Palm Sunday: April 14, 2019
Year C, Liturgy of the Palms: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Luke 19:28-40
Year C, Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Psalm 31:9-16; Luke 22:14-23:56
At the time of this posting, there was no recording of this sermon. The text is below.
Palm Sunday. I have a friend who tells me nothing more need be said because the Liturgy of the Palms and the Passion say it all. Yet, I think a word does need to be said.
Because in Lent we have traveled with Jesus along his path to Jerusalem, the path to his death and crucifixion. The path ultimately, of course, that will allow his resurrection. But, none of those steps can be short-circuited as Jesus both walks and ultimately rides into Jerusalem to meet his fate.
I think our Bishop Susan Goff has said it best in her Holy Week message.
“We begin the walk on the outskirts of Jerusalem, near the Mount of Olives, where the disciples throw their cloaks over a colt and Jesus climbs on. It is a ludicrous sight – a grown man on a colt, his feet dangling to the ground. Everyone knows that real kings ride great stallions, not donkeys. But Jesus chooses to be a living parable, a parable of humility. Jesus chooses to embrace seeming foolishness to reveal God’s wisdom, seeming weakness to show us real strength.
We continue the walk in Gethsemane where the disciples fall asleep as Jesus prays in agony. It, too, is a ludicrous sight – soldiers armed to the teeth to arrest the prince of peace, a disciple running away stark naked. Why do we stay – honestly, probably because thousands of miles and thousands of years insulate us from the danger. Otherwise, our walk would without a doubt end as quickly as theirs did.
We walk with Jesus to the mockery of a trial where the powerful hurl lies and false accusation. We walk with Peter, Jesus’ friend, who denies him three times then weeps bitter tears. These, too, are ludicrous sights – those with all the control inventing fictions, those with great love succumbing to fear. I wonder – how different is today’s world?
As we walk on through this week, we see Jesus mocked, stripped and beaten, wishing we could be as far away as the disciples, desiring to bolt as they did, because the pain and the fear are too much to bear. We walk yet farther, following Jesus as he carries his cross, mourning with the women who follow him. And we stop, we still our walking feet, as we look on from a distance as Jesus hangs on the cross. This, too, would be a ludicrous sight were it not so agonizing. A grown man, acclaimed only days before as a king, hanging stripped, exposed, impotent. But Jesus chooses to be a living parable, a parable of humility. Jesus seems to choose to embrace seeming foolish to reveal God’s wisdom, real strength the face of perceived wisdom. This is not a situation where perception is reality.
A question for all of us to ask as we move through Holy Week is, “Will we accompany Jesus the rest of the way? When our lives, or the lives of those around us, bring us to a place of trial and suffering, will we walk with Jesus there? When the bitter, ugly realities of a world in need break in upon our lives, will we step outside our usual preoccupations to accompany Jesus there? When faced with hard choices, will we choose to be a living parable, a parable of humility, as Jesus was? Will we choose to embrace seeming foolishness to reveal God’s wisdom, that is God’s seeming weakness which is, of course, true strength.
The Episcopal Church has been at the forefront of some recent issues, whether it is our phenomenal Bishop Michael Curry or a current presidential candidate staking his claim as an Episcopalian. Our Presiding Bishop is becoming something of a rock star and has been interviewed many times by international news agencies. He’s always asked about controversial topics…racism and marriage of gays and lesbians, and of course, current national politics.
In each case, Bishop Curry answered the reporter’s questions by talking about the love of God and its transforming power. When talking about racism, he said,
Rather than creating just another program, we have to go deeper. Laws can change behavior, but laws don’t change hearts. We’ve got to be about the work of changing and transforming hearts. And that happens by deepening real sustained relationships, and listening to and telling and sharing of our life stories.
This is the deep love of God that Jesus portrayed in his death and resurrection, in his journey to Jerusalem.
God then calls on each one of us to live our lives in ways that show this transforming love in our lives and to the world. This is how Bishop Curry challenges us to live.
Our own Bishop, Susan Goff, has challenged and inspired us to such courage. In words inspired by a collect in A New Zealand Prayer Book, Bishop Goff asks us to pray:
“Jesus, when you walked the way of love, people shouted their joy, they shouted their accusations, they shouted their pain. Grant us your strength so that, when the shouting ceases, we will continue to walk with you all the way to the cross, all the way to a new life. Amen.”
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