Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020
I think I need to take a moment after hearing the Passion Gospel. Every year, it’s the same, and yet every year, and especially this year, it is different.
It’s the same in the sense that the Church observes the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Each year we would have gathered outside the doors to bless palm crosses and branches and then shout, “Hosanna!” And then sing with great gusto, All Glory Laud and Honor. Every year we would have heard the Passion of our Lord, from when Jesus plans dinner with his friends, to Jesus’ body being sealed in the tomb. There are a lot of details, a lot of parts, and lots of emotions. We hear it and it’s the same each year.
But then again, it’s not. This year, we gather not here at this place, but in our homes, loving one another through physical distance, phone calls, emails, and teleconferencing. Each year we come to this same story and we bring to it all the joys and hurts we live through. There are births, and deaths, sufferings and excitements, mistakes we’ve made and the pain and learning that time has taught us since the last Palm Sunday. This COVID thing of course is more than just an inconvenience. Our separation is but one of the hurts we now live with and bring to God in prayer.
And BECAUSE we know this Passion story so well, it might be tempting for us to gloss over the details and fixate on what we will still celebrate NEXT Sunday. We still have the Triduum- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday services before we get to the main event on Easter morning. We know that Jesus will defeat evil, injustice, and other forms of death, not with the might of kings and armies, but with Love, and Resurrection.
But to know and appreciate the life that will greet us at the empty tomb, we must journey first to the cross. We can’t skip the tragedy to get to the happy ending.
The genius of our heritage as Anglicans and Episcopalians is that in Holy Week, we pull out the big moments in the story, to listen, live them, identify with them, and sit with them. On Thursday we will sit in the moment of Gethsemane. We will be like the disciples while Jesus is at prayer, and struggle to stay alert to the ways God is at work in the world. We will sit through betrayal, and come to grips with the ways we have both confessed our allegiance and denied Christ.
On Friday we will sit in the moment of death. We will journey in the Way of the Cross and hear again the pain and suffering of the Passion. The world will seemingly become dark, and the crowds who lined the streets this day and shout “Hosanna” now cry out “Crucify him.” The brokenness of humanity gathers for the spectacle of public execution. What grief do we now bring to before the cross?
In this story the ordinary all become sacred- used for a holy purpose. There is a donkey and a colt, regular livestock given fro the glory of God. There are plants, like palms, grown naturally and waived to the glory of God. There are cloaks, taken from people’s backs and spread out on the road, also for the glory of God. There will be bread and wine. A table- a table made sacred in the glory of God.
These are every day things, more or less, and they are all made holy. When you gather around your tables this week to eat, there may not be bread or wine, but let that be the table at which Christ is welcomed. And where YOU are welcomed by Christ. It is a table made holy by God’s very presence in your midst.
Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Paul reminds the Philippians that while Jesus “was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Even in his own identity, Jesus showed us how something so worldly – his very humanity – his human-ness– can be so holy – divine.
And this Jesus who empties himself to become one of us, will humble himself and do the salves work of washing his disciples feet. There he will give us a new commandment- “love one another as I have loved you.”
We are asked to love. To love those who come to the table, even if we know they will betray us. To love each other enough that it means we must keep our distance and speak to one another through masks. To love in prayer, lifting one another up to God asking for comfort in their loneliness, sickness, recovery, injury, grief, and sorrow. To love with generosity and hospitality in our heart. To love as Jesus loves, who has shown us how to seek and honor the divinity every person we see, and in all the world.
I definitely think I need to take a moment after hearing the Passion Gospel. Every year, it’s the same, and yet every year, and especially this year, it is different. Each year it is an opportunity for us to enter the story- a story of ordinary things being made holy for a purpose. Even the cross is made sacred. What do WE have available to us, as individuals and a community, that we can offer to God and make holy? Look around and see in the day-to-day and take for granted. How can we make what we have, more than just our stuff, but our hands, minds, and hearts- how can we offer them to God in thanksgiving and gratitude, that they may be use to share the Good News of God’s love?
We will hold on to Easter hope, knowing that it will soon be among us. We hold on to Easter hope as we live into the moments of betrayal, grief, injustice, violence, and grief. As we sit with the Passion of Jesus and of what is and what is to come. We hold on to Easter hope as we sit in our own moments of this plague of sickness, isolation, depression, and loneliness.
I miss you all so very much. And I hold on to the Easter hope that we will be together again. Not now, but one day.
Sometimes such hope is all we can hold on to. But THAT hope is the spark that ignites the Easter flame- a fire that is the light to drive away the darkness and reveal all that is holy.
Please continue to love one another and help us share that love. This coming week there are a number of services:
There will be a Maundy Thursday Service at 630 pm.
On Good Friday 11AM Stations of the Cross, and at 12 Noon the Good Friday Liturgy.
On Saturday- An Easter vigil at 630 pm.
And on Easter Morning at 10AM. We will have the Liturgy of the Word and we can bring back that “A” word we’ve put away for the last 6 weeks that I won’t say here.
Please also mark your calendars and check the website for info regarding our Tuesday night Lenten Study on Zoom. We continue with the Letter of 1 Timothy. Our Wednesday Morning 11am Zoom Bible Study is will explore the readings for Easter Sunday.
We are still using Zoom as our preferred platform at the moment. This week we are trying it in both Facebook live and Zoom simultaneously. It’s in the news- a thing called Zoombombing. I have tightened the settings to reduce the chance that someone will hijack the session. You are welcome to share our links with your family or friends, but we ask that you avoid posting them publicly on social media. Maybe have the links point to our webpage.
It occurred to me that the group of volunteers calling on people to ask about prayer and support is a Lei Kukui Aloha- a kukui lei of love and caring. I’ve kind of adopted the symbol of the kukui here at St. Tim’s as a symbol of the light of Christ we share with the world. I am grateful to them for their support and for reaching to every one in our directory. If there is someone you know who could benefit from a call, please let us know either by calling the office directly or through the call team.
The Rev. Daniel L. Leatherman is priest in charge of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.