Music For Holy Week, Palm Sunday

The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”  (Matthew 21:6-9, The Message)

Like much of this week, I don’t know what to do with Palm Sunday. It’s Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling prophetic promise by riding on a donkey. There’s a rush of praise and acclamation. Deservedly so. It must ring hollow in Jesus’ ears, though; he knows that by Friday these shouts of welcome will have turned to a clamour for his death. So how did he receive that welcome? As its meant on the day in question, sincerely? With reservations? With bitterness? With anger? Luke’s account suggests he received it  at face value, brushing aside the religious authorities asking him to quiet the crowds by telling them its inevitable.

Jesus has a strange relationship with the city. He prophesies dark days for Jerusalem, overtones of judgement and apocalypse, but also weeping over it with maternal affection. I love cities – as I’ve recorded elsewhere on this blog, it’s cities I want to live in and where I feel most alive and aware of God. I’m also aware, though, that it’s in cities that humanity’s worst is multiplied; crime, the mob mentality, disease, social disorder. All those and more are multiplied in urban environments. That mixture of emotions about the city seems to me refracted and intensified in Jesus, especially as he knows what is to come later in the week.

Today’s song speaks of that sort of love for the city which you take your life-blood from, but at the same time knowing that it is dangerously toxic … as it proved to be for Jesus. It captures the love laced with undertones of danger. It’s a hymn to another city (Los Angeles), but could really apply to anywhere. It comes from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of their earliest songs, and one of their most loved. Of all the bands I’ve seen live, they remain among the most musically proficient.


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10 thoughts on “Music For Holy Week, Palm Sunday

    • Thanks organist 😉
      Clearly a beautiful piece, and the King’s College choir is of course remarkable (9 Lessons & Carols from there was one of the sounds of Christmas in our house growing up). Lovely performance.
      What I don’t hear – either because it’s not there, or more likely because I don’t speak the musical language – is a tone of dis-ease in the music. The reason I chose the track I did was because (for me) it communicates a love for the city whilst at the same time an awareness of how dangerous it is, which speaks to me in terms of what Jesus knew was to come. I’d be interested to know if such a hint is audible in the Weelkes to those who speak the language better than my ignorant garbling (that’s why I like Mozart’s Requiem – especially as it was portrayed in the Amadeus movie – because it communicated to me beauty and darkness together. Amadeus remains a favourite film of mine).
      For me this week I’m staying away from ‘sacred’ music, because I don’t believe theologically than there is such a thing as secular. It’s all God’s. So I’m trying to use ‘non-Christian’ music, not made for a ‘Christian market’. I’d be interested to know if there was an equivalent way into this with ‘classical’ music. Incidentally, is there a better term we can use than ‘classical’? Even I can see it’s far too vague …
      Thanks – enjoying this already. I love having my creative/artistic muscles stretched!

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