Sermon; Palm Sunday C; Luke 22:14 - 23:56
I don't normally preach on this day. I know that, according to the rubrics of the BCP, a sermon is required at every celebration of the Eucharist; but on Palm/Passion Sunday when we have gone from singing, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” to yelling out, “We want Barabbas! Crucify him!” there is nothing I can say that you haven't already contemplated.
I can't answer the question of why we turned on an innocent man. I can't tell you why we who proclaimed Jesus as King of kings suddenly opted for the release of Barabbas, a known insurrectionist and murderer, and cried out for the execution of Jesus. I can't answer these or other questions. Nor will I attempt to ease your guilt about your participation in these events by fast-forwarding to Easter, or by saying you weren't there, because you were there. We were all there. The only words I have to offer are these: find time to pray.
These are events and behaviors we must sit with, and this is why I don't normally preach on this day, because sometimes it's important for us to just sit in silence as we deal with, contemplate on, and pray over, the events we have just experienced.
But today is different.
As I was thinking about this Palm/Passion Sunday and the whiplash event it is, I began to also think about these past two years.
On March 8, 2020, the Second Sunday in Lent, we were following the COVID outbreak in the news. That Sunday morning as people were filing into church to worship, someone stuck their foot out at me, and said, “That's how people in China are greeting each other now.”
On March 11, I celebrated a mid-week Eucharist in Saint Mary's Chapel. On March 12, I was notified by the Bishop that we needed to close our doors for worship for at least two weeks. Later I was notified that we needed to close our doors indefinitely. While not fully closed for two years, we have been adversely affected over that time in any number of ways. Everything from “sheltering in place” to physical and social distancing to watching our health care system stretched to the breaking point to experiencing the stress of wondering how we were going to get through this to the rise of Delta, Omicron, and now BA.2.
A kind of delayed humorous side note: We ended our Vestry retreat on March 5th this year with Communion. I popped into Saint Mary's to get the chalice, paten, and wine only to discover the dirty dishes from that final Eucharist two years ago. But I digress . . .
The whiplash of this morning when we go from, “All glory, laud, and honor . . .” to, “Crucify him!” in the span of 15 or 20 minutes, although not equally comparable, can be likened to the whiplash we felt in going from worshiping together on March 8 to being closed for two weeks and then indefinitely.
In those early days of COVID I struggled to make sense of what was going on. In those early hours of that Friday the disciples struggled to make sense of what had just happened. In those early days of COVID I wondered about the well-being of our parishioners who were scattered throughout three states, sheltering in place not daring to go outside. In those early hours after the crucifixion the disciples were scattered throughout the city and country where their well-being was in doubt, and they were in hiding, sheltering in place in a safe house not daring to go outside.
Palm/Passion Sunday reminds us things are topsy-turvy. The COVID pandemic threw everything in our lives topsy-turvy. We are hurting. We are confused. We have questions. But right now there are no answers. It seems that right now, in the whiplash of this day and in reflecting on the whiplash of these past two years, the only words I have to offer are these:
Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.