KILAUEA — Joe Norelli has listened to many sermons about the life of Jesus Christ. He’s read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John over and over.
So he thought he had a pretty good idea of the meaning of Christ’s final days on Earth.
But he got a new perspective Palm Sunday.
“To act on it, to go through it, it’s a moving experience,” he said.
Norelli was one of several people who had roles in reading “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” at Christ Memorial Episcopal Church. He portrayed Jesus.
“I was trying to understand and feel what it was like for him,” Norelli said following the 9 a.m. service attended by about 50 people in the historic church.
“He knew what was coming, but he went through with it in a gentle, loving way,” Norelli said.
What was coming was the beating and crucifixion of Christ, some 2,000 years ago.
Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week, marked by Christian churches worldwide. It leads to Holy Thursday and Good Friday and culminates with Easter Sunday, which marks the resurrection of Christ.
Christ Memorial Episcopal Church had a special procession with palm branches before its service — and the rain stopped right before everyone headed outside.
The Right Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick, a bishop of the Archdiocese of Hawaii, delivered the sermon.
He spoke of how people during Jesus’ time believed he was going to be their political leader and toss out the Romans. They waved palms and cried “hosanna” during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
But Jesus wasn’t the kind of king they were expecting. He was about humility and serving others. He was about welcoming strangers, feeding the hungry, opening his arms and respecting the dignity of each person, Fitzpatrick said.
People should do the same, he added.
“Good Friday is a piece of all of our lives, with a promise that Easter rebuilds us,” he said. “Welcome to Holy Week.”
The Rev. Robin Taylor of Christ Memorial Episcopal Church said Holy Week begins the Christian walk with Jesus to the cross.
“It’s important not just to celebrate the procession of the palms, but to move us into the right frame of mind,” she said.
Holy Week, Taylor said, “brings into sharp focus the life of Jesus.”
“The message of Jesus is not about power and wealth and might. It’s about servanthood,” she said. “It’s about being able to offer yourself as a servant, someone who takes care of others. We offer ourselves to take care of the world rather than asking the world to take care of us.”
Nancy Norelli, narrator for “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said she has heard and read the gospels outlining the life of Christ since she was a toddler. But while reading it out loud in church on Palm Sunday, she said she was “absolutely moved.”
“I was touched more deeply than I ever have been,” she said.
She said being in church, “there’s a feeling of oneness, of love for this ohana. You don’t have to say anything.”
Joe Norelli said Holy Week is a chance to take a strong look at his life.
“It’s a time we consider ways we can become better people and make the world a better place, too,” he said.
Bill Butler, who read the part of Pontius Pilate, said he felt a little uneasy in the role. It hit home as he read the line, “Shall I crucify your king?”
“It brings the impact so much more than listening to it,” he said.
Butler shared a story of when he was a boy and his parents taught him not to eat chocolate until 3 p.m. on Good Friday
“At that time I was able to do it. I used to wait and watch and at 3 o’clock, run into a bakery with lots of chocolate and eat.”
“I felt so wonderful and sugar-charged,” he said. “Now I don’t do that. I don’t eat chocolate. Now, I wait for Sunday morning for the service and it’s the same type of feeling.”