Sunday, April 10, 2022
Sunday of the Passion / Palm Sunday, Year C

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Procession with Palms

Luke 19:28-40 Entrance into the final days

Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 50:4-9a The servant of the Lord submits to suffering
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11 Humbled to the point of death on a cross
Luke 19:41-46 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

Sermon

Title: A Day in Search of Peace

What shall we call this day?  It’s a bit confusing and confused. And I feel like this year the confusion might even go a little deeper than usual.

Traditionally we call this Palm Sunday and we get palms to take home.  Certainly a joy for those of us who like take aways.  It was especially a source of joy when we were kids. (Sure beats the ashes we got to take home six weeks of Lent ago.)  Speaking of palms, hate to be a kill joy, but did you notice that Luke makes no mention of palms?  Matthew and Mark do.  Cloaks yes, but no palms in Luke. Probably a bit strange and awkward to give cloaks out to everyone this morning. Cloak Sunday – just doesn’t sound right.

In some churches they will be calling this Passion Sunday and they will read the entire passion story, just in case folks miss hearing it on Thursday and Friday of this Holy Week ahead.  In St. John’s unique fashion, we will be singing the passion story along with the movie of Jesus Christ Superstar this evening at 7.

Some sources will term the events reported in today’s Gospel readings as Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  Triumphal?  Really?  I don’t see him taking back control of the city from the occupying Roman forces.  I don’t see him displacing the religious leaders who controlled the temple and collaborated with the Romans to their own advantage.  Where is the triumph?  Where is the victory?  His troops are armed with palms (maybe) and cloaks.  No match for the military power of the Roman legions. One more detail, Jesus barely even gets into the city.  He is outside of it for most of what Luke reports happened that day.  The only thing that happens in the city itself is that he goes to the temple and causes an uproar with the money changers and the sellers there; who you just know set their tables back up and got back to business as soon as he was gone.  No victory there.  Just a temporary temple tantrum thrown.

By Luke’s reporting, perhaps this Sunday is better called the Sunday of Song and Sorrow.  For Jesus interrupts the joyful songs of his followers with the tears of a broken-hearted God.  These tears culminate a Lent that gave us a number of glimpses of this God who loves us so much that in their power, they make themself vulnerable to sorrow. A quick look back.  We saw God the mother hen desiring to bring her chicks under her wing. We were warned not to see a punishing God but rather a patient God who shows compassion and desires that we grow in grace.  We witnessed the broken-hearted parent watching every day for the wayward child to come home.  We partied with the one who resurrects his friends even as he himself was preparing to die.  Yes, ours is truly a broken-hearted God.  And today we see it again as Jesus weeps over the city of Jerusalem wanting only peace for it, yet painfully aware that this holy city does not recognize the things that make for peace.

And for sure, today, it is not only Jerusalem that Jesus is weeping over.  Because throughout history, humankind has shown time and time again that we just do not recognize the things that make for peace.  The list of cities that Jesus is weeping over is beyond our counting.  As for today, it is not only Kyiv, but also Moscow.  It is Fallujah and Damascus.  It is Sana‘a in Yemen and Mogadishu in Somalia.  Bagdad and Tehran.  Tallahassee and Austin.  Washington and New York.  To name but a few.  We could fill our Holy Week with reading the complete list.  All these places that do not recognize the things that make for peace.

Oh, how we wish Jesus would make a triumphal entrance into each and every one of these places. That he would do what we think needs to be done to bring peace. Show some almighty power.  But instead, he is the still king who rides in on a donkey.  That ancient sign that meant the king is coming to that place in peace.  Quite the contrast from Pilate who would be coming to Jerusalem to police the Passover celebration on a horse, a war horse, followed by his officers on horses and columns of soldiers marching behind and calling it Pax Romana, keeping the so-called peace.  Or in modern times when we send soldiers in and call them peace-keepers.  How we fool ourselves into thinking that we, on our own, recognize the things that make for peace.

So then, what does?  If we, throughout human history, have done such a dismal job of recognizing the things that make for peace, where do we turn?

St. Paul says it well in his letter to the Philippians.  Most Biblical scholars think that he is quoting a first century hymn here in this beautiful passage that we hear each year on this Palm/Passion/Song and Sorrow Sunday. If so, it must have been a much-loved hymn.

Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Yes, that is a tall order, but let’s not despair. Let’s see how the hymn develops this idea.

6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

Granted, we are not in the form of God as Jesus was, yet how often we claim equality with God, we try to play God.  We insist that we know the better way.  We brazenly judge those who are different from us, condemn those who we disagree with, shower blessings on those we approve of.  We play at being something that the God we claim faith in is not. And thus, there is no justice, there is no peace.

7but [Jesus] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Our egos.  Troubled and troubling egos.  Best way to size them up is to see the word ego as an acronym for Edging God Out.  Yet, here is Jesus, emptying himself of his divinity, so as to join in our humanity.  We have considered much this Lent the call to die daily to oneself so that we might claim our new life in Christ.  Jesus leads the way in this when he empties himself and comes to earth so that we might witness and learn of this new life that is ours through the mercy and grace of God.  He brought us peace by this emptying.  In the incarnation we recognize that which makes for peace.  In our lives, we are called to do the same.  We can check the ego at the door, so that we may be filled with new life and be the presence of Christ to a world hungering for peace. And as Christ stood with those in need, so we are called to stand with them, cry with them, speak out for them, bring them aid.

And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself
  

Humility.  A lost art these days. Well, we want others to be humble so that we can claim power, right?  That is what we are seeing in every level of society these days.  Yet, the quoted hymn proclaims that Christ humbled himself to the point of accepting a death he did not have to die.  We don’t have to do that – die, that is. But humility is certainly one more thing that makes for peace.

The final lyric quoted by Paul can be summed up as thanksgiving.  And perhaps that is the best place to begin this Holy Week. Let us begin by giving thanks for all that God has done for us and is doing for us. Gratitude expressed for the big peace-making thing of coming to us in the person of Jesus and saving us from ourselves, as we wave our palms and sing our songs of praise.  Gratitude for the very lives we have been given, for the lives of those we love and who love us, for the abundance of material goods – homes, food, clothing; knowing that not everyone experiences such treasure. And thus strengthened through gratitude, we join Christ in the longing for and recognizing those things that make for peace.  Whether it be singing songs or crying laments, lending hands or sharing goods, speaking out or standing with.  And through the events of this week, let us explore deeper, the mind of Christ so that we might even more fully recognize those things that make for peace.

What do we call today?  What we are wise to call everyday – thanksgiving day.

The Rev. Mark Erson,

Pastor

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