The way of the cross

Palm Sunday
28 March 2010
Palm/Passion Sunday C (RCL)

Luke 19:28-40
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:14 — 23:56

Passion Sunday is always a challenge to preach. The Passion reading seems to speak for itself, but it is such a large chunk of scripture that many who have listened to it are overwhelmed an the end of the reading. How does one connect with this reading? How is one to be changed. Mark’s Passion story seems intended to serve as an example for christians about to face persecution themselves: be like Jesus, not Peter, Mark seems to be saying. Make the good confession.

Each of the subsequent Gospel accounts changes the focus somewhat. In Luke’s passion, which we hear this week, Jesus seems to be in control of events. He is almost serene (except for the drops of bloody sweat). He heals the ear of the servant of the high priest. He prays for forgiveness for his persecutors. Calmly on the cross, we welcomes the repentant thief into paradise. Missing from Luke’s account is Mark’s quotation of Psalm 22 — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

None of us in Crestwood will ever be faced with persecution for our faith. So, how does this speak to us. We cannot take away Jesus’ example, as if to say, this is how to suffer. But, how should respond in the face of insult. Isaiah, speaking as the people of Israel, says that he has heard and obeyed God, and did not turn his face from insult. This past week, in Washington DC, we have seen an ugly spectacle. People opposed to the health care reform bill, and those in favor of it, have been hurling insults at each other, and at their congressment. The n-word was hurled at a black congressman. People have been spit upon. If Jesus moves serenly through the passion in Luke’s Gospel, how ought we to move through insult?

For what would we be willing to risk insult and shame? Would we stand against people insulting others and share in the insult? Oscar Romero was assassinated almost exactly thirty years ago (3/24/1980). He was not believed to be a radical when elevated to the episcopate, indeed, he was seen as a conservative. But when a liberal priest friend of his was killed for ministry to the campesinos, Romero was startled. Finally, he was gunned down at a eucharistic service, and just the moment when he elevated the chalice. In his homily, he had called on the government to stop its persecution of the poor farmers. His transformation had taken time, and tragedy. None of us is ever willing, in isolation, to die for a cause or a friend, but when pushed to the point of recognizing the evil of alternatives, we all would probably stand for the good. None of us in Crestwood need to be willing to risk death, but we should all be willing to risk insult. For what or whom?

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