Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, April 10, 2022

YEAR C 2022 palm sunday

Palm Sunday, 2022
Luke 19:28-40
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 23:1-49
Psalm 31:9-16

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Palm Sunday is a bifurcated sort of day.  We start with what seems like a happy celebration, which then turns into the horrible description of the death of Jesus.  Because of the order of the service, it seems as though the Passion gets added on to the palms.  But it’s really the other way around.  This has always been the Sunday when the Church hears the story of Jesus’ death on the cross; the palms and the parade and all that came to prominence later.  And that’s important, because—as you’ll see in your prayer book—today is properly called, the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.  Some churches want to get rid of the Passion, and just do the palms.  And I get the urge, believe me.  But that is a mistake . . . and here’s why . . .

This would all be a lot more comfortable for us if we could just yell out “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  We could wave our palms in the air, or make little crosses out of them.  Take Communion together, share a cup of coffee after the service, and that would be that.  And in doing so, we would miss a key component of having these two stories together.  And that key component is “The Crowd.”

It’s helpful to see the crowds in these two stories as being the same crowd, acting in dramatically different ways.  Because that gets us a little bit closer to looking at ourselves more honestly.  In one moment The Crowd is  yelling “Blessed is the King” and throwing their cloaks down in front of the colt he’s riding.  And in the next reading, they’re yelling “Crucify him!” and casting lots to decide who gets to take his cloak home with them.  Same crowd, different day.

This is not a story about different people.  This is a story about us, and how we are.  Actually, the overall story of this day is really about us forgetting who we are, and who others are.  It is a story about losing sight of our shared humanity as beloved children of God, all made in the image of our Creator.

On this day, we rightly ask ourselves, “How does a crowd praising Jesus as King turn to condemning him to death on a cross?”  And turning to the headlines of the day, we might also ask ourselves, “How does an army, convinced they are coming to de-Nazify a nation, end up committing hundreds if not thousands of unspeakable war crimes?”  Or even this: “How does any murder, or deliberate cruelty, or genocide ever happen?”

The answer is in the othering.  The separation.  The calling someone something other than a beloved child of God.  And we do it all the time.  We do it in subtle ways by just putting the definite article before a group of people.  The Jews.  The Blacks.  The Mexicans.  The gays.  Just a little grammatical sleight of hand that says, “These ones are not like us.  They are ‘The Others’.”  And then it just gets ratcheted up, when needed.

Before and during the genocide in Rwanda, official government radio stations referred to the Tutsis as “cockroaches.”  The Nazis routinely called the Jews “rats.”  I mean, our own Constitution still says that enslaved people are 3/5 of a person.  And this all goes way, way back to the beginning of time.  Any person who looks or acts differently might be considered less than human, or lacking a soul, or even just an animal, enabling us to make them The Other.  Not like us.  Different.

But, as Paul says in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  We are all beloved children of God.  Each one just as human and valuable and loved by God as all the rest.  There is no us and them.  No human and sub-human.

And here’s the insidious thing about this particular day in the church year.  Right there in the reading, we get references to The Crowd, The Soldiers, The People.  They conveniently get “othered” right there in our hearing.  And we can smugly say to ourselves, well, I’m not like those people.  I’m not one of The Crowd.  I’m different.  I would never turn on a beloved child of God like those people did.  I’m different.  We end up wanting to other them, make them less than human, to assure ourselves that we are not like them.  But we are like them.  Because we are them.  We cannot get out of this by thinking we would have acted differently, because we still do this ourselves.  Any time we make someone different, or other, or less than, we are walking right into acting the exact same way.

There is no cure for this.  It is levels deep within us.  We are the ones who carry palms and shout praises, and we are the ones who say “away with him, crucify him.”  

But we are also the ones who say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And—like the thief on the cross—we are the ones who hear Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Listen again to Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God 
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave, 
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself 
and became obedient to the point of death-- 
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name 
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.

Lord Jesus, remember us in your kingdom.  Remember all of us in your kingdom, for we do not know what we are doing.  We still do not know what we are doing.


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