Skip to main content
Welcome to St John's Huntington
The Chalice
Friday, March 22 2024


This Sunday, joining the community at the 8 am service or with the youth at the 10 am service, we will enter into the Passion narrative as it is told in the Gospel of Mark. It is easy to see Palm Sunday as a semi-joyous day because of our palm swaying and Hosanna-crying. And yet, we often wish to quickly pass by the fact we, as the Crowd, exclaims, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Thus, it is Episcopal theologian William Stringfellow, in the chapter headed “The Scandal of Palm Sunday” in his first major work, Free in Obedience: The Radical Christian Life, who reminds that, “Palm Sunday is a day of dramatic temptation for Christ. It is a day of profound frustration for the disciples and one on which the apprehensions about Christ on the part of the ruling authorities of Israel and Rome are exposed.”

This chapter on Palm Sunday informed me better as to what Palm Sunday means and why this meaning is so important for us today. With all the palm-waving and Hosanna-crying, and even with the Passion narrative being said, we might lose focus of the fact that Palm Sunday is a somber day. Stringfellow calls it a scandal because in the meaning of Palm Sunday is the richness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which for many is hard to bear. We are, “shown that Christ is…the One he is declared to be in the Word of God and which he confessed himself to be. The substance of the consternation is the desire for the gospel to end in the political triumph of Palm Sunday. If the work of Christ would only end in that way, Christians would be spared the betrayal of Judas, the apathy and cowardice of the other disciples, the mystery of the Last Supper, and Gethsemane’s sweat and agony.” Jesus Christ is tempted on Palm Sunday just like he was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. The crowd is anticipating a political, zealous revolt against the Roman and local authorities and they are looking to Jesus to lead it. Indeed, all the authorities are also thinking that’s what’s happening. And yet, for many of us today we are looking for Jesus Christ to do the same thing, to lead us to achieve worldly power and build an earthly kingdom. But that is not the way of Jesus Christ. We are tempted in our milieu today to believe that our faith and our political stances will have victory, when the only true victory is the one that Jesus completed upon the Cross.

Knowing this we are actually then invited to live our lives in complete freedom and that what we offer the world is our own lives and that we are “secure from any threats which death may make.” This is Christian life a radical life (radical in the traditional sense of “at the very root”); we come to live a life that is “both repentant and penitential”. Knowing Christ came to conquer sin and death, and did, we can start to acknowledge our fallenness as well as the world’s fallenness. Through intercession, we confess our sins and the sin of the world. In being penitential, which Stringfellow describes as “the authentication of true repentance”, we move forward sacramentally in hopes of discerning God’s loving and eternal forgiveness for His people.

The beauty of Palm Sunday is found within its glaring paradox. While many joyous words seem to be said, its somber reality is what we should be focusing our attention on. Are we looking for a king to smash our enemies and score our culture war points, or are we resting in the faith of our Lord, who takes away the burdens, heals and gives meaning to our wounds, and in whom we can know true peace?

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Zach

Posted by: Rev. Zach Baker, curate AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
St. John's Episcopal Church
12 Prospect St. | Huntington, NY 11743 | PH: (631) 427-1752
Sunday Services at 8 AM and 10 AM
site powered by CHURCHSQUARE