Liturgy of the Palms Sixth Sunday in Lent April 5, 2009 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

Liturgy of the Palms B April 5, 2009 Textweek

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

There are two feasts today that we celebrate; the two feasts that are available today to celebrate are Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. We enact the activity of Palm Sunday, and we listen to the gospel narrative of Passion Sunday, and I think in that there’s an opportunity for us to be aware of the present as we look towards tomorrow. Today we come out of the wilderness of Lent – or do we? How many spent the last forty days looking, as Christ looked, into the very soul of their calling, seeking an orientation for the future? How many spent the last forty days in Lent? Now just before the guilt kicks in and takes you off somewhere, Lent is not an event; it’s not an event that most of the world missed: it’s an activity, it’s a process, and it’s been ritualized in our liturgical calendar: space is set aside for it in the church’s year, but it is ever-present. Some choose to go into wilderness, others have no choice; some are lost in the wilderness, some are devoured in the wilderness and some find themselves in the wilderness.

Palm Sunday enacts a new movement that was birthed in the experience of Lent. Christ comes out of the wilderness and sets his face toward Jerusalem, and the response, the reaction of the world is one of great hope: that’s what that procession is about. Christ sets his face toward Jerusalem and the crowds are drawn out of their very homes, because here, there is new hope - the Anointed One, the Messiah is coming.

Now we’ve seen Palm Sunday in the inauguration of Barack Obama. In a more muted form, we’ve seen the same process enacted in the last few days in the G20 Summit, that is, if we use the world’s stock markets as indicators of hope. We can see that process. The process of Palm Sunday, like the process of Lent, is evidenced every day and is evidenced in the every day. It is not an event of history; it is a process of life in the present and in every present. And in the enactment, we play each and every part, just as we will play each and every part in the Passion.

Mostly, in the enactment of Palm Sunday, we take on the role of the crowd: we look on with hope and expectation towards Barack Obama; we look on with hope and expectation to those who have gathered for the G20, and we, as the church, look with hope and expectation toward Christ. In Holy Week and in the Easter mysteries - the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday - we are invited to walk with Christ in his passion.
As we walked from Gino’s to the church this morning, we were not the onlookers, we were not the crowd; rather, we were being looked at. We took on, we enacted, the part of Christ in Palm Sunday. And that is the role we are called to in and through the process of Easter. We are called out of the crowd and into the Christ.

The second reading we had today from Philippians will be heard again at Easter. It finishes with this phrase: ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’. It’s a hymn, it’s thought of as one of the foundational liturgical hymns of the early church, and it’s easy to see how words like that evolved into a worship of Christ as the central process of the church: we worship Christ. However, that evolution, that movement might have been quite different if we consider the meaning of the word, ‘confess’: to confess is to make evident. We are called to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, not walk around as happy Christians, telling everybody: to make it evident, to make it evident. No longer are we the crowd, filled with hope and expectation, rather we are the ones called to make evident, to create hope and to fulfil expectation, living a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

As we move into Holy Week, seek yourselves in Christ; turn toward Jerusalem, to the process of dying and rising. The crowd will continue look for rise and falls in the markets on Wall Street. We, we will look elsewhere.

The Lord be with you
Peter Humphris
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