - suddenly! - dinner was over an the guards were arresting the Master?
I think that's part of why we rush to crucifixion on Palm Sunday. It would be so easy to relax into the celebration of palm branches waving and people cheering, to want to stay in those moments as long as possible. But Jesus' reality was never the Hosanna parade and always the parade to the cross, complete with jeers and cries of "Crucify!"
The same thing is true about our Christian life. We cannot spend it all at the font with a - hopefully - smiling baby. We cannot relax into confirmation and the good feeling of taking our baptismal vows ourselves. We have to put down the prayer book with our name on the front and the Bible with the page in the front that says, "This Bible was given to_____ in honor of her confirmation." We have to have our hands free for the moment when we will pick up our cross, free to take and drink out of the same cup our Lord did.
So as much as we need to celebrate that wonderful day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, we simply have to spend more time focusing on the part of the week that shaped our life in Christ. It is good for us to hear the Passion Narrative read more than once, maybe even three times! Hearing it on Palm Sunday does not excuse us from our obligation to continue walking through every day of that last week, the one we now call Holy. It may seem strange to begin the journey by hearing about the end of it, but then time does strange things, doesn't it?