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April 1-8, 2009 – Parade ends 30+ year run

Contributed by Erik Ullestad
West Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question: What’s the coolest parade you’ve ever attended? What made it so great?

The 2009 St. Patrick’s Day parade on Chicago’s South Side was the most violent in its 31-year history. It was also the last time the parade would be run. The South Side Irish Parade Committee met a week after the St. Patrick’s Day debacle. The committee announced, via a news release on their Web site, that they are discontinuing plans to hold the parade in 2010. One of the determining factors was the violence that broke out along the parade route. When it was all said and done, nearly a dozen police officers were assaulted and 54 people were arrested.
The parade had become increasingly popular in recent years. Over 300,000 people crammed into the 24-block route in this year’s event. According to eye-witnesses, many of the people who gathered for the parade had been consuming alcohol.

From the South Side Irish Parade’s official Web site:

“This decision was not arrived at lightly. For 31 years, this parade was a staple of the Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood communities — a celebration of faith, family, and heritage that was cherished by thousands.”

The feast of St. Patrick is celebrated on March 17, in honor of the Irish saint. It is also the national holiday of the country of Ireland. 

Discussion Questions

  • How did you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
  • St. Patrick is recognized as a patron saint by the Catholic Church. What do you know about saints? How many saints can name and describe?
  • Do you agree with the decision to cancel the parade in future years? Why or why not?
  • What kinds of restrictions would you put in place to allow the parade to continue?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, April 5, 2009.
(Text links are to
oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection for Mark 11:1-11 

It’s homecoming time in Jerusalem. After three years of preaching, teaching, healing, and stirring up all sorts of trouble, Jesus finally returns home. He has amassed quite a following in this time. Everyone wanted to see what Jesus was doing. They wanted to know if what they heard about him was true. Could he really walk on water? Was he able to raise the dead back to life? Was he really the Son of God, or just the latest fad who could do a few magic tricks?
Jesus knew that his return to Jerusalem might be a big deal, so he sent one of his disciples ahead to get a colt for Jesus to ride in to town. Why a colt? Back in the day, if a military hero came home, he arrived on a horse. If a peace messenger came, they rode in on a donkey. Some other gospel writers (Matthew and John) say Jesus came on a donkey, thus conveying a peaceful entry into Jerusalem. Perhaps Mark felt that, though Jesus wasn’t coming with a message of military might, his return home wasn’t necessarily peaceful.

Jesus was a rockstar among the people in his hometown. Everyone wanted a piece of him. They threw their clothes and palm branches on the ground to keep the dust from stirring up in his face. The people formed lines along the side of the road. They showered him with praises. He was even allowed to enter the temple, even though the hour had grown late.

In many churches, Palm Sunday has morphed into Palm/Passion Sunday. We are reminded that, even in the midst of our jubilant celebration, we are only a few days removed from the drama that unfolds on Thursday night. 21st century Christians are aware of this. Jesus was aware of it at the time, but the people who were shouting “Hosanna!” likely had no idea. Their joy couldn’t be contained. Jesus — the Son of God and an ancestor of David — came home. It was time to party!

Discussion Questions 

  • What do you think is the significance of Jesus riding an UNridden colt?
  • Imagine you had only one cloak. Why would you throw it on the ground for a donkey to walk on?
  • What kind of celebration or parade would take place in your community if a famous local celebrity returned home?
  • How can you celebrate Jesus’ arrival in your life throughout the coming week?

Activity Suggestion

Take the palms that were used in worship and make crosses out of them. (For suggestions on how to make them, click here, here, here, or here.) Find a prominent place in the church to hang them, so people who return for Holy Week worship services can be reminded of how the celebration of Palm Sunday quickly turns to mourning and sadness.

Closing Prayer

God, thanks for sending Jesus into our lives. Help us to celebrate his presence and reflect on his passion this Holy Week, and always. Amen.