We resumed in-person services on Palm Sunday. We hope to be streaming services from the church in the near future. In the meanwhile, here is a transcript of Father George’s sermon from this past week.
Minding the Gaps
Palm Sunday (RCL Cycle B)/28 March 2021
Today is Palm Sunday and marks the beginning of the holiest week of our Christian year. It’s also known as Pasion Sunday because the seminal event is a reading of the Passion narrative – this year from Mark’s Gospel. Either way, it is a day which pulls us in many directions at the same time leaving us unsettled and confused as we try to make sense out of this week. The events of Holy Week are necessary in order for us to begin to comprehend the wonder of Easter. There is no skipping over the week – we have to go through it in order to arrive at Easter.
While traveling on trains, we are often reminded to mind the gap. It is a cautionary statement; to be careful of the distance between spaces, the holes and cracks where one might fall, trip, or be injured. I think this warning is implicit in the text, even while Paul warns explicitly of evil workers in this letter. Growing to be more like Jesus can be filled with pitfalls. When we do not have the mind of Jesus, we are likely to behave in ways that do not glorify God. When we do not have the mind of Jesus, there is discord, confusion, and destruction. How, then, do we keep our minds stayed on Jesus?
This Sunday, as if Jesus suddenly coming to his senses, enters Jerusalem, hailed by crowds who want to make him into the triumphal king who will save them from Rome. Jesus doesn’t care. He is already walking away from our shouts of hosanna. He’s moving toward the meal he most longs for, the last one, when he’ll kneel down like a servant to wash his friends’ feet. He’s walking toward our angry shouts of “Crucify him!” and toward our betrayals, as one by one we abandon him to torture and death; he is walking toward the edge of the world.
None of it can stop him. He jumps off the edge, on to the cross; and into God’s time. Life, eternal. The life we are living today.
Which means, in a pretty unsettling way, Holy Week can’t be about a story that took place in the past, or a mere remembrance, or a historical re-enactment. It’s about the kind of life Jesus makes possible for all of us right now.
That life demands a different mind than the one I generally use. My own mind wants to shout hosannas in a happy crowd waving palms, and later on be able to blame that other crowd, the Jews, for all the bad stuff that happens. My own mind wants to claim Jesus as my friend and me as his personal favorite and pretend I won’t betray him, later, like his other friends. I want to act as if I’m somehow separate from all the other suffering, sinful souls Jesus pours himself out for: disciples and executioners, cheering and jeering crowds; each one of you.
So it’s really hard for me to walk with Jesus in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Sure, I want forgiveness; but I don’t necessarily want to admit how violent my impulses can be, how capable I am of yelling “crucify.” Sure, I want new life, but I don’t want to sit abandoned in a garden, be humiliated and hurt and killed, to get there. I want to hang on to my own power, and save myself, rather than empty myself like Jesus. I know Palm Sunday’s exciting, but I also have a feeling it’s going to get pretty dark over the next week, before it’s time for Easter.
Except — except that we’re on God’s time now. And it turns out I don’t have to jump off the edge of the world alone, because Jesus already has. His abiding love is everywhere. The good news is that there’s nothing left for me to do through my own anxious efforts at self-improvement. There’s nothing left for any of us to do. God is always moving all humanity closer to God, with the endless love of our friend and savior Jesus lighting the way for us, from the cross.
Palm Sunday serves as a reminder that a triumphant beginning and ending is possible, indeed inevitable, though the journey between these places will be difficult. These seemingly impossible moments present us with opportunities to practice being humble and obedient, to extend forgiveness, and to have a willingness to change so that we can become more like Christ. Let us mind the gaps and not fall for things that would separate us from God or from each other.
During this Holy Week, as we journey with Jesus to the cross, let us walk mindfully, being concerned about what concerns him. In this particularly challenging moment, let us be reminded that the God who meets us at the cross is the God who will give us resurrecting power. The Psalmist puts it: What is humanity that God is mindful of us? (Psalm 8:5) But perhaps the question that we should carry with us is how we can be mindful of God as we follow Jesus and mind the gaps.