Rev. Jennifer Adams – March 25, 2018 – Palm Sunday – Mark 15:1-47
It’s always something to stand up after the passion narrative is read. It’s hard find words. After so many words. I have also come to appreciate some of the silences that are woven in to that story. And so we take a deep breath and we listen. And this Holy Week we invite the story to shape us.
Now like many of you I have also been moved, quite deeply moved over the past few weeks and especially the past twenty-four hours by the words and actions and silences of hundreds of thousands of young people in our nation. I have listened as they grieve together out loud. I have listened as they hold one another and silence together. I have watched as they manage to integrate with each other, to collaborate with each other, to come together across lines in ways that we older folks have not been able to manage enough of. I watched and listened yesterday as young people from all over our country, from Chicago to Parkland to Los Angeles to Newtown to New York to DC and lots of places in-between came together in varieties of sites and places to walk together, to cry out together, to seek ways in which their stories, their presence, their voices, their dreams can help us all make this world a better place.
And so as we processed this morning, I am full of the many ways in which they and we are walking too, praying and hoping for a redemptive new day.
As hard as this liturgical day is, Palm Sunday, with the all too quick and painful transition from “Hosanna” to “Crucify him”, with the confusion and betrayal and denial, with the extravagant anointing, the waving of palms and the dressing in robes, with the disciples, chief priests and elders, government officials and as the story closed, also “the women”… as hard and full as this day is, I’m also grateful for its timing, because we need it. I think we need it to help interpret us and for us to claim the hope that is here.
The first thing I want to hold up is how every public this whole moment in the gospel story was. There was a private meal mid-way, but almost the entire rest of the story took place “out there” in large gatherings of the city, large gatherings of religious leaders, government officials, and “the people.” This initial holy procession of palms was a procession into the very large and central city of Jerusalem which was swelled to about ten times its normal size due to the celebration of Passover. Jerusalem at this point in the gospel was filled with people who had come to the city to celebrate the feast that marked the people’s own experience of liberation.
And it was into that environment that Jesus rode on a colt and entered the city through one of the main gates to LOTS of attention. He was hailed with cries of “Hosanna in the highest!” And so this wasn’t a quiet religious moment. In fact it’s fare to say that it was actually quite a political one, meaning that people of faith were out there, engaging the larger body politic- the people – with their stories, their presence, their voices, their dreams. “This is the salvation and healing we seek!” they cried out. “In this moment we find hope!” they shouted to all who would hear them.
And so we need this story for many reasons, but one of the things it does is reminds us that we as people of faith can’t shy away from the public square as a place of meeting one another, of speaking out, of listening, of engaging. It is not only in here, but out there that we are called to offer and proclaim our vision for what “love your neighbor” looks like, sounds like, acts like, lives like. The people shared their hopes out loud in this gospel story. That was how Palm Sunday happened.
And, they also shared their fears. Which is why it was so very complicated. And it’s probably why the story turned so very quickly from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify him!” Their means of salvation, meaning Jesus, challenged the very structures on which the religious leaders and people had come to depend, and so Jesus was put on trial by the religious and governmental authorities of his day. In Christ’s passionate and compassionate caring for the “least of these my brothers and sisters,” he shook the foundations on which these leaders and people had invested their lives and built their faith, most of them I believe with good and even faithful intent. And so their hopes also stirred up their fears, which I think this side of heaven, is probably how it goes.
But the foundations needed shaking. And they often do. And sometimes that challenge becomes a holy means by which redemption and new days are born. As people of faith our role to help steer it in that redemptive direction, and to steer with all that we have – our lives included.
In this moment that is ours, we will not always agree on the “how” we get there, nor do I want us to. I think that it is by truly engaging one another that a greater “how,” greater than any of us comes to be. But this week we come together around the themes of love and mercy and forgiveness, unity and peace, and they are spoken to us in word and in action by the Christ. And so part of what we claim today is that the work of large scale healing and the offering of widespread hope is good and faithful work to which we have all been called.
This Holy Week we hear the call to participate in a way of being that is fueled by mercy and fueled by love. In this gospel we have been given full permission to care for the least of these of these my brothers and sisters; in fact as people of faith, what we hear is that we need to insist on that being our way. There will be denials and betrayals along the way and sometimes we’ll be the ones who deny or betray. Sometimes we’ll fall asleep in the garden despite the fact that we need to be as awake as we’ve ever been. There will, however, also be shared meals. There will be blessings and breakings. There will people who come forward to help carry the cross, and there will be those whose presence at the cross and even at a slight distance are the means by which love happens now.
And so this week may we listen in here and out there too. May we be fully present in here and out there too. May the stories, the voices, the tears, the dreams of those who have something to teach us break through in ways that with God’s help, redeem us and shape us into the people we’ve been called to be. This week may we engage one another and the gospel in ways that reveal God’s love for us all.