Where’s the Passion?

palm-fronds.jpgWe spent the weekend in Westport, Connecticut visiting our friends Harry and Andrea and their 7-year-old daughter Madelaine. Harry’s an old college buddy of mine from Tufts — we were both in Army ROTC together — so there’s lots of history.

The kids were great, basically babysitting one another while the adults ate, drank, and laughed a lot. The highlight was seeing Harry’s face after dinner when Madelaine asked her parents, “Can I sleep with Ben and Zack tonight?” Oh, to have a daughter.

Harry and Andrea were anxious for us to go to church with them on Sunday morning. They really like their pastor and particularly wanted me to meet him and hear him preach. They’ve become quite involved and Andrea just became the church treasurer! (God bless her). I’ve never been anywhere but an Episcopal church on Palm Sunday so I had no idea what to expect. A procession with a live donkey? Imported California palm trees for the sanctuary? Artichokes at coffee hour?

Their church is classic New England congregational (affiliated with the United Church of Christ). Founded in 1711, the current building dates from 1852 and is white on the exterior sporting a gracious steeple and very bright inside with clear windows. The congregation was very warm and welcoming — the usher even shook my hand on the way in. And the three kids trotted off to Sunday School together so I actually got to hear a great sermon.

The piece I struggled with was missing many of the elements I associate with the day — the blessing of the palms, the reading of the Passion narrative, communion, red vestments. When Episcopalians do Palm Sunday the liturgy dramatically moves from shouts of “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” I guess I’m just too much of a liturgist.

Fortunately, someone did hand us palms on the way to the “fellowship hour” after the service. Which meant the requisite palm branch sword fight in the parking lot between Ben, Zack, and Madelaine. I’m sure kids were doing the same thing when Jesus came in on that donkey. And that’s as much a Palm Sunday tradition as anything else.


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