Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Sermon

Gracious God, you are the source of life and love; Be present with us today in the Palms & in the Passion that your Word may inform our minds and your Spirit inflame our hearts; then send us out with that life and love and knowledge for all who seek you. Amen.
“The real witness of Palm Sunday is not the parade or what the disciples or secular authorities saw; it is the encounter between Christ and the power of death.” So says the late author & theologian William Stringfellow.
The power of death is the cross, a tool of terror and control by the Romans but it is in the power of the authorities to arrest, beat and kill, a world full of suffering at the hands of others. Jesus would experience all of this when he confronted those powers in Jerusalem.

The Power of Death. The Cruelty of this World. Is also our experience, many of us remember these violent events that have shaped our lives, to name just a few:
  • December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor
  • November 22, 1963 – JFK assassinated
  • April 4, 1968 – MLK, Jr. assassinated
  • January 28, 1986 – Space Shuttle Challenger Destroyed
  • September 11, 2001 – The Terror attacks in NYC and Washington DC
  • December 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Tragedy
We have been shocked as a nation, our peace was shattered, how fragile life is. We all have witnessed the loss of life, the power of death come close. Even our families are not immune, death and tragedy have been part of all our lives, even if we tend to forget about those events. And yet, we live not in anxiety and fear, because we remember the moments of joy and love that we experience and we live in hope. That was true of the people in Jerusalem.

In the midst of the Roman occupation, Jesus was celebrated as he made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully, throwing down clocks and palms on the ground in honor of the humble king riding a colt.

Some among them knew how provocative this would be to those in power. They asked Jesus to tell his disciples to stop it. Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout.”

Jesus confronts the power of death as he enters in Jerusalem, just as he had done in the villages, by the sea, and out in the highways. Even in the presence of death, it was not time to back down, even the stones would shout out… "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!"

When Jesus threw the merchants out of the Temple, he would not only have angered the Jewish authorities who were looking for a way to arrest him, but also the Romans, who would want to quell the disturbance created by Jesus and his disciples.

Jesus resisted their power all the way to the cross, for he came to bring all of us life, but his confrontation with the authorities would lead to his death.

In the words of William Stringfellow, “Resistance to death is the only way to live humanly in the midst of the fall.” Such resistance and sacrifice is what Jesus did so we could understand what our lives were meant to be.

In a short story for children, Leo Tolstoy tells us about a king and his falcon, in a very subtle way, tells us about Jesus:
A certain King let his favorite Falcon loose on a hare, and galloped after him.

The Falcon caught the hare. The King took him away, and began to look for some water to drink. The King found it on a knoll, but it came only drop by drop. The King fetched his cup from the saddle, and placed it under the water. The water flowed in drops, and when the cup was filled, the King raised it to his mouth and wanted to drink it. Suddenly the Falcon fluttered on the King's arm and spilled the water. The King placed the cup once more under the drops. He waited for a long time for the cup to be filled even with the brim, and again, as he carried it to his mouth, the Falcon flapped his wings and spilled the water.

When the King filled his cup for the third time and began to carry it to his mouth, the Falcon again spilled it. The King flew into a rage and killed him by flinging him against a stone with all his force. Just then the King's servants rode up, and one of them ran up-hill to the spring, to find as much water as possible, and to fill the cup. But the servant did not bring the water ; he returned with the empty cup, and said :

"You cannot drink that water ; there is a snake in the spring, and she has let her venom into the water. It is fortunate that the Falcon has spilled the water. If you had drunk it, you would have died."

The King said, "How badly I have repaid the Falcon! He has saved my life, and I killed him."
The falcon gave his life to save the king. This fable, by Leo Tolstoy, mirrors Luke's narrative of Jesus' passion and death. In the Gospel, we see the "poison" – the power of death that leads Jesus to his cross - and to ours. In giving his life, Jesus shows us how to live our lives in the peace, wholeness and grace of God. This Holy Week, let us enter the events of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection with open hearts and attentive minds, aware that the power of death – violence, anger, selfishness, greed and arrogance that brings Jesus to crucifixion are the poisons in the streams we drink from every day of our lives.

Such drink doesn’t cause immediate death, but as Pink Floyd would say, it makes us comfortably numb. It is up to us to not take that drink, not wait for stones to shout, we need to shout out with our lives even in the midst of the power of death, the promise of life that Jesus has given us. Amen.

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