Walking In The Way

Trinitarian Congregational Church                                                                     Palm Sunday

Anthony S. Kill                                                                                             March 25, 2018

Texts: Philippians 2:1-11, Mark 14:1-15:47


Today is the only Sunday of the church year when we are invited to read the entire account to the passion and death of Jesus of Nazareth, And in my mind, the reason we need to do so, to re-tell the story, and re-hear its awful, bitter details is because we need to bring the whole story of Jesus into our stories, and let him be with us, be our companion on every aspect of our journeys – our journey through life, and our journey into death.

For us Christians, the story of Jesus’ living and dying is not just the story of one man. It is the story of the Chosen One of God, our champion and savior and guide.

Is your path hard sometimes, and do you stumble under your burdens? Jesus has walked there too. Does it seem that your friends betray you, and enemies laugh at your misfortune? Jesus has walked there too. Do you ever feel abandoned by God, forgotten by the world, and left to suffer alone? Jesus has walked there too. If your suffering ever seems unbearable and completely unfair, and you mutter to yourself that ‘no good deed goes unpunished,’ and you wonder how a loving God can allow such awful things to happen in our world, Jesus has walked there too.

Jesus has walked there for us, with us, before us. But the story doesn’t stop there. In our retelling, we also recall to mind that this is not only a story of suffering and sorrow in the end. It is also a story of victory and hope.

Palm Sunday’s double message, of triumphal march and suffering servant announces a dual reality: Christ embraced the cross. He said his hour of final suffering would be the hour of his glorification.

He waded into his passion and betrayal boldly, because he was doing battle for us and for the world he loved, the world of his Father. Christ came into the fray of human suffering and human violence and human evil purposefully. He came into the fray as rescuer. And he does so still. He does so in every generation, in every situation.

As we stand and sing and give witness to the power of Christ’s passion, waving victory palms, Christ enters the gates of the city again — Jerusalem, yes – and also North Andover and Lawrence and Boston and Parkland, Florida. We stand and sing and give witness and Christ enters the city again – 21st century Jerusalem, Israel and Jericho, Palestine, and Paris, France and Ghouta, Syria and Kabul, Afghanistan.

When we proclaim the remembered anguish of Jesus, we are bringing the power and depth of the Christ’s passion into the here and now. We are affirming our faith that there is no distance between Jesus’ lament and the lament of suffering humankind today.

The words of today’s readings echo in our hearts because they express anguish that we have known personally in the process of living our own lives. The words of the Passion also echo in our hearts because we have felt the pain of the world’s anguish echo there also. In recounting the injustice and agony faced by Jesus, God’s own man, the model and pioneer of all humanity, we draw all the senseless suffering and injustice endured by so much of humanity into one cry. Here in our remembering and our prayer we give voice to women and men whose crushing anguish seems so anonymous and so voiceless to us, even though we hear of it every day in every news medium.

Today we proclaim our belief that their cries, all of our cries, do reach the only one who can save us, the very one who has entered into the city to take that anguish upon himself and make it his own. The suffering ones no longer suffer alone. The dying ones no longer die alone. And those who reject and close their ears to the suffering ones reject and ignore not only the little ones, but the Lord of the Universe as well.

In Christ’s embrace of our suffering, of the world’s suffering, the suffering itself is touched, is changed. The anguish is still very real, surely. It isn’t dissipated or alleviated or numbed.

But it is touched by the promise and the power and the hope that Christ found through his passion. It is touched and uplifted by the hope of victory and vindication that next Sunday’s liturgy will proclaim.

To walk the way of Jesus’ passion is to walk through the garden of agony, the praetorium of condemnation, and the Golgotha of death. But it is also to walk to the early morning tomb, to hear a new hope, a new triumph proclaimed against all the world’s death-dealing forces.

Today’s sad story is not the end.   It is only the beginning. We can say, with the suffering Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my body has been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” And so, even after hearing this sad and brutal story of Christ’s suffering and death, when we close today’s worship we will still hear the echo of the victory refrain that opened this service: “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest!”