Two Sundays in One

March 13th, 2013

The Christian calendar certainly seems schizophrenic this time of year. Consider the fact that we’re in the middle of Lent—the forty days when believers prepare for Holy Week and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent is considered a fairly serious time—one of repentance, prayer, introspection, and self-denial.

But there's some fine print—Sundays during Lent don’t count. That’s right, we don’t really observe Lent on Sundays because they are “mini-Easters." (Although it should be noted that Jesus didn’t experience any such “mini-Easters” during his forty days in the wilderness.)

Depending on how your church observes Palm Sunday (aka Passion Sunday, Sunday of the Passion, and Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord), the day and the tone will either seem a little out of place for the season, or like a liturgical roller coaster.

Some churches do the Palm and Passion readings in one service. Others effectively observe Palm Sunday during the morning services and Passion Sunday in the evening, and the rest save the Passion readings for later in Holy Week. Some congregations are moving away from “Palm” Sunday and toward “Passion” Sunday because of decreased attendance and interest in Holy Thursday and Good Friday services in recent years.

If you do try to pull off both Palm and Passion readings in one service, be sure to transition well. You’ll be juxtaposing the the imagery of Psalm 118 with Psalm 31. “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” vs. “my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.” And the triumphal entry of Christ followed by his crucifixion five days later is a major gear shift for one service. But there’s probably not a more effective way of pointing out the irony of that welcome than covering everything in a single worship experience.

Shane Raynor is an editor at Ministry Matters and editor of the Converge Bible Studies series from Abingdon Press. Connect with Shane on Google+Twitter, and FacebookSign up to receive Shane's posts free via email.

comments powered by Disqus