There is Blood on our Hands: A Sermon for Palm Sunday

This sermon is based on the Readings for Palm Sunday in year C of the Revised Common Lectionary.

You can find those readings here.

There is an audio file of the sermon available here:

Sermon Palm Sunday 2013

It seems like a lot to ask.

I mean, life is hard, there’s a lot going on right now.  The economy is still a little shaky, a lot of us are living in homes that are worth less than when we bought them.  People we know, family friends, neighbors, some of us, have lost our jobs, have had to rethink the future.  Our retirement accounts haven’t bounced back yet, our benefits keep shrinking, and everything costs more than it did yesterday.

It is a lot to ask.

You turn on the news, pick up the paper, talk to your friends, things that we have always been able to count on seem less sure.  It feels like our rights are being chipped away, like someone we can’t quite identify is working to undermine our place in the world, our sense of security and well being.  It turns out that people, structures, and institutions that we thought would protect us are, in the end, only interested in protecting themselves.

It asking too much!

At a time when everything seems to be changing at a dizzying pace, when our children and our children’s children don’t seem interested in the things that we have treasured and maintained on their behalf…  When the validity and relevance of things that we thought would last forever is being challenged.

It’s too much to ask and what a time to be asking!

Here we are, gathered at the foot of the cross, grieving, confused, scared and angry…  And Paul has the nerve to ask us to lower ourselves and to become slaves?

Look.  We don’t need this guy Paul and his insensitive, over reaching, nagging…

What we need is some fresh ideas, some new life, some one to ride in here on a white horse and help us out of this mess that we are…

 

Paul isn’t being insensitive to the difficulties that we face.  He isn’t over reaching by asking us to do too much.  He may be nagging a little, he does that from time to time…  But what he is really doing in this moment is singing a hymn.

We believe that the selection we heard from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is something that the early church said or sang as part of their liturgy, we call it The Christ Hymn, and Paul is singing it to us today, in the midst of our pain, our confusion, our suffering, and our fear, to help us to understand that we are being confronted with a choice, a choice so fundamental to the way that we understand and participate in the world that it really must be asked now, even as we stand here trembling at the foot of the cross.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.”

Paul is asking us to set aside our need to be at the center of all things, our sense that we deserve to be first, that our needs are more important than the needs of the people we all to easily see as “others.”

Paul is asking us to see ourselves as part of something greater than the wealth that we have accumulated, the rights and privileges we have won, the benefits that accrue when we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and declare ourselves to be “self made.”

Paul is singing to us, asking us to put ourselves in service to a radical and subversive view of creation.  It may be our right, we may be entitled, it may even be guaranteed to us by our founding documents and principles, but, Paul is saying, we need to be prepared to let it go for the sake of the greater good, for the sake of our children, for the poor and the widowed, for the people with whom Jesus chose to minister and associate.  Paul is reminding us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve and he is trying to sing us into a new way of being, one where we aren’t as worried about being served as we are about serving others.  Paul is asking us to give up our own, self centered, narcissistic, shortsighted view of ourselves and the world and to choose instead God’s dream, God’s vision for a creation reconciled to one another and to God.

 

It seems like a lot to ask!

And it would be one thing to ask if were are well fed, rested, comfortable in our ability to acquire and provide the things that we and our beloved need and want… when our faith and trust in the institutions we have labored so long to support and buttress were unshaken… when our heritage, our legacy was secure, beloved and well received by those who will come after us…

It would be one thing to ask as we cheer along the parade route, joining our voices with the crowd, shouting with excitement as the one upon whom our hopes rest rides triumphantly into the lion’s den…

It is a lot to ask!

And it gets even harder when the one we had hoped might deliver us is arrested and taken from us, when he seems so small standing before Pilate and the machinery of death that we had hoped to escape.  It gets harder when we see him beaten, spat upon, and rejected by the people who had hailed him as their king!

It is too much to ask!

To ask us to follow him as he carries his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem on his way to a shameful and public end.  It is too much to ask as he is nailed to a tree and the agents of oppression cast lots for his clothes.  It is too much to ask as the tree is hoisted into the air and Jesus agony is apparent for all to see.  It is too much, too much!

Here we are, gathered at the foot of the cross, grieving, confused, scared and angry…  Paul, how can you ask this of us now?

 

Paul is asking us now because this is the moment that the question becomes most clear.  Here at the foot of the cross we see the consequences of our “no” to God’s “Yes” in the person of Jesus.

When we decline the call to serve…  When we place ourselves at the center of all things and set about to defend what we believe is ours, what we believe we deserve, what we believe to be our right and privilege, we put at risk what is “theirs,” what our common humanity says we all deserve, what is ours by right because we all are made in the image of God.

When we say no to Paul, no to Jesus, no to God’s call to service of others, then we are by default, aligning our selves with Pilate, who rode into town this morning with an army of soldiers intent on defending what was his, what was Caesar’s, what belonged to Rome.

Paul is asking us now because the consequences of our “no” are right here before us, impossible to ignore, impossible to dismiss.

There is blood…  Blood in our streets, blood in our schools, blood in our homes, blood on the cross.  Blood on our hands.

Let us pray

“Let the same mind be in US that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.”

 

Amen.

 

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