2018-19 RCL-C Palm Sunday (Lent)
Additional Resources for Proclamation & Preaching
Palm Sunday: April 14, 2019 • Gospel Text: Luke 19:28-40
Disciple Size Crowds
Proclamation for Today
by Rev. Dr. Clint Schnekloth
The assigned lectionary texts for Palm Sunday mess with our received way of telling the biblical narrative Sunday mornings. The reading of Luke 19 at the beginning of worship, as a processional text, performatively narrates what otherwise would be read mid-service as the gospel and then preached upon. On the one hand, the practice (of combining Palm and Passion Sunday) dramatically enacts the full range of Jerusalem activity in one morning service. On the other hand, because the palm text is moved into the space of a dramatic reading, it also reduces the text to liturgy, or shifts it to such, removing it from the space out of which most preachers proclaim.
In other words, it turns the palm text into an entrance rite rather than the basis for the proclamation of the gospel.
Notice, in point of fact, that in this particular introduction, we have to spend time on a sort of liturgical throat clearing before we can attend to the lesson itself precisely because of how it has been moved with the innovation of the Palm/Passion pairing.
So let’s move to the text itself. Remember first this is a long-anticipated entry in Jerusalem. Readers of Luke have been waiting for the turn to Jerusalem perhaps the entire time, even from the early chapters, when the story begins instead in backwater Galilee, in little towns like Nazareth and Bethlehem. It continues with Jesus living and teaching in areas always some distance from Jerusalem. So when Jesus enters Jerusalem finally in chapter 19, you can imagine an early reader of the gospel thinking, “It’s about time.”
Then notice the stages. First, the preparations, simple but seemingly inspired, as Jesus already knows which colt he will ride. Second, notice the crowds are throwing the cloaks early, but they are mostly unnumbered. It’s hard to say how many there are. The largest number of people are named as “the whole multitude of the disciples.” How many of these are there? Well, it seems there were at least 84 (the 12 plus the 72, see Luke 10), or as many as 120 (Acts 1:15). Or these could all be representative numbers, with the actual numbers much larger when including women and children and such.
It’s probably much larger, because mixed in with the noisy and singing disciples are at the very least the crowd (laying down cloaks) and the Pharisees (asking Jesus to get the larger set of disciples to stop their chanting). In other words, it’s a big enough group that’s still small enough for later historians to debate crowd size. Groups look bigger inside, smaller outside, bigger when collectively chanting, smaller when disorganized.
There are so many directions for preaching this text, directions that will simply get dropped if worship services shift quickly to the passion and elide proclamation on the palms. Not the least of these is the rather startling request of the Pharisees: they are asking Jesus to order the disciples to stop praising God. In many of our worship spaces, the assembly has already taken this order to heart, as they stand quietly in worship as if it were a concert. So there’s that. But there’s also a lot of Christological import to be found right here, because if the Pharisees are worried about blasphemy because of the adoration attending Jesus while the disciples praise God, they are pointed back to something so immense about doxology by Jesus himself—you can’t really silence true praise, because it emerges from somewhere altogether cosmic. You, we, the angels, even rocks, get caught up on it.
The following links and resources are not produced or maintained by RCL Worship Resources or Clergy Stuff. However, at the time of this posting, the links were active and considered to be good source material for proclamation for the text for this week. Please scroll down or click on the quick jump menu you find below. Click here for more free RCL worship resources & planning materials.
"The Things That Make For Peace," Frederick Buechner, Buechner Blog.
Pulpit Fiction, podcast. Reflections of lectionary text, pop culture, current events, etc. Robb Mc Coy and Eric Fistler, 2013.
Kairos CoMotion Lectionary Discussion, Luke 19:28-40, Wesley White. "A place of conversation regarding Progressive Christianity."
"The Road to Jerusalem Is Clear," Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, 2001.
For Children: "The Children Welcome Jesus - Palm Sunday," Illustrating the Story (lessons, children's sermons), coloring pages, activity sheets, crafts, children's songs. MSSS Crafts.
A Good Read
Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them
Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, Rick in Casablanca--why do we perceive certain people as heroes? What qualities do we see in them? What must they do to win our admiration? In Heroes, Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals offer a stimulating tour of the psychology of heroism, shedding light on what heroism and villainy mean to most people and why heroes--both real people and fictional characters--are so vital to our lives. The book discusses a broad range of heroes, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, Senator Ted Kennedy, and explorer Ernest Shackleton, plus villains such as Shakespeare's Iago. The authors highlight the Great Eight traits of heroes (smart, strong, selfless, caring, charismatic, resilient, reliable, and inspiring) and outline the mental models that we have of how people become heroes, from the underdog who defies great odds (David vs. Goliath) to the heroes who redeem themselves or who overcome adversity. Brimming with psychological insight, Heroes provides an illuminating look at heroes--and into our own minds as well. (Amazon link here.)
TED Talk: “What Makes a Hero?” Matthew Winkler
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Dramatic Reading of the Text
Readers: Narrator, Jesus, Owners, Disciples, Crowd, Pharisee
Narrator: After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying,
Jesus: “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Narrator: So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them,
Owners: “Why are you untying the colt?”
Narrator: They said,
Disciples: “The Lord needs it.”
Narrator: Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
Crowd: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Narrator: Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
Pharisees: “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
Narrator: He answered,
Jesus: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”