March 25, 2018 – Palm Passion Sunday

Palm-Passion Sunday    March 25, 2018   Psalm 118, John 12:12-16, Mark 14-15

*****************************************************************

If we remember just one thing today – I hope it will be – Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray.

We’ve sung these words spoken by Jesus. Stay with me. Remain with me. Watch and pray with me. One of the simplest things Jesus asks us to do.

Yet it can be difficult to stay close to someone suffering. Keeping company with people suffering didn’t come naturally for me. I’ve had to learn by doing over the years.

Being willing to share in the suffering of others (of course) is part of our job description as Christians. Jesus tells us love one another. It’s his first commandment. And I’ve learned… being there for people in the midst of difficulties and suffering is a very big part of what it means to love.

And what Jesus asks from us is really not so hard, in perspective. Even though I’m a slow learner, I do want to spend time with those I love when they’re  hurting.

And the vicarious suffering Jesus asks us to share with him in Holy Week is small indeed compared with his own actual experience. Jesus has been through the worst imaginable for us…

And – we’ve already accompanied him to the cross and the grave today. Remaining with him through the rest of this holy week ought to be less difficult. Especially as we understand… The worst pain for Jesus is not being beaten and whipped… nor even the nails of the cross.

The worst pain for Jesus…. is his friends denying him and fleeing away… and being left alone.

That’s why he asks us – Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray.

Last week I came across a meditation by Pastor Anne Jernberg (written for Christian Century magazine) about a retreat in a monastery she participated in.  She writes, “I was on my knees in a monastery…. imagining being in the garden of Gethsemane as the brothers and other worshipers and I gathered and sang the Taize refrain “Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray” over and over again. It was then that I realized that Jesus needed me to walk with him…”

(She continues–)

“I had come to the monastery that evening for a brief respite from my studies. I left four hours later with bruised knees, an aching back, a raspy voice and a growling stomach. To top it off, I felt guilty because I didn’t stay through the night. (The brothers began singing that night and continued to sing in shifts until the Good Friday service the following afternoon.)” But, she says –

…“I experienced something that night. [As–] Someone read the words Jesus prayed in the garden, “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done”… we were instructed to get on our knees and begin singing. That was it – one brief scripture followed by 18 hours of singing four simple phrases.”

“Some sang the phrases through a few times and then got up and left… others lasted longer…. The length of our stay was not as important as the fact that we stayed – we remained with Jesus.”

She goes on to say how this experience radically changed her understanding of Jesus. Seeing, she said, for the first time, how easy it can be to overlook the human side of Jesus – and his human need, his fervent desire for human companionship. Here, in what has to be the worst week of his life, Jesus knows he’s been betrayed by a friend, denied by another friend, and he already knows nearly all the others will soon flee away in the night and abandon him. In the garden he asks his friends and followers – Stay with me – remain here with me – watch and pray – watch and pray

All we do for Jesus we also do for one another. All we truly do for one another we do for him.

Lord help us to be there for you. And for one another.

Amen.