The Gospel: Mark 11:1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
The Passion: Mark 15:1-39, [40-47]
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that have you inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation and that you will empower our application. Amen
Message: A couple of years ago I shared a Message in which I raised the question "where would the world be, where would I, where would we be if Jesus Christ had never been born? Where would I, where would we be if Jesus had never come into the world?" Where would I, where would we be if the events of Holy Week had never taken place?
This Palm Sunday, This Sunday of the Passion, we reflect on the contradiction of the human reaction of the coming of the Messiah - Jesus Christ - into the city of Jerusalem. The Messiah comes into the city of God and he is initially welcomed. Well actually in the terminology of the time he is hailed, as one who is about to be proclaimed a conquering hero and a king. But shortly after that things begin to change and we see the spiritual leadership, the political leadership, and even, dare I say it, yes, even his closest followers begin to question what and who this charismatic leader is and what his role would be.
In our modern observance of these events, all of this takes place today. Historically, Palm Sunday was a separate and distinct opportunity or celebration. But in response to society pressure, the church moved The Passion into a complementary position with the Triumphal entry. What do I mean by that? Well, the number of people who were coming to Good Friday services dropped off so the church responded by moving that celebration to Sunday.
So we engage in and observe the events of Palm Sunday in the Liturgy of the Palms and then move into the observance of the Passion narrative. We condense the events of a week into a day.
One of the challenges of that process I believe is that we can tend to gloss over what is at the heart of both Palm Sunday and The Passion. We are at risk of losing the personal and emotional connection with Jesus.
In the need to cover it all we may be at risk of losing the essence of it all. Both Palm Sunday and The Passion are essentially expressions of the desire of God to become personally involved with humanity.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. He comes in humility and with a desire to relate to the people. He goes through the last supper with his disciples, the prayers in the garden, the trial, beatings, carrying his cross, and ultimately his death on the cross as an expression of God's desire to be in relationship with his people.
Making the ultimate personal sacrifice, embodying the death of one person on behalf of all of humanity, so that the law would become not a cold, intimate, set of rules and regulations, but a living and dynamic expression of love.
I have spoken a lot, over the last couple of weeks about God, the heavenly father, and his desire to come into Covenant relationship, personal relationship with us as his people.
So, I come back to my question at the beginning of this message: " what difference would it make, to me, to us, if Jesus had not come?
One of the essential parts of the answer to that question is that we would not have the opportunity or the example of a personal relationship. If Jesus had not come we would still be trying to justify the law and the Covenant. We most likely would have had about as much success as our brothers and sisters of the people of Israel. But we are living under a different Covenant, one in which Jesus fulfills all our requirements.
Now, I know a lot of people struggle with that concept. We have all kinds of struggles, don't we, with the idea that we can know God personally. As I attempt to offer you a way forward I am going to ask you another question this morning: "What if we are actually the problem?" What if we create our own dilemma? As I offer that question, and as I seek to answer it I am going to turn to one of the spiritual disciplines that I have come to lean into recently.
I am very grateful today for the fact that I came to know about the Brothers of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. That happened at Winter Convocation a few years ago. When the Bishop invited one of the Brothers to come and introduce their work and their life. Shortly after that I signed up for and started sharing the Brother Give Us A Word daily devotional with the Parish.
I don't want to speak much longer this morning so I will just say I have a bunch of thoughts I would like to share on the concept of personal relationship, but I feel like Br. Nicholas of the SSJE conceptualizes it so much better than I can.
So I am going to turn to his words from his Sermon "What if it were True?" from September 24, 2014"What if were true that the mystery we call God creates and sustains all that is, breathing life into all of creation, including His beautiful children, us, in each and every passing moment? What if it were true that being aware of His Holy presence simply meant having a heart free of the vanities of this world, the distractions of our ego? What if it were true that knowing God’s Love just meant not falling prey to and participating in the lies of this world — and remembering to whom we belong and that we’re not the ones in control.
"The only thing that separates us from God, us who seek Him, is our awareness in this moment of His presence. The Psalmist asks, 'Who can stand in His Holy place?' Well, that’s a sort of a trick question, since all we really need to do is open our eyes to see that wherever we are, we’re already standing in His presence."
Amen! Amen and Amen!