The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
14 April 2019
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, C
“Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you;
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”
Here we are again,
this day where we make yet another turn.
All through Lent
I’ve talked about the need to turn around
when we miss the mark.
We’ve talked about
and repented of
the evil we have done,
the evil that enslaves us,
and the evil done on our behalf.
Now we’re turning from Lent to Holy Week.
We’re turning from learning to live like Jesus,
including his death,
to remembering the last week of his life.
Last week in adult ed Maureen reminded us
that for many years
last week would have been Passion
and today only Palms.
Today we start with a parade of palms,
crying hosanna to the Son of David.
We end by hearing of his death,
and his friends watching from a distance.
It’s confusing in some ways.
It’s familiar, too.
How often do we leave church
ready to work with zeal for God’s reign,
only to forget and fall back in to our usual routines,
turning our backs on,
or standing at a distance from
the one who feeds us on his very flesh and blood?
Are today’s juxtaposed gospel texts
not a snapshot of the tensions of our Christian lives?
Throughout Lent we've been preparing
to renew our baptismal promises next week.
We’ve lived alongside Jesus,
preparing to promise again to follow him deeply.
Living with Jesus, following Jesus,
means following him to the cross,
giving up ourselves as he gives himself up at the end.
We turn today from living with Jesus
to re-living his last week with him
Hearing Palms and Passion today,
then hearing Passion again Friday,
As the Rev. Cn. Dr. Dr. Kara Slade,
canon theologian for the Diocese of New Jersey
said on Twitter two weeks ago,
“[I]t is temporally confusing, nonlinear, and disruptive. …
[T]his is theologically appropriate,
considering that the cross and resurrection
is the most temporally disruptive thing possible.”
God in flesh named Jesus,
giving of himself for humanity,
and then defeating the death --
death which has always haunted humanity --
It disrupts the natural order.
This week is about being disrupted,
shaken from our routines,
reflecting on Jesus’ mortality as he is fully human,
and defeat of death next week as he is fully divine.
In Luke’s Passion Gospel today,
we have Jesus being particularly cagey.
When Pilate asks if he’s the king of the Jews,
Jesus says that those are Pilate’s words.
Pilate is one of the few people
who can sentence someone to death.
He’s not convinced
that this is the appropriate punishment
for Jesus of Nazareth.
When Pilate announces that,
the main complaint
among those who want Jesus killed?
“He stirs up the people by teaching
throughout all Judea,
from Galilee where he began
even to this place.”
After a back and forth
between Herod and Pilate
Pilate is still not convinced
of the necessity of the death penalty.
“I have examined him in your presence
and have not found this man guilty
of any of your charges against him.
Neither has Herod,
for he sent him back to us.
Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death.
I will therefore have him flogged and release him.”
Beloved, this is where we step in.
The charges against Jesus
are teaching and upsetting the people…
by notcalling for armed insurrection.
By declaring the favor of the Holy One of Old
Jesus insisted that what is is not what must be.
When we are pushed
to challenge the places we find comfort
we get defensive.
By challenging the reality of Roman life
without insisting on violent overthrow,
Jesus moved people beyond defensive.
They wanted easy answers,
and the easy answer was to kill the teacher.
Jesus, the Child of the Creator,
lived with and died because of us.
For millennia our brokenness
has blinded us to the ways we aren’t perfect.
When non-religious friends
tell me they have never sinned,
I ask if they’ve never hurt anyone:
never lied to them
never broken their trust.
That’s sin y’all.
No guilt or shame about whatever else required.
Relationships are broken.
Today we see how we respond
to Jesus telling us the truth.
We ask for a murderer instead.
We’re scared of the freedom
that comes with truthfulness
especially systemic truthfulness.
(Come back Friday for more on that.)
Jesus is fully God and fully human.
Hanging from the tree we put him on,
he still pleads for our redemption,
giving us the benefit of the doubt
about not knowing what we’re doing.
May we open ourselves
to see how we crucify the teachers of liberty,
and spread our arms open
to Jesus who lives us freedom.
William Dix, “What child is this?” v. 2