April 14, 2019

Palm-Passion Sunday  April 14, 2019   Psalm 118, Luke 19:29-40, 22:14-34,39-23:49

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I’ve often found joy in Lent… any time I manage to spend even a little more time in prayer and other spiritual practices… But I need to confess… Sometimes even in holy week…even in Jesus’ last week with disciples in the flesh… I’ve been caught up in hurrying and busyness… as if Holy Week – even Holy Week – is a list of things to do and check off… on the way to Easter…

Now to be sure – without Easter and resurrection from the dead – there’s nothing good about Good Friday. Nothing good about Christ’s cross.

But because Jesus has risen from the dead – Holy Week – starting with Palm-Passion Sunday today – including Maundy Thursday, Good Friday,  Saturday Easter vigil – Holy Week is virtually as important as Easter – at least for those who are believers… Because resurrection life, yes, is our destination. But unless we can identify with Jesus in his sorrows, suffering, rejection, and death… it’s almost impossible to know and recognize Jesus… risen from the dead…(and…)

I’m pretty sure I understand the importance of Holy Week theoretically. But it’s hard to remember all the theory…when life’s feeling like systems overload.

So I can identify with the first disciples…Who seem to be getting very anxious, sensing something terrible is about to happen. Which has them now acting rather clueless. Arguing with each other – at-of-all-places, the Last Supper – talk about bad table manners! Arguing about which of them should be considered the greatest.

Then, as Jesus is arrested, asking him ‘should we strike with the sword?’Not waiting for his answer – cutting off the ear of a poor slave of the high priest – before Jesus can complete his sentence saying “No more of that!”

Then promising solemnly to follow Jesus all the way to prison and death… Not hearing well, as Jesus replies – “tonight you will deny you even know me three times before the cock crows morning…”

In order to not be too harsh on these first disciples… remember – life has been a blur for them lately…As they’ve followed Jesus as he parades into Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (– the same way kings paraded to their inaugurations in Israel of old). Crowds are shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord…” Covering the streets with cloaks… (other gospels mention palm branches…)

And remember – Jerusalem is headquarters for the religious establishment who have been out to get Jesus for a long time now.  We’ve heard Jesus tell disciples three times that he must go up to Jerusalem, where he’ll be rejected, suffer, and be killed… before rising from the dead… So far none of his disciples  seem to have heard or believed Jesus on this one. And at first, everything seems to be going really well… As crowds gather early every morning, listening attentively to his every word… as Jesus teaches in the temple courtyards…And the authorities are afraid to arrest Jesus in public, fearing the crowds…

Till Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, betrays Jesus… Who then is arrested in the dark of night – kept prisoner first at the house of the high priest – then taken early morning for interrogation by the council of priests and scribes – then on to Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, accused of crimes against nation and empire – then brought before Herod, Roman governor of Galilee and other northern provinces (– both governors are in town to monitor security during the Passover holidays) – finally back to Pilate for sentencing…

We don’t know how large the crowd has become as the day goes on…But the gospel implies at least some who were enthusiastically all-for-Jesus a day or two ago have switched sides. And, goaded on by religious leaders, now join in crying – ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ (Crowd behavior becomes mob behavior… and now…)

Even his closest friends and disciples scatter. And just as Jesus predicted – Simon Peter denies three times that he even knows Jesus…

And as Jesus finally hangs suffering, dying on the cross… only a thief crucified with him… and a Roman centurion standing guard… (who has possibly assisted with his crucifixion) are perceptive enough… to name Jesus as the innocent, holy, heavenly king he is…

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Holy Week, for sure…can be a lot… But as all the apostles, prophets, saints, and mystics tell us – any time we’re able to really listen and hear the story…anytime we’re able to let the gospel touch our heart… speak to the depth of our being… Anytime we can identify with Jesus (even a little) in his suffering… in his sacrifice… Anytime we turn our hearts in his direction…

We make glad the very heart of Jesus… and…

We’re already well on the way… to resurrection life…

Thanks be to God.

Amen.