|Easter 5, Year C||May 19, 2019||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 12, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Psalm 23; John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 5, 2019||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 28, 2019||Easter 2, Year 2||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, 2019||April 21, 2019||Easter Sunday||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, 2019||April 19, 2019||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019||April 18, 2019||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year C||April 14, 2019||Palm Sunday, Year C||Luke 23:26|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||April 7, 2019||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Palm Sunday, Year B
Sermon Date:March 25, 2018
Scripture: Mark 15:1-39, [40-47]
Liturgy Calendar: Palm Sunday, Year B
Part of today’s gospel describes a common sight around the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus. One of the ways that the Romans kept “peace” was to crucify enemies of the state and criminals and to hang those enemies on crosses, where the bodies stayed until they rotted away or were eaten by birds of prey—gruesome reminders of the fact that the great Pax Romana as it was known, was in reality no peace at all.
After a while, people in the streets must have looked the other way, turning their heads as they made room for yet another gathering of soldiers and the person being taken to his death. Maybe they turned down some side street to get out of the way entirely. They certainly didn’t try to resist, because resistance would have been futile.
The world was just the way it was.
Or was it?
Our world is just the way it is.
Or is it?
Yesterday I was in a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Washington DC, the current seat of power in this nation.
The irony was not lost on me that on the day before Palm Sunday, we were part of an enormous procession, people crowded together as those who came into Jerusalem for the Passover each year crowded the streets of that city. And that we too, were witnessing what people witnessed on that day that Jesus was marched off to the cross.
Hundreds of thousands of us watched on jumbotrons and listened to the children of our nation told their stories of the violence that they have already experienced in their young lives. Friends dying beside them in classrooms, their brothers and sisters being shot down in the street on the way home from school, innocent lives lost by gun violence. Every speaker yesterday was a young person.
Take a deep breath.
We have been together now for a long time. By now you should know that I am not going to tell you what to think about the solution for gun violence in this country. I would be wrong to use my position to tell you that there is only one Christian response to one of the most volatile political issues of the day.
But it is also my job to raise the issues here that we as Christians must face if we are truly followers of our Lord and Savior. And I have often failed at that job, because I don’t like to be uncomfortable, and I really don’t like making the people I love uncomfortable.
At least I’m in good company. The disciples themselves were so uncomfortable witnessing what happened to Jesus that they couldn’t watch. They responded to their discomfort by sleeping in the garden, running away when Jesus was arrested, openly denying him, and being nowhere to be found at his crucifixion. And no wonder.
Today’s gospel should make all of us uncomfortable, not just about what happened to Jesus two thousand years ago, but uncomfortable about how that story continues to play out today.
For over two thousand years, Christians have heard the story we just heard, about an innocent man dying.
The death of Jesus was not just another death. Darkness came over the land. As Jesus breathed his last, the curtain in the temple that sheltered the holy of holies was torn apart. The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ dying breath cried out, “Truly this man was God’s son.”
We wait for a week, and then celebrate Easter. The story comes round right. Jesus was raised from the dead.
And that’s the travesty of it all for me, standing here before you today, that we Christians know the end of the story, two thousand years have passed, and the world is still torn apart by people hating on each other, in subtle life sucking ways, and that in our country right now gun violence has become a norm that we all just live with, and not only live with, but argue and fight about among ourselves while innocent people continue to die unnecessarily.
So I want to tell you about yesterday and ask you to give me the same attention you gave to the news commentators who described March for our Lives.
Because as I stood with hundreds of thousands of others and listened to our children tell these stories, I thought of all of us. I thought what it would have been like if all of us here today had all gone to this march. I thought about what I would need to say today in place of the sermon I already had written and ready to go.
And here’s what I want to tell you about the march.
Yes, of course, on one level the march was political. But go with me beyond the politics of our current party system.
Ultimately, the politics of this march were broader and deeper than party politics. The politics on display by the speakers yesterday were about politics in its truest and deepest sense—the politics of how we live together as people in this nation.
And the political stance that our young people took was the politics of love for one another. One young man talked about the fact that we are all family and how the politics of love could change how we live together as family in this nation. As I imagined you there, I knew that you would have agreed with this kind of politics. It’s the political way we have of being here together each Sunday as we worship and work together as staunch Republicans and Democrats who don’t see eye to eye on so many things.
So that’s the first thing I wanted to tell you about the march—that it served as a reminder to me and I hope to all of us, that we must transcend our particular politics to be able to ever see and then to act on God’s politics of love.
The second thing I want to tell you is that this march was also like being at a memorial service, this memorial service being for the friends and family members that the young people talked about yesterday.
One speaker named all of the people who were killed at her school on Ash Wednesday. And then we waited, mostly in silence, as the minutes ticked away as the speaker stood in silence. I was fortunate enough to be leaning against a tree, and the only other time I have felt the way I felt yesterday was when I was in Jerusalem, praying at the Wailing Wall, my hand against the stones that have silently witnessed the passing of history, the stones that people touch as they’ve continued, over thousands of years to pray to a God that they believe is listening, praying not only for the peace of Jerusalem, but for God’s peace for the world.
Today we have heard the story of Jesus dying on a cross in Jerusalem. Yesterday, our nation heard the stories of children dying in our schools and on our streets.
And so today we have a choice. We can be like some of the people in the crowd that witnessed that procession to the cross and just averted their eyes. We can be like the disciples and sleep and run away and be in denial. We can avoid looking at what is going on in our world today by telling ourselves, “That’s just the way the world is.”
Or we can take a good long uncomfortable look at how the world is and ask ourselves, “Does the world really have to be this way?” and also these questions, “How is God asking me, and asking us, to participate in God’s politics? How is God asking us to be disciples—uncomfortable disciples—to work for God’s peace in our families, and not just our individual families, but in our national family?”
I don’t have the answer for either of those questions.
But it’s up to all of us to seek the answers and work for peace, and not let the death and resurrection of Jesus go to waste.