Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sermon for Year B Palm Sunday

Surrounded by the Gospel

Palm Sunday is a day of contradictions.
We start with the liturgy of the palms.
The palms are blessed and hosannas are shouted
as we process into the church.
All glory laud and honor we sing.

Jesus—the king—riding on a colt,
other gospels say a donkey.
A donkey? A colt?
Should not a king enter Jerusalem on a mighty steed?
Such a strange juxtaposition.

And then the passion play.
Passion meaning suffering.
And play?—nothing playful about this story.
It is deeply, movingly serious.
And painful.

It is a story of great suffering,
of loneliness,
of pain and humility.
It is a story of undeserved death.
Jesus is killed because people are afraid of him.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.

We have sat in this church through these weeks of Lent
surrounded by this story we hear today.

Along the walls of our church hang 14 stations of the cross.
These are not for decoration.
You, like I, may appreciate their artistic value,
but that is not why they are here.
That is not why the artist painted them
or gifted them to this parish.

These stations are so that we might remember.
These stations are so that we might remember the suffering—
not only the suffering of Jesus
but the suffering that surrounds us still.

We live in a community, in a world,
surrounded by this story we hear today.

People are suffering.
People are hungry.
People have lost their jobs and fallen from the weight upon their back.
People have lost their health and their wealth
and many feel stripped of their dignity.

People we love have died.
Have been laid in the tomb.
And our hearts break
for those we love but see no longer.

I truly believe that the purpose of the church is to spread the gospel—
the good news of Jesus Christ.
And there is good news—
we will celebrate that wonderful, joy-filled good news
one week from today.

But we make that good news shabby
if we fail to recognize the pain and the suffering and the death
and the darkness
that is still part of our world, our own lives.

Stations of the Cross.
They are not just part of a journey in Jerusalem.
They are not just an ancient liturgy.
We walk these stations every day.
Open your eyes to the world around you.
In your family.
At your office.
On the streets.
We live in a hurting, suffering world.

Look at our community
People are hungry.
People are lonely.
People are marginalized.
People are afraid.

We live in the passion play.

And what are we going to do about it?
We claim we are going to follow Jesus.
Let’s do that.
Let’s help one another do just that.

When we are baptized into Christ
we make a covenant.
And a covenant is not just what God will do for us—
a covenant is an agreement of what we will do for God as well.

Even when we are baptized as infants
those who love us most in the world
bind us with the words of that baptismal covenant.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.

Imagine how different this story—this Passion play—
would have been
if Pilate or the crowd had looked upon Jesus as a neighbor—
not a threat.
Imagine how our world might change today
if we look at every person and see the face of Christ,
see someone who longs to be loved
just as we long to be loved.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people
and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.

Imagine how different our world, our community can be
if we really listen
and hear the word ALL as meaning ALL,
as EVERY meaning EVERY.
If we treated every human being—
yes, even the ones we don’t like,
even the people we fear,
even the ones we think don’t deserve
Imagine if we respected the dignity of every human being?

Imagine if justice and peace were at the top of our agendas
both corporately and individually?
Oh, how the world might be a different place!
On earth as in heaven.
We are charged with helping make that happen.
I will,
with God’s help.

When we are baptized into Christ we make a covenant—
and we are marked as Christ’s own forever.
That cross that is marked on our forehead?
You can’t erase it.
We are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Living into our baptismal covenant.
is an enormous task—
but it is the cornerstone for living the gospel.
It is at the heart of following Jesus.

We begin our walk into Holy Week today.
It is why we leave the church in silence.
I will not wait at the door to greet you or bid you goodbye.
There is no coffee hour or social time
or meetings after today’s service.

We have much to think about.
Much to ponder in our hearts.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
What are we going to do about it?
What are we going to do about in our own lives
and in the life of this parish?
What are we going to do about it?
That is the question to ponder for Holy Week.

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