Saturday, March 15, 2008

Palm Sunday

March 16, 2008

Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14- 27:66

The liturgy this morning is the perfect liturgy. It is a liturgy that captures that full range of emotions. In it, we find ourselves boomeranging between one extreme and the other.

We begin this morning with a joyous sound. We begin with sounds of praise to Jesus—the triumphant King of Kings. The crowd that greets him as he enters Jerusalem is happy. Everything seems right with the world. For his followers, this no doubt was a moment of validation.

The Jesus who enters Jerusalem is the Jesus who has done some incredible things in the past few weeks. He has turned the Samaritan woman’s life around. He had give sight to a man born blind. And most recently, he has raised his friend Lazarus from the dead.

It is easy, in this heady moment, for his followers to sing their praises to Jesus. He is popular and accepted. For this moment, everyone seems to love him.

But within this same liturgy, a darkness falls. Something terrible and horrible goes wrong. What begin with rays of sunshine, ends in gathering dark storm clouds.

Those joyful, exuberant shouts turn into cries of anger and accusation. Those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem have fled. They have simply disappeared from sight. And in their place is an angry crowd who wants Jesus to die.

Even his followers, those who almost arrogantly proclaimed themselves followers of Jesus, have also run away. Their arrogance has turned to embarrassment and shame.

Jesus, whom we encounter at the beginning of this liturgy surrounded by crowds of people, is by the end of it, alone, abandoned, deserted—shunned. Everyone he considered a friend—everyone he would have trusted—has left him.

And in his aloneness, he knows how they feel about him. He knows that he is an embarrassment to them. He knows that, in their eyes, he is a failure.

As we participate in this liturgy, we are acutely aware that we too have been both one of the crowd who welcomes him and those who turned our backs on him.

We are quick to proclaim Jesus when all is well. We have no problem speaking of him when we are surrounded by others who love and follow him.

But, when we hear people trashing Jesus—when we hear others maligning him—we find ourselves holding our tongues, or turning away in shame, or pretending that we are not Christians.

Or worse, we join the crowd in their condemnation. We, too, find ourselves caught up in the mob mentality. We too, say, in a sense, “Away with him! Crucify him!”

We, like them, sneer at his Name. We, like them, shake our heads in shame. We, like them, let our disgust at him show on our faces.

Let’s face—and what better time to face it than at the beginning of Holy Week—we are fickle, at times. We are easily swayed sometimes.

But, through the liturgies of our Church, we are able to not only examine the wrongs we have done to Jesus, to each other and to ourselves, we are also able to turn away from all of that. We are able to walk with Jesus on his painful journey to the place of his execution. We are able to help him, briefly anyway, to shoulder his cross.

And we are able to rejoice next Sunday—not only with those who encounter him at the tomb, or in the Upper Room, or on the road to Emmaus. Next Sunday, we will be able to rejoice with all the choirs of angels and archangels who sing their unending hymns of praise to him.

We are able to rejoice in the fact that all humiliation has tuned to joy, all desertion has turned to friendship, all sadness to gladness, death to full, complete and unending joy.

So, as we journey through the dark half of our liturgy today, as we trek alongside Jesus during this week of betrayal, torture and death, let us keep our eyes focused on the Light that is about to dawn in our lives. Let us move forward toward that Light. Even though there might be sadness on our faces, let the joy in our hearts prompt us forward along the path we dread to take.

And, next week, let’s gather here again to bask in the Light of Christ’s triumph over not only his death, but ours as well. Let us, then, sing together a hymn of gladness that will never end.


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