Sunday, April 10, 2022

Palm Sunday, 2022-C: Our sin, God's redemption

Lectionary: The Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19:28-40; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29. The Liturgy of the Word: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14-23:56 

En el nombre del Dios que es Trinidad en unidad. Amen. 

At our Bible study this week I mentioned how today’s readings create a kind of spiritual whiplash, jerking us from "Hosanna" (which means ‘Save us’) to "Crucify him!" Why would the church choose to do that? It’s all about our sin and God’s redemption.

To begin with, it’s important to note that we spoke those words - humanity, not God Jesus knew he was going to die and did so voluntarily for our sake, but it was our will, not God's, that Jesus was tortured and crucified.

God sent Jesus to reconcile us to himself, bridging us to the unity of the Trinity which is where we have life. We, in our sinfulness, continually separate ourselves from God, and therefore from life and from love, inserting our will into God's plan.

Save us, we cry. But wait - 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, who they love or what sexuality they claim: Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, the four little girls killed at the 16th St Church in Birmingham, AL: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Carol Denise McNair, and their champion, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the 49 people killed at the gay bar in Orlando, Nizah Morris, Selena Reyes-Hernandez, and Brayla Stone, murdered for being transgender. The list is long… so very long.

These are undeniably our collective sins. We choose, whether actively or passively, to continue to kill innocent children of God. One would think that by now, for example, we wouldn’t need to march against school shootings or pass anti-lynching laws, but sadly we do, and this isn’t new for us.

In 1963, at the euology of the four innocents killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church, 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: King, Martin Luther, "A Call to Conscience," 96

The low road of our inhumanity has been made clear to us, over and over again, and it is what we witness in today’s passion gospel. 

So, 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 at his trial and crucifixion. Instead, he waited patiently, humbly, 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.'

All this while the palm fronds celebrating his arrival in Jerusalem 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. I mean, who could have imagined Easter?

This is why, year after year, we walk slowly, deliberately, and humbly through the fullness of Holy Week:
to experience as a faith community the real pain of sin and the failure of our human wills – to experience it 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, God? Why did you forsake him?’

This cry of abandonment by 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. Save me (or them) from this pain, this terror, this loss …'

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.' 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?

Then we remember this passion story where God's own innocent son dies, and we remember that the story doesn't end there. 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 Jesus by crucifixion – their choice - God redeemed us all – once for all - through that crucifixion. Love was not killed. Love triumphs over every evil – even death on a cross.

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 the strength of our faith community as we face the awful truths about our collective inhumanity - 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 God in Ukraine and around the world are asking us to act now, to change our wills, and make the way of Jesus a reality, 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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