On Palm Sunday and the Passion Gospel

Sermon for Sunday, March 29, 2015
Palm Sunday

In the past year the Islamic State and its affiliates have opened our eyes to our capacity to commit cruelty to other human beings. Or, rather, ISIS has reminded us of our capacity for cruelty. I think we’ve known all along how inhuman we “humans” can be.   The Passion Gospel we have just heard reminds us that human cruelty is nothing new, that we’ve known all along of our ability to do things cruel and brutal.

We might think that the news has desensitized us to the shock of the Passion Gospel.   But I have a hunch that your reaction to it is similar to mine: as much as I have heard the Passion Gospel before, and as much as I read the news, hearing the Passion Gospel just now I’m feeling angry, dismayed, sad, helpless and confused.

There is no doubt the world we live in is broken and fallen… AND… there is hope. There is hope because of what we have just heard. There is hope because, in the short life he lived on this earth, Jesus shared in all our human experiences, even the experience of extreme cruelty. Because Jesus shared all of our human life, all human life has been touched by God and thus given the possibility of transformation. Because Jesus became fully human like one of us, there is no place where God has not gone, there is no experience that God has not experienced. Everything – all aspects of human life, including cruelty – has been gathered up in Christ, who brings our “fragments” before God for redemption and healing.

This week we are invited to walk with Jesus in his gathering up of these fragments. We are invited to witness first-hand how Jesus shared in human brutality as cruel as ISIS, as cruel as any racism, or abuse or greed or jealousy or hatred or any other way in which we humans can be cruel – and then to be reassured that God has – in spite of ourselves – embraced our human nature, even with all its capacity for cruelty, and that God intends to redeem and heal us.

It is not comfortable to walk the path of this week, but I encourage us to attend as many of the liturgies as we can. For as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death, we will discover that God is with us. We will come to know that, because he himself has experienced it, Jesus has redeemed it – all suffering, all cruelty and all sadness, including the grave. Jesus has trampled sin and death, and – as Easter reminds us – has brought us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. I know that I need to experience this Good News. I hope that you can come and experience it, too.

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