Growing up in heavily Catholic Pittsburgh, I always had Palm Sunday in the back of my mind somewhere, but it was not really brought to the forefront until a bishop on our family ward in Philadelphia tried to plan a Palm Sunday procession one year. He actually flew in, at his own expense, palm fronds, and the primary children were making banners that said, among other things, “Welcome Jesus.” Needless to say, when the stake presidency got wind of it, all the plans were cancelled. I did not think about it again until Elaine and I were in Hawai’i one spring that it really impacted me. Visiting the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in Honolulu on a Saturday, I was struck by the volunteers who were there weaving little crosses out of palm fronds. When I inquired, they explained that they were going to be used for the Palm Sunday service the next day.
When I was a rather young, but earnest, bishop here in Provo, the spirit of Easter started to weigh on me heavily. My second year I came up with my first rudimentary reading schedule for the last days of the Savior’s life and planned to print it in the sacrament meeting bulletin the week before. As chance had it, that was also the day that I blessed Rachel, my first child, in sacrament meeting (I had baptized her the day before but was rather insistent that she be blessed and confirmed “in church” the old style). It was Palm Sunday, and having just read all four Passion Week accounts as I put together my ward reading schedule, the Triumphal Entry was really on my mind. In fact, in Rachel’s blessing I think I mentioned something to the effect of “As she is blessed on this Palm Sunday, we bless her that she will have a special place in her heart for Christ the King, our Savior Triumphant, that she will know that he is her Savior and her God.” Yep, I have always been of a liturgical bent and been rather, er, melodramatic!
Anyway, Palm Sunday was in my heart to stay after that. The next year was one of those terrible scenarios where the liturgical calendar was left in the dust by the “necessities” of the calendar: Easter, heaven forbid, fell on a Fast Sunday, and our stake was insistent that Fast and Testimony meeting would not be preempted. I did what I could. We had three readers present scriptures before the sacrament: one was on the Last Supper, one on Gethsemane, and one on the Crucifixion. And after the sacrament the ward choir sang a lovely Easter anthem. When I opened the time up for testimonies, I started and virtually threatened the congregation to testify of nothing but Jesus and him crucified and risen! But the week before, on Palm Sunday, we had one heck on an Easter program.
Sorry, this post has morphed into a memoir, for which I apologize. For the *real* discussion of the Triumphal Entry and the Matthean and Lucan cleansing, please go to the Palm Sunday post on my seasonal blog. I promise there will be some useful stuff there: items for personal study, suggestions for family, exposition of the scriptural pericopes, music ideas, photos, and videos galore.
Happy Christ is King Day!