Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday Sermon (April 1)

O Lord, in our weakness, be our strength; in our troubles, be our peace; in our danger, be our shelter; in our fears, be our hope; and be with us evermore. Amen.
“And they laid out their garments and branches of palm along his path and shouted Hosanna!” Days later…“And they shouted all the more, Crucify him! Crucify him!”
The two-fold nature of this Palm Sunday is summed up in the words of the crowds: Hosanna & Crucify.

It’s the second word we struggle with, for the culture we live in no longer really observes Holy Week. Easter is a fuzzy spring bunny and candy and flowers. We love the party, the brunch, the egg hunts, the Hosanna! There is no sense that Good Friday and the cross really leads to the glory of Easter.

To observe Holy Week, to let the passion of Jesus infuse our souls, goes against the grain of today. Most Christians jump from Palm Sunday to Easter, losing the three days from Maundy Thursday to Easter. Who wants to hear about suffering and death, who wants to go to the cross?

And yet the cross of Good Friday beckons us to bear witness to Jesus’ suffering and death and to share in the suffering now by reaching out to those experiencing it in their lives. It is a call to witness and to act. As Brian Doyle writes in his book, Grace Notes:
"My wife is an art teacher for kids who are really, really sick, a job filled with hilarity and pain, a job she loves, a job that makes her shiver and go for long walks in the hills. She spent a lot of time recently doing art projects with a girl who got sicker and sicker and endured oceans of pain and grew more swollen and weary by the day, and one day I came home to find my wife sad to the bottom of her bones. I asked her what was the matter and she said some things that haunt me still . . .

"She's being crucified, said my wife. Everything they do to her hurts. All those needles and nails. All the mothers watching and wincing and weeping in the shower later. All the little crucifixions. She just accepts it. She never complains. She gets crucified every day. All the little children being crucified. Why does this happen? Why does this happen?

"There was nothing to say, of course, so I didn't say anything, and the next day she went back to the hospital and did art projects with kids who are really, really sick."
As we remember the passion of Jesus, may we embrace those who are crucified every day in their own Jerusalems. May we behold the crucified Christ in them and re-commit ourselves to finding ways for the compassion of God to rise amid the tombs of despair and fear in their lives and ours.
As Dorothee Soelle put it, “To meditate on the cross means to say good-bye to the narcissistic hope of being free of sickness, deformity and death. Then all the energies wasted on such hopes could become free to answer the call for the battle against suffering.”
That is, our call is to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to reach out to those who are suffering, to help them feel the abiding presence of God and God’s love through what we do.
Teach us the path, show us the way by Malcolm Boyd
from Are you Running with me, Jesus?

They say that everyone has a cross to bear, Jesus. And you once said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” What do those things mean? I think they mean that every person ultimately has to face up to reality – face one's own calling, destiny, nature and responsibilities.

In your own life, Jesus, you faced reality directly and unequivocally. You incarnated the truth as you believed it. You didn't pander to any easy or obvious popularity. You attacked the hypocrisies of the human power structure head on. You rejected status quo in favor of obedience to the Realm of God. And when it came to taking consequences, you didn't shy away from torture and execution.

The way of the cross was your understanding of your mission and your faithfulness to it. The way of the cross seems to be, for every individual Christian, the reality that dictates styles of life, defines mission, and brings a person into communion with you.

Help me bear my cross on the way of the cross, Jesus. Amen.

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