Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday Sermon

5 Apr

Sermon for Palm Sunday, Year B – 4/1/12 – St. Peter’s, Kasson, MN
The Rev. Colin Maltbie, Preacher
    

    “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

    Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

We sing or say these words every time we celebrate the Eucharist… the same words of praise that were shouted at the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem on his way to fulfill his purpose in the world….

This service of Palm Sunday is wrought with tension… tension between the excitement of Jesus, the Son of God, entering into Jerusalem to take his rightful place as King of kings, and the disappointment at his seeming lack of power… at his minimal resistance to severe abuse…  and at his eventual, humiliating death on the Cross….  we begin with our spirits raised and we leave with an immense feeling of loss, of sadness, of anger, and of shame…  We have our hope in Jesus, and our hope is shattered by an ugly system of power and control… 

Messianic expectation was great in those times…  the relationship between the Jewish people and the Roman occupiers was tense and volatile…  the Chief Priests and other Jewish leaders struck a tenuous agreement with the Romans – relative mercy in return for suppression of Jewish rebellion… 

The Jewish people need a savior more than ever… and the Jewish leaders are concerned that Jesus is rocking the boat too much… that Jesus will upset the fragile balance they have been working so hard to maintain… that Jesus will bring the Romans down upon them all…

(Just about 35 years after Jesus’ death, the temple would be destroyed by the Romans after intense and violent conflict…)

In these violent times the Jewish people anticipate the Son of God to come in with sword in hand, ready to command the people to fight back…  another of the glorious battles of their scriptural history, fought with God on their side… but Jesus comes into town riding on a young donkey… a much more humble savior than they’d likely hoped for…

I have spoken before about The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis… when I ponder Jesus’ entrance into the holy city a scene from the movie adaptation of the Last Temptation comes to mind…  Jesus rides in, high on his donkey, crowds of people are in the streets, cheering… Jesus’ followers escort their teacher with pride… then they reach the temple, and Jesus charges in, overturning the money changers’ tables, and the people join with him…

there is a powerful moment when Jesus is standing above them on a platform… the Jewish people stand tense, ready for rebellion… ready to follow Jesus’ lead… and you think that Jesus might even be ready to fight… but then his hands begin to bleed where the nails will soon pierce through them into the hard wood of the Cross…  Jesus is suddenly weakened and needs help off the platform and to safety from the crowds… the temple guards and soldiers come in to squash the short-lived uprising… the sense of disappointment is just as palpable as the immense sense of power and potential just moments earlier… 

Why does Jesus, the Son of God, the one who has come to liberate us, have to die such a death?

God in His infinite love sends us Jesus to reveal the true nature of God… Jesus challenges the Roman power with love over tyranny…  Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders with a religion of love over their religious legalism and hypocrisy…  Jesus challenges the Jewish people and the people of the world with love and compassion over vengeance and retribution…

God has had enough of violence and hate… One more death is too many…

The world mourns for Trayvon Martin, a young black man who was shot and killed in Florida by a man who thought Trayvon looked suspicious…  controversy remains in the case but the evidence points toward a racially charged murder, and as of now Trayvon’s killer stands protected by Florida state law…

God has had enough of violence and hate… One more death is too many…

When will we learn?  At what point will we come to realize that one more death is too many… When will we finally beat our swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks… when will nation finally quit lifting their swords against nation?  When will we as a people finally learn to live out of love? 

World peace begins in our homes, sisters and brothers… in our faith communities, and in the communities within which we live… world peace begins in our hearts… right here in Kasson, in Mantorville, Dodge Center, and Byron… right here in Minnesota…

The Kingdom of God also begins in our hearts, sisters and brothers… and we build up the Kingdom piece by piece every time we decide to engage the world in love… yes, we must confront injustice… yes, we must respond to the cries of the oppressed… yes, we must stand against hatred… but we must do so with a desire to build up and not to destroy…

God has had enough of violence and hate… One more death is too many…

Jesus, the perfect embodiment of God’s love was crucified… yet God’s love lives on…  Our list of saints is many… those who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the Gospel… 

How many more need to die before we all wake up and begin to realize the amazing Kingdom that God is building for us… that  Jesus leads us toward?

Be of the same mind in Christ, sisters and brothers.  Let the Kingdom we build be God’s Kingdom… let the power we seek be the power of God’s love… Let God’s love flow through our lives, healing wounded relationships and restoring us to new life in Christ.

 Amen.

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