Sunday, March 24, 2013

Passion/Palm Sunday

March 24, 2013

Luke 19.28-40; Luke 22.14-23.56
+ I’m sure I’ve shared this with you in the past. But growing up as a kid of Scandinavian descent, there were not a lot of popular role models for us.  For me, as a kid who read a lot of comic books, I had two choices.

Hagar the Horrible. And the Mighty Thor. So, as you probably guessed, I was a huge fan of Thor comics.

Thor, as you might know, was the Nordic god of thunder. With his mighty hammer Mjolnir, he fought and battled ice giants, fire demons and Valkyries and even his sneaky, evil brother Loki. Loki always reminded me of one of my own brothers.

Thor in a sense embodied what a god should be. He was strong. He was mighty. He even looked like a god with his winged helmet, his flowing blond hair and that giant hammer, which created peals of thunder.

But even Thor had his bad moments. He could be moody. He could be depressed. He fell in love and was often romantically led astray by some human female.  And he had a rocky relationship with his father, the sky-god, Odin—the one-eyed uber-god of Valhalla.

 Still, Thor is what we expect of a god.  From our Christians perspective, Thor is everything Jesus is not. But then—and here’s the rub—Thor was not really ever one of us. Yes, he sort of seemed like us—he had emotions.  He got angry or sad. But he was different than us. He was superhuman. He was like any other superhero—like Superman.  And he would never have dreamed to condescend to mere human stature. And certainly he never would die like us.

 I think Jesus’ disciples expected Jesus as the Messiah to be like a Thor-figure. They expected their Messiah to be one who would come in with a sword (or maybe a hammer) in one hand and thunder in the other and would smite the enemies of their world. The Jesus we encounter in first Gospel reading for today, the Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid shouts of glory, was somewhat closer to that ideal. Here was their Messiah—loved and lauded, victorious in his triumphant entry into the holy city of Jerusalem.  It all seemed to finally come together for them in that moment. Now, finally, Jesus would triumph.

 But the Jesus we find at the end of our Gospels for today was not anything like that ideal.  The Jesus we find at the end of our Gospel reading is as unlike Thor and the Apostle’s understanding of the Messiah as we can get. This beaten, tortured, murdered man could not possibly be God.

 But that’s the twist here. What we really see on that cross—that twisted, tortured human being—is something more familiar than any superhero god or apocalyptic messiah. What we see on that cross is us. It is us tortured It is us murdered. It is us defeated.  

 And when we see it, all we can do is turn away.  We turn away because we don’t want to look into that mirror. We don’t want to see the painful reflection we find there.

 But we must. We must look at it. We must go through this coming Holy Week and carry the weight we have been given. We must wash the feet, and be betrayed and carry the cross and die and descend into the darkest depths of all this week will bring.

 Because what happens next Sunday is also us as well. What happens on Easter is our victory in the face of defeat. What happens on Easter is our life in triumph over death. With Jesus’ resurrection is our resurrection as well.

 But that’s then, that’s next Sunday. For now, we are here. We are here, at the beginning of this week. We are at this manic phase in our emotional and spiritual roller coaster ride.  We’ve been here caught in this low emotional place before in our lives—sometimes many times. And we will probably be here again. And we, like Jesus, are given a choice. We can turn away from all of this. We can refuse to look in that mirror. We can run in the opposite direction. We can hope in our superhero god and messiah to come and rescue us and take all this bad stuff away.  

 Or we can trudge forward. We can look long and hard into that battered bleeding face of our God, who stares back with eyes very much like our eyes. We can accept the folly of this strange faith we have chosen to be baptized into.  

 Because in doing so—as we know from our previous journeys on this manic ride—this is the ultimate victory. Love over hatred. Forgiveness over resentment. Positive over negative. Light over dark. Life over death.  This is what awaits us when we stare into that brutalized face, into those pain-weary eyes, and looking deeply, we see our own reflections staring back.

 So, let us go forward. Let us follow Jesus as we must.    Let us shoulder the cross on our lacerated backs. Let us lift that weight onto our tired and weary legs And let us walk—slowly and surely—through the darkness of this coming week toward the glorious dawning light that awaits us next Sunday.


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