Tree of Sorrow, Tree of Life
Palm Sunday 2015
A message delivered by The Rev. Dianne Andrews at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Port Townsend, WA.
We are not casual bystanders. We have willing come to this place of pain and sorrow to stand before the tree of death that was planted by earthly powers of empire seeking to coerce and control by any means necessary including violence, torture and murder. God’s way is different. The tree is an intersection. Its roots descend to hell but its branches reach towards heaven. We return to this place once again because we have followed Jesus from the beginning, from the sweet moment when the Angel Gabriel gave Mary the stunning news. We have been challenged by the great teacher who offered us a way of seeing with new eyes… he taught us how God wants us to be in the world… he shared God’s love and delight for us. He showed us a better way. We continued to follow him to Jerusalem. We waved palms expecting more great things to happen in the capital city. But the story didn’t unfold as we had expected. Jesus continued to show us God’s way and love, and it got him killed. To stand at the foot of the cross is to encounter the worst that the world has to offer. To the end, Jesus was a witness against all earthly powers that seek to control and tear down and kill. Everything that Jesus embodied, all that he incarnated, was God’s call to life and wholeness… a call to confront injustice and to live with the deepest integrity. To stand before the tree of crucifixion is to confront the fact that the divine story isn’t always in keeping with our expectations. The story challenges us, and dares us to be change.
The poet W. H. Auden wrote:
We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And see our illusions die
A woman, who had not been to church in many years had just learned that her precious toddler had a life-threatening medical condition. On a bitterly cold day she stepped inside a church vestibule to warm up for a bit. As she stood there she was “startled by the sounds of worship, the soaring harmonies of the choir, the… clear resonant sound of prayer.” In her hour of pain and anguish Elaine Pagels, author of the book Beyond Belief, said to herself “Here is a family who knows how to face death.” The church is a place that embraces the great story of life. All of it.
In our walk through this week we will be continue to be challenged to see with new eyes, to feel death, to know deeper compassion, to give up what no longer works, and to let go of our stubborn need to be in control … that our hearts may break wide open to receive a love that is far greater that we can begin to comprehend.
I pray you a most blessed Holy Week…
John M. Buchanan, “Being Christ’s Body,” Christian Century, March 5, 2014 pg 3.