There is something truly bizarre about the Church's Palm Sunday liturgy. We make much about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, hand all the laity palm crosses, sing the magnificent "All Glory Laud and Honor"... and twenty minutes later... we have a staged reading of the Gospel story of Christ's final hours and death.
Wait a minute! Weren't we just moments ago really excited to see him? And then we kill him?!
I'd love to think that the reason for this Biblical time crunch on Sunday is to illustrate just how quickly we tend to lose our centering on God in our lives. But I think the real reason the Church does this is because the diviners of our liturgy realized you aren't likely to get a large audience to show up at Church on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday or even the Easter Vigil. "Let's get 'em while we can, so Easter means something!"
Fr. Lee Graham in teaching a class on the book "The Last Week" by Borg and Crossan talked about the countercultural nature of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. The Romans, who had the Jews under their thumbs and knuckles and forearms, were processing into town from the other direction with an army and Pontius Pilate. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem was upholding words of the Hebrew Scripture, and mocking the regal nature of the Roman procession. This was a protest and an activist demonstration for the Jews.
No wonder Jesus is crucified!
Still, I wish the Church would find another way to work in the Passion Gospel. It is read on Good Friday. But only the clergy are the actors in the Good Friday service. Really, if you listen to Fr. Graham, the clergy ought to be saddled with saying the lines normally reserved for the congregation: "Release Barabbas!" and "Crucify him!" were not coming from "the crowds", as in the masses. Those in the Jewish "masses" who had heard Jesus liked him and what he was saying. It was the Temple leadership who were having none of this "new thing" because it was undermining the "old thing" that kept them in the money. It was also drawing attention to the Jews from their Roman rulers and history had shown the Jews repeatedly what that kind of attention would get them.
And therein, I believe, lies the lesson for us today. Fear has served as an effective and powerful way to control people throughout the ages. Fear is the way governments keep citizens from asking "too many questions". Fear that if I speak up or dare to live into my calling to be a loving human being is what creates closets, tombs, and yes--crucifixion. Fear is the bully's biggest weapon.
I don't have any easy answers for how to move beyond fear. I do have fears, too. But I have noticed that the deeper I grow into my faith and belief that Love is more universal and more powerful it has helped to temper my fears. They aren't gone, but they also aren't debilitating. It helps me to keep things in perspective and not go to that place I used to go to where my vision was warped by this House of Fun Mirrors that the world seemed to be.
Holy Week can be a time to try taking that walk out of fear into faith. It can be the time to let fear diminish on its cross and adopt a new bolder vision of Love. Counter culture acts like that are good.