Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017
The Passion according to Matthew
Power on Display
A sermon preached by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.
“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’” (Mtt. 21:10)
This day begins the long slow walk through the very heart of our faith story. At the entrance to the week the crowd is shouting “Hosanna!” which means “save us!” Finally, the promised one has come to save us! The scene is absurd. Our king, the Son of God, the one to whom we look in hope… the one in whom we seek strength and guidance… our king is making his royal entrance into the City of Jerusalem wearing worn, dusty, sandals and the plain, simple garb of an itinerate teacher. To top it all, our king makes his grand entrance, not leading a fierce, buttoned down army marching in step, not… atop a finely chiseled war horse. No, our Lord and King greets the people atop a humble donkey with its colt… animals that had been borrowed for the occasion, his entourage a rag tag group of disciples. Jesus could have entered the city on foot… but that would have been simply too ordinary, and would have been a missed opportunity to showcase a power beyond any easy, earthly assumptions about power and might. The power of God’s promise and dream stands in stark contrast to the false might of the sword. …And the absurdity doesn’t end there… for this grand entrance is just the beginning of a march that is heading towards the ultimate battle ground of Golgotha where the powers of death will have their grizzly day, but will NOT have the last word…
This is the week in which we walk with Jesus through his last days. This is a powerful pilgrimage that we make one day, one step at a time. Each year, the journey through Holy Week offers us a new opportunity to encounter the great Paschal Mystery through which all will be made new. On this day I invite you to consider what you are bringing with you on this Holy Week journey, a week in which there will be great love and fellowship… as well as betrayal, pain, death, and grief…
Some of you know that 18 years ago I brought to Holy Week the crushing pain and fresh knowledge that my marriage was ending. It was one powerful Holy Week for me, a journey that I will never forget. When Easter finally arrived there was not a quick fix for the pain but, having been to the foot of the cross and encountering Jesus hanging there gazing, and looking into his eyes of love… having known, that year, the stark, hollow silence of Holy Saturday… feeling a monumental sense of absence… having moved through the Great Vigil and heard a recounting of God’s saving deeds in history and experiencing, again, Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones where the Spirit breathed life into the deadest of the dead and brought once extinguished hope back to a bereft nation in exile, having made it to the dawn of Easter morning… through the power of the Paschal Mystery …. I encountered a new day and new stirrings of life. The pain did not magically disappear but I gained strength to move forward… and I knew, more powerfully, that I was not moving forward alone. The rawness of my own life experience helped me, that year especially, to engage with the depth of Jesus’ walk… or maybe it was the other way around…. Christ’s love did its powerful work in me, love that is far beyond my limited human capacity to comprehend.
This Holy Week offers us an opportunity to bring the whole of ourselves on this sacred journey. Let us ask ourselves: What are the questions, the struggles, the fear, the pain? What are the issues of this moment in our lives that will we be bringing with us as we move through this week, at this moment in our live? What do we bring to this journey? What is it that we will bring with us to lay down at the foot of the cross on Friday? The promise is… that if you bring your truest struggling, imperfect selves on this journey, that is enough… The promise is… that if you simply walk this week with Jesus, without a clue about what the journey is about…. simply being with the holy story and putting one foot in front of the other… that is enough. We are being invited to journey into the heart of God’s love… that we may arrive at a startling new beginning that lies beyond the valley of death.
The city was in turmoil. The crowd was huge. “Who is this?” the people ask. The story is big. Our hearts are being stirred. How will this all end?
The laboring has begun… From the shouting of “Hosannas” to the stark silence of the tomb… This is a week of true pilgrimage. This is a week of engagement. This is a week to embrace Christ’s presence in us… amidst laboring pain… a laboring for the promise of new life that, for now, dwells beyond the horizon.
“When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’”
A most fitting question for this journey into Holy Week…
Blessings on your journey…