Is it Palm or Passion Sunday? This Sunday is the only one in our liturgical or church year that has two designations. You may or may not know that there is an annual pattern for worship that begins with Advent and goes through Christmas to the season of Epiphany. We then move into the season of Lent, which we are in now. The first Sunday of Holy Week begins with what is called Palm or Passion Sunday. Palm Sunday focuses on Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, while the crowds wave palm branches to celebrate his arrival. Passion Sunday focuses on his death on the cross, which takes place on what we call Good Friday. Prior to that we have Maundy Thursday, which takes its name from the new command or mandate (mandatum novum in Latin) that Jesus gives on the night of the Last Supper to his disciples to "Love one another." Then comes Easter, followed by Pentecost some fifty days later, during which we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. The next season is called Pentecost or Ordinary Time. Then it all starts again when we get to Advent.
This Sunday is called Palm or Passion Sunday. We will begin by remembering the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by the procession of our choir and our children waving the palm branches. However, the sermon will focus on the crucifixion as we finish up our series on "The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus." So, we will start the day with a hymn of praise, but we will close with a more reflective hymn, "Were You There." Again and again, the hymn asks us the question, "Were you there?" at the cross when all of these things happened to Jesus. Of course, in a very literal sense, we were not there two thousand years ago when this happen. And yet in another sense, we can all relate to those standing at the foot of the cross, even now. So, come this Sunday as we reflect on what it means to be "there" as Jesus speaks his last words from the cross.