Palm Sunday, March 25th, Deacon Blaine Barclay

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Palm Sunday March 25, 2018

Today is at the same time both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.  A kind of prelude to the Easter Tridium, only in reverse.  Crowds joyfully shouting loud ‘Hosannas’, and a short time later shouting all the more, ‘Crucify Him’.  A rare Sunday of two gospels, one of joyful expectation, the other of self-emptying God-forsaken-ness; and Jesus at the center of both dramas.  The shifting shouting crowd showing to us the duplicity of the human heart.

Palm Sunday, the buildup to the great feast of Passover; Jerusalem filled to overflowing with Jewish pilgrims from throughout the empire, an oppressive empire that was crushing them under its boot.  Into this situation of political helplessness, and disempowerment, comes Jesus’, so called, ‘triumphant entry into Jerusalem’, riding on a colt, a small donkey.  The crowd wild with joy, and hope, and expectation.  Making a highway of their cloaks and palm branches, rolling out of the royal red carpet, so to speak. ‘Hosanna’, they shouted, as they sang their Messianic hymn; ‘Help us’, ‘Save us’, ‘Rescue us’, ‘Hosanna’, an anguished cry for liberation.

But there is a kind of irony in the text.  Yes, they identify Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.  But they want him to be a military messiah, Son of David, the general, the king, riding on a warhorse, with a sword in his hand, leading their armies, victorious against the dreaded Roman rulers.  Instead, here comes Jesus messiah, Son of David the shepherd, on a small donkey, teaching non-violent love of enemies, taking a stand against the Roman Goliath, armed only with a radical self-emptying love. ’’He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… [to the point of] death on a cross’’, says Paul to the Philippians today.  Such is the Lordship of Christ, a self-emptying sovereignty, the one, ’’with the tongue of a teacher, able to sustain the weary with a word’’, as our first reading tells us.

And what is his word for us today?  His wooded word of the Cross, his passion which takes upon itself, embraces, all of our struggles, our fear of death, our experience of violence, rejection, betrayal, deserted even by our closest friends, being left alone, with spittle and blood on our face, staring into the abyss of dusty death.  Jesus knows us, from the inside, right down to the bottom of our humanity. ’’If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’’, says Jesus. (Matt. 16:24).  He knows even our experience of God-forsaken-ness. ’’My God my God, why have you forsaken me’’?

Today, with our outward ears we have following the story of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  How are we to follow him with the ear of our heart?  Not just to listen to the passion narrative, going in one ear and coming out the other, so to speak, but to live our lives under the imperative of the Cross?

I got a book just the other day, which I am excited about reading.  The title is “God’s Gamble”.  The subtitle, “The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love’’.  Even without reading it, isn’t that a great title?  I repeat, ’’God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love’’.

Have I even begun to let myself be drawn, pulled in, attracted by, the power of this self-emptying love?  What could it mean to experience the Cross of Christ as a thing of Beauty?  What happens to the whole category of the Beautiful, when the shattered, broken body of Jesus, becomes for us a theme of contemplation?  How to live our lives under the gaze of the Cross, of the broken Jesus?  We bring to him our brokenness, our wounded, scarred, half lived lives, and he makes of them a thing of Beauty, and part of the gravitational power of crucified lo