Monday, March 17, 2008

Sometimes they strew his way

Today is Saint Patrick's Day, and there will be parades if you want to attend one. But today is also Monday in Holy Week. Here is a portion of my sermon from yesterday:

Welcome to Holy Week. This morning we started our liturgy outside. We followed church tradition by blessing the palm branches. We read Matthew’s Gospel account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We read a portion of Psalm 118 and processed up to the altar with our palm branches. Our “parade” was pre-planned.

Have you ever been in a parade? Maybe you marched in the band or rode on a float. The parade in which you participated was probably well-organized. But when it was over, did you have a desolate feeling when you looked around at all the litter cluttering the streets? Did the streets seem lonely and different after the parade was over?

Jesus had planned his entry into Jerusalem, but the parade around him seemed spontaneous. It had all the flavor of a combination religious festival and crowning of a new king. The crowd was shouting “Hosanna” which means “save now.” Once again the crowd, perhaps unwittingly, was attempting to take Jesus by force and make him king. On previous occasions, such as the feeding of the five thousand, when the people attempted to take Jesus by force and make him king, he escaped and went off to the mountain to pray. But not this time. This time was different.

This time Jesus went straight into Jerusalem. His time had come. If the people had not shouted “Hosanna,” the rocks would have cried out. Jesus was indeed going to manifest himself as their king, but not in the way they expected. Jesus knew what he was going to do. He knew what he would do after the parade was over -- after the crowd had gone their separate ways. The people would get more than a king. They would get a savior, but once again he would not meet their expectations. For now, the crown he would get would be a crown of thorns. His throne would be the cross, and his royal robes would be a part of the mockery by his torturers.

According to Matthew’s Gospel, when the parade was over Jesus’ moments on earth were numbered. He entered the temple and upset the tables of the money changers, and drove out those who sold doves. They were taking up space in the Court of the Gentiles, and Jesus made room for God’s house to be a “House of Prayer for all peoples.” He cured the blind and the lame in the Temple. And that was just the First Day of the Week. This excitement would die down and by Friday some will have turned on Jesus and will be crying out for his crucifixion.

Jesus spent that night in Bethany, then Monday he was back in the temple, and the crowd was “spellbound by his teaching.” This upset some leaders to the point that they wanted to kill Jesus, but at this time “they feared the crowds.” Jesus and his disciples left the city unharmed.

Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week are the days about which we know very little. We could speculate that our Lord spent those days teaching, praying, and preparing his disciples for what was to come. It would be a tough week for all of them -- so much to teach and learn, so little time left. Meanwhile the enemies of Jesus were looking for a way to kill him secretly. They did not want to cause a political uproar for fear of losing their jobs. Imagine their delight when Judas, one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, went straight to Jesus’ enemies and offered to betray Jesus into their hands.

Thursday is the day about which we know something very significant. It was on Thursday of Holy Week that Jesus gave the commandment that we should love one another as Jesus loves us. From the elements of bread and wine at the Passover meal, Jesus instituted what we call “Holy Eucharist,” “Holy Communion,” or “The Lord’s Last Supper.” He said, “This is my body . . . this is my blood.” “Love one another as I have loved you. Break this bread; drink this wine; do this in remembrance of me.” Every time we gather at this altar, we remember the Lord’s death until he comes again in power and great glory.

Jesus would get one last parade on earth. It would be on Good Friday. As the Roman Soldiers paraded Jesus down the Via Dolorosa to the Place of the Skull, another procession happened spontaneously. Some faithful followers would go with Jesus to Golgotha and a tomb in a nearby garden. Instead of riding triumphantly on a beast of burden, Jesus would be carrying his cross. We can join in this parade. This chapel will be available Friday. If you wish to come here from noon until three and pray, that would be a matter of your private devotion. Then at 6:15 that evening we will have a solemn service.

Jesus did not jump automatically from Palm Sunday to Easter, and neither should we. It is good for us to feel the full weight of the events of Holy Week. This will make our celebration of Easter all the more glorious. We can get into that last parade and follow Jesus to Calvary and the tomb. It’s a tough trip, and Jesus invites us to travel with him.

What did Jesus do after that last parade? We’ll save that sermon for next Sunday. But here’s a hint – it’s Good News!

In peace,

The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

Photo: pilgrims in Israel, 2004

1 comment:

Jay Popat said...

I like the sunrise picture on your blog.

Jay Popat