Sermon; Palm Sunday 2019
Over the past five weeks I've presented an instructed Eucharist instead of a normal sermon. I hope you found it informative, and I hope you gained some new insight into the hows and whys of what we do during our worship. If you recall, I said that the only day I normally don't preach a sermon is Palm Sunday because there really isn't anything I can add to what we have just experienced. But today, on the heels of that five-week instructed Eucharist, I thought it was important to preach, even if just a little bit.
Today, liturgically speaking, is a difficult day. We begin with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and spreading palms on the way as we proclaim him our king. We enter the church and sing, “All glory, laud, and honor.” This is shaping up to be a good day.
But then we gather to hurl slurs at this man we just honored. Instead of proclaiming Christ as our king, we proclaim we have no king but Caesar. Instead of shouting, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” we shout, “We want Barabbas! Crucify him!”
This day is liturgical whiplash.
I recently participated in an online discussion about Palm/Passion Sunday. It began when someone posted some thoughts about this day. They essentially said, “I don't like jumping the chronology (Sunday to Friday) because it only seems to be an excuse for people not to celebrate the Triduum.” In other words, this person thought the only way people would participate in Good Friday services was to cram it together with Palm Sunday.
From there people offered all kinds of thoughts, liturgical changes, and what we should do to correct this error in the Prayer Book. Several people didn't like the Palm/Passion Sunday arrangement because it's too jarring, awkward, or simply lazy. So I piped up.
“Yes, it's awkward. Yes, it's jarring. Yes, people don't like that. But how many times in life are we faced with awkward and jarring moments? How many times are we on the “good” side only to suddenly flip and be the ones to gossip, back-stab, or crucify someone else? Life doesn't always follow our well-reasoned liturgical sensibilities.”
How many of us have sat in church at one time or another, filled with that sense of joy, peace, and awe as we participate in these holy mysteries, only to leave here and find ourselves embroiled in a bitter battle with a parishioner, or at the dispensing end of road rage, or in a hell-raising argument with spouse or child? It happens. We aren't prefect. And sometimes we go from one extreme to the other in a relatively short span of time. Like today.
This is Palm/Passion Sunday. Yes, it's awkward. Yes, it's jarring. Yes, we've gone from one extreme to the other, just like we sometimes do in real life.
So let us take a few minutes to sit in silence and ponder not only our complicity in the crucifixion of Christ, but how we move from one extreme to another as we both honor and respect and then inflict pain and suffering on those who are close to us.