YEAR C: Palm Sunday: April 10, 2022
Year C: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; Luke 22:14-23:56
The rites of Holy Week are ancient and, by nature, different from our regular liturgical celebrations of the rest of the Church year.
The dual nature of the Liturgy for this Sunday is evident in the title on our inserts: “Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.” It begins with the pomp and glory of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna” to our king. However, those hosannas soon change to “Crucify him, crucify him” in the Passion.
I have a friend who tells me nothing more needs to be said in a sermon because the Liturgy of the Palms and the Passion say it all. Yet, I think a word does need to be said.
I think one of the things we remember is that when we find ourselves at a dead-end, with no light and no way of escape, and I admit that I felt like that this very week when it seems that God is not responding, we should remember that we are not alone. Jesus experienced total abandonment in a situation he had never before experienced to be one with us in everything. He did it for me, for you, to say to us: “Do not be afraid; you are not alone.
In Lent, we have traveled with Jesus along his path to Jerusalem, to his death and crucifixion. Why did all this take place?
Indeed, there are times when the enormity of the Passion Story, in all its stark simplicity, pushes us to our knees and breaks our hearts anew. Hearing it whole, from the somber moments of the Last Supper to the burial, becomes almost unbearable. The Passion retells that story using no adjectives and only a scarce number of adverbs; it doesn’t need them. The unfolding of the story of God’s tragic love revealed in the Son needs no embellishments. It is a story of inclusion and abandonment, trust and rejection. Listen to the power of the verbs:
They brought Jesus before Pilate…
Pilate sent Jesus to Herod…
He questioned him…
They mocked him…
They blindfolded him…
Questioned. Mocked. Blindfolded. Jesus, our God, allows himself to be moved from place to place, to be questioned by religious and political authorities, to be mocked by a fickle mob. Yet, only a few days ago, as we heard in the Liturgy of the Palms, they were praising him as he entered Jerusalem. How quickly praise turns into abuse and celebration into tragedy when human beings regard as valid only the triumph of the military and the victory of armies instead of the truth of God.
Think about those tragedies and how our world has been upended over the last two years. Today is the first time since 2019 that we have been together in person for Holy Week. In the tragedy of a pandemic, in the face of many false securities that have now fallen apart, in the face of war in our world, the message we can take from this Gospel, from all the Gospels, is courage.
How can we have courage? What can we do compared to God, who served us even to the point of being betrayed and abandoned?
We can refuse to betray him for whom we were created and not abandon what matters in our lives.
We were put in this world to love him and our neighbors; everything else passes away; only this remains. We’ll hear more about that at our Maundy Thursday service.
What is happening in the world around us reminds us that we are to take serious things seriously and not be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is meant to be used to serve others. Life is measured by love.
As we move through Holy Week, let us ask ourselves, “Will we accompany Jesus the rest of the way? When our lives, or 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 embrace seeming foolishness to reveal God’s wisdom, that is, God’s seeming weakness which is, of course, true strength?
So, in these holy days, in our churches and homes, let us stand before Jesus Christ, before God who gives his life, and let us ask for the grace to serve. May we reach out to those suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack but what good we can do for others.
The Passion of Jesus does not end on the cross but in a prayer that can make our spiritual lives whole if only we draw near enough to him to hear it: “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom. Jesus’ response: “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Amen.
Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE.