Last year we bemused the breakfasters at the café outside the church as we processed along the street for Palm Sunday. It was too chilly for much outdoor coffee-drinking today, though the weather was quiet enough for us to take our banners out.
The reading of the Passion always catches me out. It's strange how I know these texts - it was Mark this year - almost off by heart, but hearing them read is always like falling into some intense place, enclosed and frightening. In Mark's Gospel, Jesus is brought before Caiaphas the high priest (though Mark does not name him) who, eventually, asks him outright whether he is the Messiah. 'I am', Jesus responds, ego eimi in Greek. 'I am' is of course YHWH, the Name of God, but this doesn't even look much like a play on words, and it isn't as though that would have made it any better. Caiaphas tears his robe at the blasphemy. Is he playing to the gallery, or does he mean it? There's no reason to think he doesn't. At this moment of absolute and inescapable decision he sets aside everything that Jesus has done and said - and how easy it is to do so, Caiaphas wasn't there - and rejects the horrific conclusion to which Jesus's ministry invites anyone he interacts with. Of course he does. He defends the historic faith of his people, which has bound them together through war and persecution for long centuries. Any of us would have done the same.
And so into Holy Week.