Sermie for Palm Sunday

A Life of Faith

It's Palm Sunday.
The gospel text for today is quite long. The Gospel of Mark: Chapter 15.
I encourage you to read it. Soak it in.

I've included my sermon from church today, too.
May your Holy Week be peaceful, blessed, and meaningful.


From Life to Death
Mark 15:1-47

People love happy endings. And, in general, we struggle with sad or uncomfortable endings. Sitcoms are a well-loved form on television, partly because of their predictable story lines. We can watch an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond or Friends or Mary Tyler Moore - and we always know it’s going to be about the same.

The formula goes like this: Introduction of Characters + Problem to Solve + Resolution = Happy Ending.

But, as we all know, life doesn’t usually work out quite like a sitcom episode. It’s often a lot more complicated. And not every story has a happy ending.

Today, our worship service started out with all the makings of something joyful and happy and great. Palm Sunday begins with a celebration - “Hosanna in the highest.” We celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Palm branches wave. Joyful hymns are sung. When Jesus first rode into town on that donkey, his disciples must have been on cloud 9 - so happy to see their leader and king getting affirmation and recognition.

And then, we transition so quickly into the story of Jesus’ death. We’re left wondering: How did it all change so quickly? Things seemed to great. Weren’t the kids JUST singing and waving their palm branches a few minutes ago in worship...And now, just an instant later, Jesus is being crucified.

It’s a significant transition....from Jesus’ life into his death. By the end of the 15th chapter of Mark, Jesus is dead and his body is in a tomb.

Then, one week from today, it will be Easter morning - and then we will hear the happy ending of the story. But in between, we have a week called Holy Week.

This week, we dwell in the mystery of the in between. We struggle. We wonder. We worship and pray. We exist in the space between Jesus’ death and his resurrection.

We heard the story of Jesus trial, crucifixion, and death just a few moments ago. These can be difficult passages of the Bible to read and to hear.

My first instinct every time I hear these verses - is to look for different people to blame. I want to blame the chief priests. Why are they so fearful of Jesus and so intimidated? Were they just jealous? Why did they want him to die so much? Then, I want to blame Pilate - for being so complacent! He doesn’t even seem to care - he knew what was happening was wrong, and he stood by and watched it happen. Then I want to blame the disciples, for not sticking with him. And then, I want to blame the crowd, for being so easily swayed by the chief priests and other religious leaders. Couldn’t they see the injustice of that situation? Couldn’t they be brave and take a stand?

But then again, I guess it’s always easier to blame someone or something else. It’s a lot harder to pause and look within....because when I do pause and look within, I always see myself and our broken world within the story of Jesus’ death and crucifixion.

The things I hate about the chief priests, Pilate, the disciples, and the crowds - they are all qualities I know exist within my DNA, too. Complacency, Injustice, Jealousy, Greed - these are all human qualities - not just qualities that exist in the “bad guys” held within the pages of Scripture.

Reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and ending with the story of his burial leaves us speechless. It catches us off guard and leaves us startled....and it’s meant to. It’s a little like the feeling we have when we step off the rollercoaster. It takes awhile to regain our balance. During Holy Week, the ground under our feet is still moving a bit, and we’re still trying to make sense of the Gospel passage we just heard.

Hearing the details of Jesus trial and crucifixion, gives us the opportunity to recognize our own participation in systems of injustice. We recognize that we miss the boat sometimes, too. We make harsh judgments. We turn away people who are hurting. We give in to the greed and selfishness all around us.

During Holy Week, we are invited to be vulnerable. We’re invited to acknowledge our own brokenness...brokeness is something we all share. It’s here, within our brokenness, that we can recognize our need for God’s grace and forgiveness. It’s here, we humbly come to recognize our need for Jesus - for his love - for the promise of hope and the resurrection - and for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It’s here, within the vulnerability of Holy Week, that we glimpse the true power of what God did on the cross through the life and death of Jesus.

Imagine a world where movies and television shows and books were always short - and we only got to hear the end of stories. In fact, imagine a world where we only got to hear happy endings - no other parts of the story. We only got to hear the happy part at the very end. Would it be bad? No - not really. But it would lack depth. We’d be missing out.

Now imagine Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. What if we skipped over the whole story of Jesus’ ministry, and then we skipped over his trial, crucifixion, and death - and jumped right to the resurrection? Would it be bad? No - not really. But we’d be missing out on a lot! We’d be missing out on the full range of human emotion. We’d miss out on an opportunity to recognize our deep need for Jesus in our lives and in our world.

And we’d miss out on an opportunity to witness just how much Jesus loved all God’s people. We'd miss out on an opportunity to witness just how committed Jesus was to confronting all the hate, injustice, sin, fear in the world: once and for all.

In the week ahead, we have the opportunity to exist within an otherwise unfamiliar space. It’s a space of mystery. It’s a space that leads us - day by day - closer to the empty tomb and a risen Christ.


No comments:

Post a Comment