Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sermon Palm Sunday March 16th 2008

“But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

I speak with you as one who is both broken and whole, sinner and saint, lost and found, sinful and faithful. I pray that only God’s word may be spoken and may only God’s word be heard. Amen!

Finally! The weather has changed. This week we have heard small birds chirp and seen geese headed north. We have ventured out doors without insulated bulky coats and may have even exercised outdoors. We have seen the sun shine and if we look close enough grass, trees, and flowers are beginning to grow. We have persevered through the darkness and endured the cold death of winter and now we witness the beginnings of the new light and life of spring. But, as Monday’s weather will show us, we are close but we have not completely arrived at spring.

Finally in our worship, we have arrived at Jerusalem. During this season of Lent we have walked with Jesus. We walked with Jesus as he was tempted in the wilderness and listened in as he taught Nicodemus in the dead of night. We journeyed to Samaria with Christ as he charged the woman at the well, and us for that matter, to worship in spirit and in truth. Continuing on, we witnessed the healing of the blind man as a sign of God’s power in the world, and even more dramatically we heard Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb. It has been quite a spectacular and magnificent journey. But, yet, just as the seasons have not completely changed over, so to have we not arrived at Easter. Furthermore, just as the late season wet snows can be the messiest and the hardest to endure, so too this last week of lent can be tiresome.

Today we are given a taste of Glory. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, just as it had been foretold that the savior of Israel, the true king of God’s chosen people would do. In this cacophonic procession, full of palm branches waved and hosannas shouted, the people gathered in Jerusalem had to see it as the fulfillment of time; they had to see it as what had been foretold; and they had to feel that it was always going to be this joyous from then onward. This proclamation of exuberance and moment of praise that was so full that even if the people were silenced then the rocks would shout had to be intoxicating an instantly addictive. Could we blame them for wanting to stay in that moment? Furthermore, could we blame them for turning on Jesus when they realized he wouldn’t do what they wanted of him, what they expected of him? When he did not fit into their tiny box of what a messiah should and should not do, can we blame them for being angry, feeling betrayed, let down, and wanting the object of their disappointment punished?

We certainly should not blame them. For just as the same crowd that shouted hosanna when Jesus rode into Jerusalem shouted “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!” just a few days later, so to do we shout hosanna this morning and turn around a few moments later to shout crucify him. Not only do we do this quick change of attitude today, but we do it often in our lives. We love to proclaim Christ when Jesus coincides with our interests and we love to want him gone when he is inconvenient. Just as Peter, who along the road professes Christ as the messiah, by the end of this week denies even knowing Jesus--and thusly kills God--so to do we often proclaim the messiah on Sundays and deny him on Monday.

And so this day, we are left at the occupied tomb of our crime, not the emptied grave of resurrection. This day we are left to reflect on when we have failed to recognize the kingdom that has come near; not on our moments of proclamation and service, but on the times we have denied Christ and failed to serve our Lord. Easter is coming, but we aren’t there yet. We must journey further with Christ through this week in Jerusalem. We must be confronted with the embarrassment of the Son of God dressed as a slave and washing feet. We must endure our inability to stay awake with Christ in the garden. We can not hide from our cowardice when we like the apostles abandon Jesus in the garden to be taken away. And we must confront our own hypocrisy when we like Peter deny even knowing Christ. We must suffer the pain and anguish of watching Christ die on the cross. We must bear the burden of not only imagining the world without God on Good Friday, but we must come to grips with the stark reality that it is us who call for his crucifixion.

Then and only then, when we realize that it is not an absence of God’s love in the world that causes pain, war, injustice, and oppression, but our own denial of Christ in the courtyard, it is only then that we can truly hear the salvation history proclaimed at the Easter Vigil Saturday night. It is only in our blatant confession of our distance from God can we realize God breaking through that chasm to be near us in the breaking of bread and the pouring of wine. It is only when our unworthiness and shame are brought into the light that we can receive the grace of God. That saving grace, indeed that amazing grace, we so desperately need but can never deserve, comes to us after the final steps of this week.

So, my brothers and sisters, I challenge you to continue to walk with Christ. I challenge you not to skip from Palm Sunday to Easter without walking the path that is Holy Week. I challenge you to come to this table not for solace only but for strength. I challenge to walk with Jesus. Amen!

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