Friday, March 21, 2008

Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday 2008

Let the story seep deeply

I do not like violence.
I don’t like it in real life
And I don’t even like the pretend violence on television or in the movies.

If my husband and I are watching a movie on television
and the violence is too severe, I leave.
I say Good night, Sweetie,
and I am off to bed and a good, boring book
or to my study to check my e-mail.

So being that I don’t like violence,
I have to wonder:
What on earth is a nice peace-loving girl like me
doing here on Palm Sunday,
also known as the Sunday of the Passion of Christ?

The words of this play that we hear each year
are disturbing.
The words we as a congregation speak are especially troubling.
How did we get here?
How did we arrive at this gospel?

We have been on a journey through Lent.
We faced Satan and temptation in the wilderness.
Nicodemus knocked on the door in the middle of the night,
with a head and heart full of questions.
We were with Jesus when he met the Samaritan woman at the well,
And later when he healed a blind man
and raised Lazarus from the dead.
Lent has not been a dull journey.
Lent has been about faith and open minds and miracles and transformation.

But then comes this Sabbath day and it all seems to crumble
before our very eyes.

These weeks of Lent are to prepare us for Holy Week
which begins today.
But in truth nothing can really prepare us for this week,
these difficult days between this day and Easter.

As a culture we have come to think of passion
in terms of sexual desire.
It is interesting: that definition is the very last one
listed among the five definitions of passion found in the dictionary.

Here is the first listed definition:
Passion: the sufferings of Christ
between the night of the Last Supper and his death.

That is what this Sabbath day is about.

We do the passion play instead of reading the gospel
in the traditional way.
We do that so we hear this story as alive and real today.
We do the gospel in the form of a play
to remind us that we all play a part in what happens this week.

The story today tells us that
Jesus’ time in this world has come to an end—
and the end is not a pretty one.
It is brutal and violent and bloody and painful.
This is a story of suffering to the extreme.

It is a story brim full--
of friends who don’t stand by you when you really need them,
of friends that betray you,
of cowardice, injustice,
cruelty, fear,
darkness, death.
Recognition and awareness that seem to come too late.

We cannot take this passion play and just identify ourselves with Jesus,
the one who suffers.
That is not to deny that we suffer—we do. We all know that.
But that is not the point of this day or this gospel reading.

But we must hear this and read this and know
that we, too, have caused the suffering of others.
We have done it purposefully and we have done it in ignorance.
We, too, have caused others to suffer—
By our words and by our actions and by our inactions.
We, too, have caused others to suffer--
in tiny small ways,
and perhaps, in some very monumental ways.

Today is not the day we play the role of victim.
Today is the day we play the role of persecutor.

Holy Week is a time when we are called to look Jesus in the eyes
As he says to us, to each of us individually,
Friend, do what you are here to do.

What will that be?
We are given this amazing gift of free will—
we get to choose what we are here to do,
how we will live our lives.

What life do we want to co-create with God?
We have a multitude of roles to choose from.

Coming to the services during Holy Week—
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday,
the Easter Vigil--- is not about filling the pews of the church.
It is about reaching out and taking time to walk the way of the cross.
To let this story seep deeply into our bones.

Holy week is a way of emptying ourselves.
As Paul tells the Philippians,
“let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”.

We to go through Holy Week to come to Easter.
we face and endure suffering—the Passion—
so that we might truly taste
and begin to understand resurrection.

Holy Week is, indeed, where the rubber meets the road.
Friend, do what you are here to do.

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