Mother Katherine’s sermon preached March 28, 2021

Posted by on Sun, Mar 28, 2021 in Holy Week, Lent, Sermons

The Sunday of the Passion:
Palm Sunday

March 28, 2021

Thanks be to God for mercy and grace as we walk with Christ Jesus in all that lies ahead. Amen.

Not even a pandemic means skipping the depth and power of this most sacred and defining time, and we participate in any way we can. Many of you have palms at home today as part of the wonderful Holy Week kits Kelly and her crew prepared, and we still got to share in a marvelous Palm Sunday procession and then see each other in it this morning. Miraculously we even sang our Hosannas together, with Jason and the choir! Certainly, you disciples are not to be underestimated! 

This year’s journey into Holy Week and Easter is a magnifying glass, showing all of us things we might have thought small or inconsequential about it, or even taken for granted. We are followers of Jesus, and today our pathless procession —it’s far too real to call it ‘virtual’! — was holy and embodied in a new way. Soon we will share in walking the path with our Lord through the Passion reading, also in a creative way. We will similarly engage in Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Each generation finds ways to bring this ancient pilgrimage liturgy into our lives, and now actually brought into our homes.

The two paths we travel with Jesus today are of such defining import that even sharing them via lifestream cannot diminish their powerful place in our faith journey. First we were part of that cheering parade into Jerusalem, voicing our Hosannah! songs and waving festive greens or cloth as we honor him in procession into the city. Soon we will be part of a crowd who calls for his crucifixion, even curses him, and we make our way, walking back out of town and up a hill to Golgotha where he will die. One procession seems to honor him and the next to demean or humiliate him, and yet neither one can define him! Those orchestrating both ‘parades’ misunderstand him though, and he needs neither the cheers nor the curses to prove himself. Instead, Jesus makes himself fully vulnerable to both, and each reveals significant truth about him. He is the Messiah, but not the type hoped for by the palm-waving crowd, and he is the Suffering Servant – but not as the failure that authorities hoped to show by crucifixion. We walk, as our Collect said this morning, with a merciful Lord God of salvation, by whose “mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality.” 

Though this scene is from a time long past, the elements at work here are not at all foreign to us. We’re well acquainted with crowds on the march and may have been marching ourselves. We’ve seen and felt moral outrage, witnessed violence, conflicting powers, tragedy, fear of change or lack of change. Today we stop and notice what happens when Jesus is at the center of it. He has been surrounded by all this turmoil and yet he’s the only one who is calm and composed—unworried it appears. Jesus is sure of being God’s Son, God’s beloved, and that knowledge is the most certain foundation there is. All the other people named today are either defiant, in uproar, weeping in shame, fearful, or “beside themselves.” In conflict with Jesus is Peter, Judas, Caiaphas, Herod, and (in conceding to pressure) Pilate too, and yet looking at each one’s story what we discover is that they are each in conflict with themselves, Jesus has just brought them face-to-face with the truth of it. This is true for my own life too, and maybe yours.

Like in our own lives, each moment of truth helps create who we are, and reveals it. Such moments can make us anxious or defensive as if up against a wall, and tempt us to shrink into our lesser selves, with self-serving actions or responses lacking in courageous or honesty. They can also call forth our strength and resolve, our best shining selves, acting from our depth of faith in God, from love and generosity, even when faced with hard consequences. Those moments of truth reveal something of us either way, as they did for those around Jesus that week. The end of that last path is especially revealing of Jesus to a world in need of redemption. 

Amen.

© 2021 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved.