Sunday, March 25, 2018

Palm Sunday-B, 2018: Marching onto the "high road of peace"

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 15:1-39, [40-47]

Note: if the above player doesn't work on your device, click HERE for an alternative audio format.

From "Hosanna" (which means Save us) to "Crucify him!" We spoke those words. Humanity, not God. It was our will, not God's, that Jesus be crucified.

God sent Jesus to reconcile us to himself, bridging us to the unity of the Trinity which is where we have life. God is the source of all life. God is the source of all love.

We separate ourselves from God, and therefore from life and from love, by inserting our will into God's plan. Save us, we cry. But this one scares us, so kill him. That is our will. Crucify him.

So we did. We killed him. We killed God's son on a cross that day and so many other children of God since then. People who scare us because of their color, their beliefs, or their love: Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Senator Clamenta Pinckey and the others killed at Mother Emanual Church in Charleston, Isaac Amanios of San Bernadino, the four little girls from 16th St Church in Birmingham whose names are: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Carol Denise McNair, and their champion, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The list is long… so very long.

The other day I saw an article about a 22-year old African American man who was shot 20 times in his own back yard by police who thought he was armed. He was holding his cell phone. In his own back yard. Source:

This is undeniably our will. We choose, whether actively or passively, to continue to kill innocent children of God.

Yesterday people around the country, including our Bishop, participated in the March for our Lives. The marches, which happened in cities across the country, were sparked by high school children, survivors of the worst mass school shooting in American history, who said #NeverAgain: This is no longer acceptable.

One wouldn't think that needed to be said out loud. But it does, and it isn't new.

It was fifty-five years ago, when four of God's innocent daughters were killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, At their euology, Dr. King said this: "they did not die in vain. God still has a way of wringing good out of evil. And history has proven over and over again that unmerited suffering is redemptive. The innocent blood of these… [children]… may well serve as a redemptive force… [leading us] from the low road of man's inhumanity to man to the high road of peace and brotherhood…" Source: "A Call to Conscience," 96

The low road of our inhumanity has been made clear to us, once again, by our children. What is our will now? What path will we take from here?

My hope is that we will follow the way of Jesus who didn't use supernatural power, fight back or even argue when people tried to kill him. Instead, he waited patiently, quietly, faithfully even as everything went wrong.

Even as his own religious community betrayed him, leveling false charges against him. Even as his followers shifted from 'Save us' to 'Crucify him' calling for the release of a known criminal instead of Jesus.

All this while the palm fronds were still fresh on the ground.

Jesus showed us how all things, even death on a cross, could and would be redeemed by God, in ways we couldn't possibly imagine. Who could have predicted the events of Easter?

This is why we walk through Holy Week, year after year: to remember, not only with our heads and our thoughts, but with our bodies and souls… by processing with palms, shouting "Hosanna," then speaking those words "Crucify him" out loud and feeling them echo as vibrations in our mouths and our guts.

It's why we listen to the passion story, tensing up at those critical moments -like when Jesus cries out to God, "why have you forsaken me?" and our inner voice whispers, Why? Why did you forsake him, God?

This cry of Jesus is something most of us experience at some point in our lives, and it sounds something like this: 'God, you can do all things. Fix this! This is wrong. They are wrong about me. Save me from this pain, this cancer, the loss of my spouse/my child/ my parent…'

It makes me wonder what happened in Mary's heart as she watched her innocent son get murdered. Could she even utter a prayer as she watched Jesus take his last breath? Did she feel forsaken?

In this passion story, we see all too clearly what the low road of our inhumanity looks like and how it leads to death. We also see Jesus living through the very human, and very familiar experience of wanting God to 'fix it.'

Save us. Hosanna!

Could God have intervened and stopped the crucifixion? Could God have turned the hearts of the crowds, or Pilate, or the religious authorities… and turned this injustice to right? Of course.

So, If God could have stopped it, why didn't God?

I suppose this is what family members of those killed by gun violence might be asking too… Why did you let my loved one die? Why didn't you stop the shooter? Why didn't you do a medical miracle? If you could have saved my loved one, why didn't you? Are we not worthy? What did they (or I) ever do to deserve this?'

Then we remember this passion story where God's own innocent son dies, and we remember that the story doesn't end there. God's redemption isn't about a single person or event in time. God's redemption is about all people for all time.

God didn't intervene to save Jesus from unjust execution because God's plan was and is to redeem the whole world from the power of sin and death.

Since it was the will of the people to kill God's son God redeemed us through the crucifixion.

Whose will is it now that God's children are being killed at school? Or in church? Or in wars around the globe? Or through poverty that starves the life out of them? Or through unrestricted access to automatic weapons of war used at home in peacetime?

It's our will and it's time to change it and follow the way of Jesus onto the high road of peace.

This is why we come to church. We need each other to have the courage to face the awful truths about our inhumanity to one another by what we have done or by what we left undone, uncorrected, or unchanged in our world.

We need each other so that once we face those awful truths we don't fall into despair, but instead, march onto the high road of peace, working together with God who is eternally wringing good out of evil.

The children of our world are asking us to act now, to change our wills, and make the way of Jesus a reality in our world. And the only way I know to do that is to humble ourselves - like Jesus did; submit our wills to God - like Jesus did; and trust absolutely - like Jesus did - in the redeeming love of God. Amen.

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