Becoming the Story We Tell

Palm Sunday: The Sunday of the Passion

Palm Sunday is a study in contrasts.  What begins as a joyous procession ends in a lynching.  What begins with hopeful anticipation ends in the certainty of death.  I used to call this Sunday an emotional roller coaster; but the truth is, it’s not a roller coaster – it’s only a steep downhill descent and once we start moving no amount of pumping the breaks can bring it to a halt.  There is only one road in to Jerusalem for Jesus – and that is the one strewn with cloaks and tree branches and shouts of Hosanna.  And there is only one road out of Jerusalem – and that is the way of the cross.

In searching for an apt metaphor for this experience, I thought of the past week’s weather.  Early in the week, the forecast was calling for snow on Thursday and sunny skies today.  A sort of reverse Palm Sunday (unless, of course, you prefer the snow).  But that image was just too simplistic for the celebration and the solemnity of this day.  And then, when I wasn’t really looking any more, I found it.  I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a headline, “A father bids farewell to twin toddlers after Syria attack.”[1]  I didn’t click the link. I didn’t need to see the photos.  And then, a few posts further down the page, a photo of one of my friends with his son and a caption that read, “He's asleep in my arms. Avery Bunny is a cozy napmate. Cathy's wooby keeps him warm. This is all I want for the people of #Syria.”[2]

That’s it.  That is Palm Sunday.  A parent wakes up because their child is standing next to them shouting with glee – “get up, get up, get up. It’s the day of the parade. Let’s go. Is it time yet? Can we go now!?” And through a rushed breakfast, a few struggles over socks, shoes and brushed teeth, they are out the door.  Jesus is coming.  No one is sure who he is but the whole city is talking about him.  “Who is this?” some ask.  And the crowd replies, “It’s Jesus the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”[3]  The adults don’t fully understand and the children don’t either but together they feel the excitement in the air.  And they all come together to be a part of it.   

And then, in an instant, the mood shifts.  There is a smell of death in the air.  The shouts of Hosanna turn to cries of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[4]  Toxic gas – a lynching.  What difference does it make?  They are the same. The result is the same – the death of innocents.  Friends fleeing – no, I wasn’t with him; I don’t even know the man.  Nations denying their role – no, there was nothing we could have done to change this.  Parents left grieving.  The similarities are haunting - the death of Jesus - innocent lives taken in Syria. 

In a commentary on this week’s readings, The Rev. Jay Koyle reminds us that “we are the stories we tell. The stories we tell form and transform us. They shape our view of the world and have the potential to spark change in the world itself. We are, or at least we are becoming, the stories we tell.”[5] 

This day we begin our journey to the cross - a journey that will transport us deep into the stories that are at the heart of our faith. The story of Jesus’ last supper with his friends that reminds us that every time we eat the bread and every time we drink the cup we are becoming the story we tell, we are becoming the body of Christ. 

The story of Jesus’ death on the cross reminding us of a story that replays every day in our news cycle. 

But then the light, the hope, the promise of renewal . . . . but, wait for it.  We need to wait for it.  We need to dwell in the story.  We need to let the story shape us, transform us.  We need to become the story we tell.  And like any good story, it’s always better to tell it together with friends. And so we will gather again this week.

We will gather on Maundy Thursday - Jesus Christ, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”[6]

We will gather on Good Friday – “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”[7]

We will gather again at The Great Vigil of Easter - “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name.”[8]  

And so too the women, the men, the innocent children of Syria shall also be highly exalted because they also have been given the name that is above every name – beloved children of God.  May their souls and the souls of all the departed rest in peace and rise again in glory.

and then – only then – will we gather on the Sunday of the Resurrection.


Together, in this most holy season, may you and I become the story we tell.

[1] Sarah El Deeb, “A father bids farewell to twin toddlers after Syria attack,” Associated Press, April 5, 2017.
[2] Tripp Hudgins, Instagram post, accessed April 6, 2017.
[3] Matthew 21:10-11.
[4] Matthew 27:46b.

[5] Jay Koyle, “Preacher’s Study – Palm/Passion Sunday, 2016,” The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, March 16, 2016, accessed April 6, 2017.

[6] Philippians 2:6-7a.
[7] Philippians 2:7b-8.
[8] Philippians 2: 9.