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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Passion Intro 04/14/2019

Those of us who are old enough remember that Palm Sunday used to just be Palm Sunday and didn’t include the long Passion reading we’re about to hear, this year the reading coming from Luke’s gospel. If you think you remember Palm Sunday standing alone, you’re right, that was the case. In the Catholic Church including the Passion reading on Palm Sunday started with Vatican II in the '60s, Lutherans picked up on it after that, with the LBW in the early '70s.

The cynical among us may have thought that the reason for the inclusion of the Passion reading was because of fewer and fewer people attending Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services meaning that many would hear about the triumphant Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem and the following week they’d hear about the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, but they’d miss all that happens in between. The cynical thought was that it was because of that, that the Passion reading was added.

With a little internet probing though, I found out that wasn’t the reason for reading the Passion today. What I’d forgotten and maybe you did too, is that Passion Sunday used to be the Fifth Sunday in Lent, last Sunday. The reason we forgot about is probably because even though it was called Passion Sunday, the full Passion gospel wasn’t read that day; the long reading was actually appointed as an alternate reading for Palm Sunday but I never remember it being used. Palm Sunday was just Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday was just another Sunday in Lent.

The date of Passion Sunday was changed though, not for cynical reasons, but as part of an effort to reclaim Lent as a separate season of penitence and preparation and not just a 40 day recollection of the events of Holy Week which is kind of what it used to be. I remember that too, especially going to mid-week services where the focus was very much on the cross, which is not a bad focus, but Lent is supposed to more than a long Holy Week.

So…this Sixth Sunday in Lent became Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday but maybe a better name for it would be Big Picture Sunday. One of the last verses that Linda will read this morning is, “But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” They stood at a distance and…in a way, that’s what we do this morning.

On pretty much every other Sunday and holiday of the church year, we take a small portion of scripture and, especially in the sermon, we consider it in some detail. Today though, we do stand at more of a distance and consider a much larger portion of scripture starting with the triumphant Palm Sunday entrance and then quickly shifting gears and moving into two full chapters from Luke, chapters that recount the events of Thursday and Friday, the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

From a distance though, there’s a different perspective. You could compare it to looking at a painting. If you get right up next to a painting so your eyes are just a couple of inches from the canvas, you get a certain perspective; you’ll notice things that you wouldn’t otherwise, details of content and technique only revealed with an up close look. Stepping back from it though, the perspective changes and you get more of the fullness of what the artist is trying to convey. There’s value in both perspectives and that’s true in what we do today as well.

In every part of the Passion narrative, there are details that one could consider along with insights that could be gained by such consideration. Today though is Big Picture Sunday making it more about taking in the whole story with all its ups and downs along with the conflicting emotions it creates. Today is more about just letting it all wash over you again, letting it affect you as it will, from a distance.

At the same time, in the way that we do things here, you are invited to participate in the story as well, to get closer in other words, becoming part of the crowd at those places where you see the crosses and bold print in your booklet. You become part of the story as mob psychology takes over and shouts of “Hosanna!” change to shouts of “Crucify him!” There is an up close dimension that puts you in the middle of things.

So…from a distance and up close, we hear the Passion of Our Lord according to St. Luke.

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
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one who
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