Our church's Palm Sunday service has always, in my admittedly critical opinion, left a lot to be desired...bemused parishoners half-heartedly waving craft-paper palm leaves imprinted with a hymn and liturgy.
This year, our Worship Committee stepped it up a notch. During the opening hymn, our smallest kiddos, with minimal adult prompting, systematically laid a path of real palm fronds down the center aisle; two robed older children then served as crucifer and bearer of the Bible, solemnly processing down the path of palm leaves. Ironically, it brought to mind our pastor's wistful comment to Fellow Traveler and me a few weeks ago that he'd like to have more "grownup church"; and our kids get ritual much more than some of the adults, so perhaps it was appropriate that they set the tone for worship.
The sermon was on the mark as well. Our pastor talked about his experience as a child attending the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit every year to see Santa Claus; he contrasted that parade with the "parade" he experiences as a volunteer firefighter, when his colleagues converge from all corners of the area to help households in trouble, or the Prodigal-esque procession he's experienced as a father coming to meet a child who's gotten into a mess and needs rescuing. He challenged us to grow out of our "Here comes Santa Claus" understanding of the original Palm Sunday and instead enter into the participants' experience of hope and rescue from oppression that led to their hailing Jesus as a liberator. He also read past the Gospel lesson to Jesus' mournful judgment upon Jerusalem, and challenged us to be open to Christ's ongoing redeeming, transforming power, so that he wouldn't also be weeping over our own community.
We always do a bit of armchair quarterbacking of the service during the ride home; yesterday we agreed that we'd just experienced grownup church, and appreciated it a lot.