This is the week when the Triune God makes clear the plan for this world, and for you, the answers God has for your healing and the healing of all things.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Sunday of the Passion, year B
Texts: Mark 11:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; references to parts of the Passion story
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
This is the second Holy Week in a row we’ve been apart.
Last year, we were so shocked and stunned at how quickly the world shut down only a few weeks before Easter, it was hard to believe we weren’t in church for this week.
This year was no surprise. We’ve been in this for so long, we expect disappointment. Even last fall it didn’t seem likely we’d be open before Easter. Vaccinations give us better hope now than we’ve had in a while. But worshipping at home yet again for Holy Week just seems like another thing to struggle with in a year full of struggle.
It’s important to name that pain as real.
This has been a terrible year, and everyone is going through it. In normal times if one suffers, there are many who can support and help. But what if everyone is suffering? Our friends and family are as exhausted and depressed and lonely as we are. Nearly every human being on this planet is. That makes it hard to know and find support.
We know, too, that many have it much worse. Every one on the planet is dealing with pandemic fatigue and all the suffering of COVID. But many suffer worse from the pandemic because of the racism or poverty that already trapped them in systems that seem unbreakable, and even keep them from treatment and help others get.
But it’s OK to say that it’s been a hard year for you, too. You’re feeling depressed; that’s to be expected. You’re feeling lonely; that’s normal. You’re feeling anxiety about going out or never going out again; of course you are.
But here is good news for you. This week is exactly what you need, right now. Even at home.
This week isn’t special because together we play-act Jesus’ week of suffering, death and resurrection.
We don’t pretend while we sing Hosanna that we don’t know what’s going to happen Friday. We don’t weep together Friday unaware of how the Three Days ends with Jesus’ resurrection. This week isn’t about us pretending we were there back then.
This week is about us learning to walk with Jesus every day of our lives. Every year, this week begins with Paul urging us to have the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus. We walk this week every year because by looking deeply at these events, entering into them with our hearts and minds, we learn ever more deeply the heart and mind of the Triune God who entered into our suffering.
And that you can do at home, too. As much as we miss this time together, and will rejoice when we have it again, what you need to learn this week you can learn wherever you are.
Right from the beginning of today’s liturgy, the heart and mind of God begins to be revealed.
In the processional Gospel, after the entrance into Jerusalem where Jesus looked and acted like an Israelite king, and received the praise and adoration of the crowds, Mark says Jesus entered the temple, looked around, decided it was pretty late, and left the city for the suburb of Bethany with the disciples.
That procession of royal cheers with strewn palms and garments sure looked like a power-grab. Now this One who reveals divine power and love is positioned to take over everything. Nothing can stop him.
Except, he enters the heart-home of his Jewish faith, looks around, checks his watch, and quietly leaves the city. That’s the first sign this week that the mind of Christ, the heart of God, is very different than the world’s lust for power and might and control.
When you watch Jesus this week, worship at home with the videos or CDs, participate in the footwashing at home, wave palms today, make a cross for Friday, stay up late and pray with the Vigil video, you will see that this quiet departure set up everything. The command to self-giving love flows from this moment. The willingness to be betrayed and tortured flows from this moment. The forgiveness offered while being executed flows from this moment. The struggle with God’s will in Gethsemane begins with this decision not to assume power and authority and ride the crowds to glory.
Because of this moment and its aftermath, this week is God’s answer to the world’s suffering.
If Jesus had seized power in Jerusalem that Sunday, instead of quietly heading to his friends’ house, he could have taken care of a lot of systemic oppression and injustice, fixed the whole Judean political system, used his divine power to force people to do his will, maybe even ruled the whole world.
But that isn’t God’s way, to ride political power to domination. God’s way is to change hearts and minds to the heart and mind of Christ, one at a time, and spread the seeds for the end of oppression and injustice everywhere. Not by force but by love. And over the centuries, those seeds have knocked down tyrants and healed societies. Even exhausted people this year have done their part.
There’s still much to be done, but God is confident with enough of us it can be done. By our love and self-giving, multiplied.
This week is also God’s answer to your depression and loneliness, your pain.
God multiplying servant love one at a time means that God has put people in your life to be with you even when you feel most alone. This year that’s been harder to see. The people you love to see and talk to are often physically kept away, and most of us have found great difficulty in dealing with those missed ties. But look at this year to see this truth: God sent many people to bring you hope.
And in coming to be with us, the Triune God also promises to come to you in the Holy Spirit. To shape your mind and heart to be like Christ, yes. But simply to be with you, too. God’s Spirit is always with you, even in this time of separation. You are never alone in God’s embracing love.
And this week is God’s answer to a COVID pandemic that has put every person on the planet into a year of suffering and killed millions.
God’s heart and mind is to enter into the suffering of the world, even death, and bring resurrection life. A real, abundant life even in the worst of times, as billions of people have learned over the centuries.
Every sign of hope given by you or someone else this year, when you didn’t have enough energy to care another moment but you still tried to help, all those sacrificial moments, God shows this week, will change the world and bring life. Think of the times someone’s sacrificial love transformed you.
This week reveals God’s true heart and mind for the creation.
Now, Paul says, share that mind and heart of God so others can know God, too. Though we can’t gather in person for worship, take the time you need this week to watch with Jesus, walk with Jesus, listen to Jesus, and learn. Everything the Holy and Triune God is doing in the world in Christ starts to make sense this week, as the Spirit shows you Christ’s path of self-giving love and reveals how you can walk that path, too.
Watch. Pray. Listen. You will be changed, and so will the world.
In the name of Jesus. Amen