Sunday, April 5, 2009

"No Them, Only Us"

This sermon is much shorter than usual, but the gospel is so much longer.  The title comes from Grandmere Mimi.

Palm Sunday is such a schizophrenic day. We start out by waving palms and singing and welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem and end up by nailing him to a cross.

Were the same people in that crowd greeting Jesus into Jerusalem and in the crowds demanding his execution a few days later? Maybe some of the same people were in both groups. It is more likely, however, that they were two very different crowds. The first was made up of Jesus' followers and friends from Galilee and the poor, the people with disabilities, sinners and the marginalized who heard of his reputation as a healer and teacher. The second group was made up of the throngs you'd find in any city on a big holiday. Jesus’ followers were likely anyplace but there. Only his closest followers stayed near Jesus. The crowds that usually followed him probably got wind of Jesus’ arrest and that their dream had ended and they faded away into the streets. It was pretty certain that the Jewish leaders would grab Jesus and put an end to his "good news" because they viewed it as a threat to their power. It was wise to stay low until the trouble blew over.

After all a demonstration in one of the busiest weeks of the year for Jerusalem was not going to be received very well. Passover was a busy time and for the authorities even a small demonstration like this one challenged the Roman occupation and the religious authorities. From their perspective, those people who followed Jesus were troublemakers.

So why take a happy holiday like Palm Sunday and tack the Passion on to it? Mainly, because so many people don’t come to church for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services and we can’t just leap from Palm Sunday to Easter, so we really have two themes put together in one service. But there can be no Easter without the cross. Easter is more than flowers and bunny rabbits and new clothes. And, by the way, Easter isn’t enough without Pentecost. Even though Jesus’ work here on earth was done, it would take a period of time: the time between Easter and Pentecost, for things to be changed. Things would be not to be what they were but what they were to become. It’s an interesting coincidence that this year the time between Easter and Pentecost is the time when a selection of a new rector for this church will happen. A time of death and dying followed by resurrection.

Human lives seem to work that way. John V. Taylor in his little book, Weep Not for Me, said that “Death followed by resurrection, life through dying, is the way things are. It is not a truth limited to the one event of Christ’s death and resurrection, nor does it affect us only when we approach the end of our lives. It is a principle of all existence. Hang on to what you have of life and you are lost. Let go, do the necessary dying, and a fuller, richer quality of aliveness will be given to you.”

I look at certain blogs everyday. One is written by a woman in Louisiana, called Wounded Bird. She is funny and thoughtful at the same time. She wrote one blog this past week called “No Them, Only Us.” It was about an art exhibit she had seen, but my thoughts on that phrase went immediately to this Palm Sunday. I thought about the fact that there were “no thems” in the crowd that greeted Jesus. There were “no thems” in the crowd that shouted for the release of Barabbas, there were "no thems" in the crowd that went to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus.  There are “no thems” in this country or this town or this church. There is “only us.” We don’t necessarily act that way or feel that way, but the life and work and death and resurrection of Jesus was to help us live in being "only us."

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