April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday B
Isaiah 45:21-25; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:32-15:47
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Every Palm Sunday the liturgy reminds me of a roller coaster. Maybe you have the same experience. We begin the liturgy with the climb upwards. There is the blessing of the palms and the grand entrance into Jerusalem. We’re on the top with the reminder that all of Jerusalem surrounded Jesus with great hopes of dramatic new changes in their world. We look over the edge with anticipation as the tension is formed in the conflict. And then the bottom drops out and rushing downward we go, through the endless betrayal and the human limitations, further down to the scourging and beatings, the spitting and the insults. And then we hit the bottom and suddenly get jerked in a direction which we tell ourselves is coming but still jars our whole system. Jesus is crucified. It’s the bottom and our emotions are racked. The coaster keeps on rolling through Holy Week but it’s safe to say that we never fully recover from the shock of it all until much later on. We’re still reeling now as the sermon is offered. If we’re paying much attention, we’ll be reeling for days. It’s Holy Week and we ride the events through. But they take their toll on us. At least they’re supposed to take their toll. The week is the history of the betrayal and limitation of humankind, meshed with the developing redemption of our Savior Jesus Christ. We ride the week so as to appreciate what is being acted out in our lives daily and ever constantly.
Life is so very precarious. Sitting in the waiting room while a loved one has a surgical procedure, the doctor enters in scrubs and says something unexpected has happened. They’re not sure how it will go from here and we are so shaken we can no longer stand.
A relationship that we thought had so much promise suddenly turns into disaster and we’re left mourning what could have been but never was.
The future looked so bright with investments growing and endless possibilities developing. Suddenly not only are the alluring luxuries gone but the ordinary, everyday security is threatened.
Something we said is misinterpreted and dreadful conflicts stew and boil.
You’ve got your own examples, probably just since you came here last. Life is precarious.
We’re climbing upward, things are moving toward the heights. A tiny hint of something developing presents itself and then, boom, the bottom drops out and we’re left spinning out of control.
That’s the nature of Palm Sunday, of Holy Week, of a great deal of life in general. The Gospel of Christ is so real it is compelling. It is no message of escape. It’s not some namby-pamby story of how, if you figure out a little secret, everything will be fine and cheery. No, it’s the real story of life, hard and cruel, sad and painful. And the whole point is that God himself accompanies us through the sorrow and pain. It’s not in escaping death that we find God; it’s in entering death, accepting death, surrendering to it in its various forms.
Today we face that death. We hit the bottom. But the bottom catches us. Death is not the end. But it must be faced. As we meet the suffering and death, we find the grace of God. As we die, we come to have to have life. As we enter this moment, we gain entrance into God’s kingdom. Be present and know the moment. It is hard but it is holy and good.