St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. Barbara Hutchinson
Palm Sunday Homily
March 25, 2018
Living within the tension of what we believe the Kingdom of God is all about and the reality of our world can be very difficult.
We, like the many who marched alongside Jesus on the descent into Jerusalem,
imagine a better world, one where love rules, where truth prevails, where people are respected, where voices of the innocent are heard, where the vulnerable are protected, where reconciliation is the only option, where God’s dream of love becomes real.
We, like the many who marched alongside Jesus, who threw down their garments before him, offer to Jesus our outer protection, our coverings, our outer shells, so that the vulnerability of our heart opens wide a path for Jesus’ presence to lead the world forward into a different reality.
We, like the many who marched alongside Jesus, who waved branches of palms along the way, allow our hearts to hope, to dream, to cheer on the righteous, to believe. We feel the excitement rise in our souls when we hear, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of Lord” for we believe that is us, that we are coming in the name of the Lord, who, with us, will right the wrongs of the world.
We, like the many who marched alongside Jesus, believe, as Desmond Tutu so eloquently stated, there will be a time when good will prevail, and we take courage and confidence in the fact that we’re moving and marching in this world to make it happen.
As Christians, this is our faithful stance: to pray for, to advocate for, and to be actively involved in making the world a better place. After all, we are reminded each Friday morning as we pray Morning Prayer, “Jesus stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone may come within his saving embrace.” If everyone is within the saving embrace of Jesus, then how can the world not live as redeemed? How can God’s dream not be a reality? And we know deep in our souls that we must work to make God’s dream our reality. We live in hope, and this is a faithful stance for we who are Christian. We’re on that precarious descent down the Mount of Olives with Jesus, shouting, Hosanna in the Highest.
For the pilgrims heading into Jerusalem with Jesus also thought it could actually happen, that their leader whom they were hailing as the King of kings could make this happen for them, could set them and their world free from all oppression and power, could usher in a new reality, a new kingdom based on compassion and love. A few days later they were barely standing, with heads dropped low, with a heavy stone within their hearts, witnessing to Jesus’ crucifixion, when everything seemed to have gone terribly wrong. It sure looked like power had won. It sure looked like military prowess and political authority was mightier than righteousness. It sure looked like division would continue to rule. As Jesus hung from the cross,
it sure looked like the way of suffering would continue as the norm. They witnessed what the worst of humanity could offer—the brutal killing of an innocent man to make a point that you don’t mess with the power of the Empire, the people with authority.
The pilgrims who marched down the precarious path of the Mount of Olives left Jerusalem that week bereft, confused, disoriented and without hope, at least for a few days.
Our hearts carry the same heaviness as the pilgrims following Jesus into Jerusalem after today’s service – having to make sense of the glory of the procession hailing Jesus as the King of the kings, when optimism overflowed in their hearts, when hopefulness paved the path for Jesus, when joy lifted the spirits of the downtrodden people —all set alongside the horrific death of Jesus on the cross. How did they make sense of this before the resurrection? How do we make sense of it, after the resurrection? So often the glory of Jesus and the cross seem to be at cross purposes. That’s why we need to sit here a while— in this deliberate tension. Why we need to allow both parts which appear to be in contrast with each other to settle in with one another, to speak truth to one another, to be put into one strong message by the God whose love was stronger in the end than the worse that humanity could offer.
This can sound like I’m inviting you to engage in an intellectual exercise or a theological discussion and maybe that’s how you’ll get at your answer. But I’m really asking you to go deep down within your heart and soul – into that intimate place that you share only with God – into that place where your lost hopes or dreams reside – into that place where you so wish things had turned out differently – into that place of your deepest pain – for that is where you will discover the healing work of Jesus, the power of love which was released on that cross that makes us Christians.
In our real lives, Palm Sunday holds together all our optimism and hope about what this world could be, about what God’s dream could look like in our lives, where love could prevail, where truth could be told, where division healed, where voices of innocent people could be heard and all people could be respected – and puts it together with our pain that that has happened yet. I know I experienced these two extremes when I was in Haiti this past year – of going with immense and all-consuming optimism that love could prevail, that love could tear down any boundary, that goodness reigned in the hearts of all (the Palm Sunday part of the Christian journey) and then I was almost immediately thrust into the Good Friday part of the Christian journey, when I realized I couldn’t bear the costs of what needed to die for that to happen.
We live in the Palm Sunday tension throughout our lives. It’s important to know this and to claim it because then and only then will we really see the love of God that is in both, and all, places.
We can never give up on hope for change in this world. We can never stop opening ourselves up to increased vulnerability so that Jesus can use our heart to make that change happen. And we need to allow to die on the cross our desire for power, or our harsh words or actions which cause division, or anything that isn’t love within our hearts, so that we can hold together and make sense out of what Palm Sunday leads us into—living within the tension of what we believe the Kingdom of God is all about and the reality of our world.
The pilgrims on their ascent up the Mount of Olives reasonably thought power of might won, but we know differently, it is only and always the power of love which will win in the end. How can that speak to you this day? How can you make it real in this world so God’s dream can become our reality? Let’s sit here awhile and ponder.