Proponents (rightly) claim it is a historical tradition of the church to commemorate Christ's passion prior to Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Opponents (rightly) claim that the tradition was that Passion Sunday was the fifth Sunday in Lent, which started a two-week observation of Passiontide where the church liturgically journeys with Christ toward the cross, and that the sixth Sunday was, and is, properly Palm Sunday as an intentionally brief and awkward pause for celebration of Christ as Messiah even amidst his incredibly mortal walk toward death.
Not that you care, but that is the history.
It is important because the current manifestation of Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord (yes, the title is cantankerously cumbersome) now fuses the readings of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the service with a reading of an entire passion narrative (in layman's terms, the story of Christ's betrayal and crucifixion).
Celebration and damnation all wrapped up into one service. It is anxiety inducing, as though the worship service had two competing personalities. Liturgically, it grasps at historical straws and attempts to fuse two days into one.
Perhaps you might be able to tell that I am not a proponent of this iteration of Lenten celebration. But the thing about Jesus is that He chooses to work on us despite our liturgical preferences.
Tonight's service of Palm/Passion Sunday (the full name is too much, even for me) was perfect for our community. Without inappropriately delving into details not meant for public consumption, there were many reasons for us to celebrate, and many reasons for us to lament. Feelings of joy and sorrow were competing for space in our hearts and minds.
What festivals like Palm/Passion Sunday do is allow us to admit that we are simultaneously sinners and saints. We are the same people that laud Jesus' coming to Jerusalem and then crucify him outside the city. We are people that welcome Jesus and betray Jesus. We are people that wave our palms and instigate passions. Tonight, in the liturgy, God showed up and revealed that we can often be Palm/Passion people. We too are entirely wrapped up with celebration and damnation, full of anxiety and yet, thankfully, fully justified by the grace of God.
I still don't advocate for Palm/Passion Sunday for every community. Most often, I think we should allow the fifth Sunday of Lent to inaugurate Passiontide, then give Palm Sunday its full due on the sixth Sunday. But that doesn't mean that, when other traditions rule the day, Christ can't work through them.
In fact, the Holy Spirit is intent on using even the things that irritate us most to remind us of who we are. At our best, we give God glory, laud, and honor. At our worst, we shout "crucify him!" We are sinners and saints at the same time.
And God comes to us anyway.