This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. But first…

A recent episode of the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast discussed the announcement of the removal of murals from the Salt Lake and Manti Temples, along with the end of live renditions of the endowment ritual. The guest for this episode was Jody England Hansen. A profound voice in Mormon culture, Jody is worth interviewing for many topics. For this episode, she speaks as one who volunteered in the Salt Lake Temple before it closed for renovations. The Church’s decision to remove the murals and end live performances apparently came as a surprise and shock to her. Here is a link to the podcast summary and audio file:

What the Salt Lake Temple loses with renovation | Episode 173

The decision to remove the artwork irked me, but I have abstained from temple worship for many years. Better to point you to Jody’s observations and reflections. This is a significant moment of transition in the Church’s approach to temple worship, as well as how/if it will prioritize preservation of its own religious art. I appreciated Jody’s take and hope you will consider it too.

Now, about this coming Palm Sunday.

Earlier this week, I visited with some Christian friends about Palm Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. For so many, his arrival seemed triumphal. Yet, only days later, Jesus was crucified and the purpose and potential of his movement cast into doubt. Those who looked to him as a political savior were probably the most disappointed. The leader of our discussion spoke of Palm Sunday as a lesson in faulty expectations.

To me, Palm Sunday is a bit like the ritual of entering the boxing ring, a procession depicted with great fanfare in every Rocky movie, as well the recent Creed movies. These are penultimate moments. They set the stage for the thing we really came to see: the climactic showdown. However flashy such moments are, I usually wind up saying to myself, let’s get on with it.

Inclined to contemplate in story terms, I am tempted to come at Palm Sunday in the same way. It’s almost like I want to skip over Palm Sunday and go right to Good Friday. So when the discussion leader of the fellowship group framed Palm Sunday as a cautionary tale of faulty expectations, it gave me pause. We are in a season of spring, of vaccination and hope. We are not fools to hope, but we risk setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

I’m reminded of the chorus of a song written by actor/playwright/songwriter Jeff Daniels. The song is called, “If You’re Comin,” in reference to the hoped for Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Though rendered in easy-going Midwestern speak, the chorus could as easily have been sung two millennia ago by someone standing in Jerusalem, palm branch in hand, waiting for a king to show up and make everything better:

Oh, I fall to my knees and I raise up my voice,
I weep at the altar at the church of my choice,
But I can’t help but wonder what’s takin’ so long,
if you’re comin’ Jesus, come on.

Questions for Discussion

What artwork informs your spirituality? Why?

What, if any, significance do you derive from Palm Sunday?

Credits: The song “If You’re Comin” is from the album titled Jeff Daniels Live and Unplugged to Benefit the Purple Rose Theater. This post’s featured image was acquired from Pixabay.