Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Celebrate Palm Sunday

How Do You Celebrate Palm Sunday?

 

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

The crowds cheered. They spread their cloaks on the road.  They also cut palm branches and placed them in His path as Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. Two thousand years later, many churches celebrate Palm Sunday by distributing palm branches to commemorate that special day.

When I lived in New York, the church I attended observed many significant dates in the liturgical calendar, including Palm Sunday. I looked forward to receiving my strip of palm leaf as a tangible reminder of the imminent arrival of Easter each year.

Then we moved to Florida. The first church I attended was a contemporary church, and they didn’t celebrate Palm Sunday with the traditional distribution of palm leaves. I was more disappointed than I expected that first Easter season. Friends at church chuckled at the importance I attributed to tree branches. After all, we were in Florida. If I wanted a palm frond, it was easy enough to go into my backyard and cut one myself! In fact, the following year, that’s exactly what they did, bringing it to our Bible study class on Palm Sunday morning.

Is the lack of palm branches in church really that important? I wondered about it with each successive Easter. The absence of the fronds didn’t change what Jesus had done for me two thousand years ago. I began to consider the other traditional activities that I have long associated with church. How much of it is ritual and how much is relationship? When the absence of traditional religious activities impacts my worship, what does that say about my focus?

Is there a place for tradition in our worship services? I believe there is. As the adage notes, “no sense in throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Traditional activities provide visual reminders of what I believe. They connect me to the heritage of the Church, providing unchanging anchors in a changing world.

But I’m also glad my dependence on traditional ritual has been shaken up enough to prompt me to remember that I don’t worship the ritual. When the activity becomes more important than the object of my worship, I’ve lost my focus . . . and my way.

Palm Sunday without palm branches? No problem, because Easter Sunday is coming – when we celebrate a tomb without a body!

 

Are the traditions of your worship more important than the object of your worship?
How do you celebrate Palm Sunday?

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. Sue

    This is so, so good, Ava. Sometimes I do find myself making the traditional more important than the God I worship. Thank you for this very timely reminder.

  2. Jessica Brodie

    So good! It’s funny how many things I miss in certain services. I was raised Lutheran, and we did communion every Sunday. Now I’m a member of a Methodist church, and we do it monthly or quarterly. I miss doing it weekly because I love the sacrament aspect, but it’s not essential. Same as when we couldn’t sing in some churches during the pandemic… it feels off, but it’s still church. Church is about worshipping God, so many what traditional elements are there or not. xoxo

  3. Karen Friday

    Ava, this is a wonderful message. As a pastor’s wife for 18 years, and a youth pastor’s wife before that, I know what it’s like to lose my way with rituals and traditions, making them more important than who we worship. Even good things can steal our focus from Christ. Love the way you ended this: “Palm Sunday without palm branches? No problem, because Easter Sunday is coming – when we celebrate a tomb without a body!”

  4. Nancy E. Head

    I love the heart of this message. Tradition is important to me too. It reminds us of the truths we learned during an earlier time. But we need to move past the traditions at times to focus on living out that truth we learned. Great post, Ava. God bless!

  5. Yvonne Morgan

    I would miss palms on Palm Sunday but you are right, it is about looking forward to Christ’s resurrection on Easter. Thanks for sharin

  6. Melissa Henderson

    Today, at our church, there was a beautiful baptism of a baby. While we were blessed by the baptism, the pastor also focused on Palm Sunday and the importance of this day. I am thankful for the love the Father has for us.

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