Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
The Day of Pentecost June 12, 2011 Day of Pentecost Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23
7th Sunday of Easter -Ascension June 5, 2011 Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A Acts 1:6-14; I Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11
Sixth Sunday After Easter May 29, 2011 Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year A Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14: 15-21
Fifth Week in Easter May 22, 2011 5th Sunday in Easter Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; I Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Fourth Sunday in Easter May 15, 2011 Fourth Sunday in Easter, Year A John 10:1-10
Third Sunday of Easter May 8, 2011 Third Sunday of Easter, Year A Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23
Second Sunday in Easter, Year A May 1, 2011 Second Sunday of Easter, Year A Acts 2:14a, 22-32, I Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31
Easter Sunday April 24, 2011 Easter Day, 2011 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18
Good Friday April 22, 2011 Good Friday John 18:1-19:42
Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011 April 21, 2011 Maundy Thursday 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011 April 17, 2011 Palm Sunday Mathew 27
Fifth Sunday in Lent – Raising of Lazarus April 10, 2011 Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45
Fourth Sunday in Lent April 3, 2011 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A John 9:1-41; Psalm 23
Second Sunday in Lent, Year A March 20, 2011 Second Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 12: 1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17, Psalm 121
First Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2011 March 13, 2011 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19, Romans 8:18-25


Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sermon Date:April 17, 2011

Scripture: Mathew 27

Liturgy Calendar: Palm Sunday

This Sunday’s liturgy is the most jarring liturgy of the year.

As a congregation, we find ourselves rejoicing at the beginning of the service, imagining ourselves as part of the triumphant crowd surrounding Jesus as he enters Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling the ancient prophecy in Zechariah.

And then, only a few minutes later, we find ourselves betraying Jesus along with Judas, and calling for his death along with the crowd by shouting “Crucify him!”

Trust and betrayal, joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy,  life and death—all rolled up in this one hour of worship.  The great arch of the story carries us through the wrenching events of Holy Week toward  the joy that we will experience together next Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. 

This schizophrenic liturgy is also powerful because it mirrors our own lives.

Don’t we find ourselves experiencing these same conflicting paradoxes all the time?  The temptation is to give in to one thing or the other—

Like the crowds shouting Hosanna, we can be so caught up in joy that we refuse to see or acknowledge the underlying darkness that is a constant part of living in a world where people are still broken and full of sin.  Evil in our world is alive and well. 

Or, we can be so caught up in dwelling in what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with us, that in despair, we worry and grieve our way through endless days, never noting the built in joys that God has placed all around us as reminders of the fact that our Risen Christ is alive and well, and hard at work in the world around us. 

Every Sunday, we participate in this paradox.  As we celebrate the Eucharist, we remember the horrible death of Jesus, while at the same time celebrating his resurrection, as we await his coming in glory at the end of time. 

Our worship together today reminds us that holding the opposites, the paradoxes together in our lives  is of the utmost importance—sometimes even a matter of life and death. 

Maybe some of you read the article that appeared on Saturday in the Free Lance-Star about Marine Corporal Clay Hunt. 

This young man, only twenty-eight years old, a recipient of the Purple Heart, served in both Iraq and returned for another tour in Afghanistan. 

The article describes him as “handsome and friendly, so epitomizing a vibrant Iraq veteran that he was chosen for a public service announcement reminding veterans that they aren’t alone.”  Clay “lobbied for veterans on Capitol Hill, road-biked with wounded veterans and performed humanitarian work in Haiti and Chile.” 

And yet, on March 31st of this year, Hunt locked himself into his apartment and shot himself to death. 

The side of Hunt that the public did not want to see, and did not allow Hunt to acknowledge fully, was his struggle with survivor’s guilt, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

What we wanted to see was only the good side—a soldier returned from war with as the paper put it, “boundless energy, countless friends, an example of how to live life after combat,” 

a hero undamaged by the horror and evil of war, the blood, the killing, the suffering, someone who had to live with the fact that death lay in wait for him and for his buddies every minute of the day and night.

We wanted Clay Hunt to live a perpetual Palm Sunday. He did not feel free to acknowledge the fact that inside, he was also living a never ending horrid and painful crucifixion. 

Hunt must have felt overwhelmed by this jarring juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy in his own life.

We don’t have Clay Hunt’s last words or thoughts before he pulled the trigger and shot himself to death.

But we have heard the last words of Jesus as he hung dying on the cross—

“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus was so close to God throughout his life.  He was a man of prayer, of faith, a man who lived out the very Word of God in his life.  He brought the kingdom of God right here to us.

And yet, Jesus was betrayed and deserted by his disciples. His message of love and peace was rejected by the crowd who had followed him and now called for his crucifixion. He received no justice in what turned out to be a mock trial–

Jesus even felt forsaken by God, so forsaken that he cried out from the cross for everyone within earshot to hear. 

And that cry was not only for himself, but for every human being on the face of this earth, throughout all of human history, who has felt forsaken—for each and every one of us in the horrible things that we have experienced and kept more or less hidden from the world.

That cry echoes down the centuries—and that cry ricocheted off the walls of Clay Hunt’s apartment with the explosion of  the bullet leaving the gun that killed him, just as it echoed through the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the killing fields of Rwanda, just as it echoes around countless bedsides of the dying, in mental institutions, through nursing homes and orphanages….

This cry reverberates around anyone and  anything in creation that has been forsaken.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve heard this cry echoing in our own lives—

“God, why have you forsaken me?”—the deepest paradox of all for us, the faithful ones. 

This feeling of forsakenness that all of us have, sooner or later in our lives, is the reason that this schizophrenic service and all of the experiences of Holy Week are so important to each and every one of us.

The events of Holy Week teach us that we are never alone in our forsakenness.  Jesus is there with us too, crying out for us, on our behalf. 

The events of Holy Week calls us to live authentic, honest lives. 

Saying yes to our forsakenness, to our need for God, to our need for one another through the hard times of our lives, ultimately helps us to experience a fullness of life that is otherwise impossible.   

And when we are in those blessed parts of our lives that are full of joy, the experiences of this week remind us that a majority of people in this world are experiencing forsakenness—without enough food to eat, walking miles for water each day, living as refugees in war-torn areas.  As Christians, even in our joys, we are called to remember and to do what we can to help the forsaken ones, not only those around us but all of the forsaken around the world. 

 And so we go through the blessings of Holy Week, daring  to go with our Lord who will also be forsaken –and to receive his commandments to love and serve one another, to remember him in the breaking of the bread, to keep watch with him in the garden, to stand at the foot of the cross, to hear the story of our salvation, to witness the mystery of baptism and the miracle of new light—

We experience all of these things

 so that when we feel the earth quake under our feet in the darkness and run to the tomb, only to find ourselves peering into emptiness—

Our eyes will be open to see the angel dressed in white that looks like lightening, splitting the darkness with light

And our ears will be open to hear that angel break the awful silence with these words of light and life—

“Do not be afraid.  He has been raised.”


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