These are commentaries on the Eucharistic Lectionary that are written for the Sunday bulletins of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco. They may be reprinted for use in parish bulletins only with the ascription: Copyright © 2007, Michael T. Hiller.
On this Sunday, we have not only the two normative services for a Sunday or Holy Day (The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist) but a third as well. The Liturgy of the Palms begins the services that mark the beginning of Holy Week, which leads us toward the final days, The Triduum, or the Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.
The Gospel at the Liturgy of the Palms recalls Jesus entering Jerusalem, on a donkey. Donkeys were not ordinary beasts of burden during the reign of King David, but were a royal means of transport. Thus Jesus enters Jerusalem, as the heir of David, to whom the people sing, "Blessed is the king". Luke styles Jesus as the prophet, the one who is God's Word for this time and this place, who enters the holy city as prophet and king. Later in the week Jesus will become both priest and victim.
The reading from Isaiah gives us a picture of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 49-53), an image that fits the Jesus of Holy Week. A similar image is given to us in the Epistle, where Jesus is depicted as the one who "empties himself" into a time of humiliation and suffering. Both of these readings serve as lenses or frames through which we can view the suffering and crucified Christ, and come to some sense of meaning for all of this.
The Gospel is the Passion according to Luke. Here, Jesus
comes as a prophet to the city that kills the prophets. Luke pictures Jesus
as the one who stands up for and speaks for the poor and forgotten. In the
course of the passion, the prophet himself becomes not only poor and forgotten,
but also suffering and abused. All of the images of Isaiah come to meet
in Luke's picture of the suffering Christ. The liturgy for this day leaves
us with this dismal image of our Lord. It will take the readings and ceremonies
of the Triduum to complete the image and the message.
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