Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday 2012 B: Trust the path

Lectionary: The Liturgy of the Palms - John 12:12-16,Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. The Liturgy of the Word - Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

En el nombre del Dios, Padre, Hijo, y Espiritu Santo. Amen. (Note: Sorry, I forgot to turn on the recording till after I'd said this. Lo ciento, hermanas y hermanos.)

Our final Lenten teaching last Thursday was on the Labyrinth (there is a handout on this in your bulletin). The labyrinth is an ancient form of prayer that allows us to be pilgrims on an interior journey.

There are many things I love about walking a labyrinth. First, it is holy ground, so we remove our shoes something we don’t do often in our society).

Second, we walk alone, yet not alone. The journey is an interior one, but it reflects our life as members of the body of Christ – the church.

We walk the labyrinth looking only at the path in front of us. Every once in a while, we come across another pilgrim who may be going in the same direction, though on a different part of the path. Or they may be coming towards us, going in the opposite direction, yet on the same part of the path. Or, they may be going ahead of us, and going slower than we are, so without disturbing their walk, we go around them. Or we may be the one going slower, and we let the other pilgrim pass us, maintaining our focus on the path before us and the interior journey going on deep within us.

Each of us is on our own path. Each of our paths is the right one, and yet each one is different; and each path is just one part of the larger journey – the labyrinth. Only God can do that.

As we walk a labyrinth, our journey IN is a time of purgation. We allow the distractions of the day, or our stress and worries, or our plans and desires to come into our minds as we walk, and as they do, we release them – we purge ourselves of them. We drop all of that as if it were baggage we don’t need, and we walk on emptying ourselves. Our goal, as we walk in, is to get to the center.

The form of the labyrinth we used last Thursday is the form pictured in your handout. It’s found on the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France.

There are many styles of labyrinth design, but this one is an ancient form of the labyrinth and my favorite one. The reason is, this form presents us with a long, circuitous journey. Just when the pilgrim thinks they are near the center, the path winds them far away again – and this happens several times during the journey.

I instruct new pilgrims not to judge the path, or try to figure out where it will go before they get there. The idea with a labyrinth is to trust the path and the path-maker.

There is only one path in and one path out. If you just trust, the path will take you to the center – where illumination, clarity, and insight happen. Then it will take us back out again – where we find unity with God and the will of God for us in the world.

In the center of the labyrinth, we pause to listen. We have emptied ourselves and now allow ourselves to be filled by the Spirit of God. That’s why it is a time of illumination, clarity, and insight.

Sometimes the center is crowded with other pilgrims. Other times, it is empty. Pilgrims come and go, each at their own pace, so the center is a place of constant transition, constant change.

Once filled with the Spirit of God, we begin our journey OUT, only this time, we don’t walk alone. We walk with God. As we walk out, God whispers in our souls how we should live in the mind of Christ – a mind in union with God – and serve the world we will re-enter at the conclusion of our pilgrimage.

I chose this form of prayer to conclude our Lenten series because it helps us understand the journey of our Savior as read today in the passion Gospel of Mark. Jesus’ journey from Jerusalem to Calvary was a long and circuitous one.

It didn’t lead where it seemed like it should, yet somehow, it went exactly where it was meant to go – to illumination and unity with God – and it pointed Jesus toward the culmination of his earthly ministry: his resurrection and ascension into heaven.

Jesus didn’t judge the path as it wound around the goal – he just went, trusting the path and the path-maker. He also didn’t judge those he met along the way or where they were on their paths. He just kept walking – even when the ‘Hosannas’ turned to ‘Crucify him!’

Why did they? Why did the ‘Hosannas’ turn to ‘Crucify him!’?

When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the crowds went wild. Jesus’ entry was one of probably many parades during that time of celebration in the big city of Jerusalem. But Jesus refused to be the Messiah they had imagined.

Although he entered the city like a military V.I.P., he rode in on a baby donkey, the humblest of possible rides for the Messiah, the King of kings. He defended the poor who couldn’t pay their temple taxes. He talked to women – even letting one anoint him with fine oil.

He refused to use violence even when he was betrayed and arrested. And worst yet, he refused to claim his authority when Pilate asked if he were the King of the Jews. He was silent… weak… an embarrassment.

Crucify him! They shouted. This isn’t the Messiah we wanted. This isn’t the path we thought we on – we were supposed to be walking to victory.

Jesus, however, didn’t judge the path he was on or abandon it. He went to his death, trusting the path and the path-maker, and there he found victory.

As Jesus was lifted up on that cross, the sins of the world were lifted up with him. In his death, we were all saved.

“Truly this man was God’s son.”

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