Sunday, April 14, 2019

Year C Palm Sunday 2019 The Time of our Visitation

Year C Palm Sunday 14 April 2019
St. James the Less Episcopal Church, Ashland, VA
“The Time of our Visitation”

Collect: Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Today's Texts Because of the length of the Passion narrative, I am just providing a link to today’s texts.

Grief takes many forms. We linger in anticipatory grief knowing the rest of the story.

There is an irony amidst all the joy of this day. Despite the of the shouts of Hosanna, Jesus grieved, for what he saw coming, and for what has been. In fact, the opening reading outside stopped short of a very important verse in Luke. Peeling it back, hear again why we call this day Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and why from Luke’s account I lean on a reading in grief...

Luke 19: 37-44
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
     “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
          Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

And then immediately the text goes on to this...

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

For Jesus, what we see as Triumphant is heartbreaking. He knows the way the City of God should be, could be, and how so far from its intent it is. He weeps for Jerusalem, while the echoes of Hosanna are still ringing in the hills. It is what it is. Much like our hearts, there is so much more that could be, should be. It begs the question, “How do I cause Jesus to weep?”

Jesus knows what this week will bring, since at the Mount of Transfiguration he has turned his face to Jerusalem, the outcome was known. In the Gospels over and over he tells the disciples what is to come. Do they not listen? Do they not understand? Do they take it as metaphor, while Jesus is being open and honest?

Look at the Gospels, and see from sheer percentage how much of each one is devoted to this one week. From Palm Sunday to Easter we have so much in detail, the Whos, the Whats, the Wheres of the Story. We call it Holy, and remember Holy means “set apart.” One of the reasons it is so set apart is because we have it in such intimate detail. It is Holy even more for what those details are.

And we have only told a part of the story this morning. We stopped on the brink of Golgotha. We stopped when Jesus is grouped with two criminals. We stopped where he is at the point of no return. The Cavalry is not coming in for a dramatic rescue, for we are at Calvary. There will be no rescue. And even here we see his life shaped by the Grace he preached. Even here we see him living the message to the very end.

Like the Centurion at the Cross may we also see and believe. Do we proclaim like he did, “Surely this man is innocent. Surely this man is the Son of God.”

I said this day is tainted by grief. Grief for what was to come. Grief for what was not ever to be. Grief over life. We grieve because we Love. We grieve because we Hope. We grieve because we Live. It has been said that “Man is the only animal that knows it's going to die.” In his death we see our own. In his grief we see our mortality. If one so good, so righteous, so loving can be treated thus, what can we expect?

Would we be able to walk with such faith, such hope, such love? Would we be able to walk between the shouts of Hosanna knowing that they would so quickly shift to “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”? Would we turn the other cheek with the mocking, the scorn, the gloating when we knew how wrong those others were? Would we restrain the very angelic host of heaven for Love’s Sake?

God loves us so much that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. [John 3:16-17] Stay with us this week. Stay with us as the greatest story ever told unfolds. The deeply moving goodbyes of Maundy Thursday, the depths of the shadow of death on Friday, and the surprising and unexpected third act of Easter. I said it last year, and I will say it again, if you can make only one service a year I would ask you to make it the Easter Vigil Saturday night at 8 p.m. If you can only make three this year, then come for all three acts of an unforgettable drama. Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday night at 8. It is all we say we believe in three distinct acts. The choir has been gearing up for weeks, Harrison and I are getting our sermons in gear. But even in all the preparations, it is service to the life-changing story of the Passion of our Christ, our Messiah. My prayer is that you will come and be a part, and take this good news with you into your life and work. Amen

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Blessings, Rock