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The Rev. Samuel Edwards: Sermon For Palm Sunday
Prydain ^ | 4/12/2006 | Will

Posted on 04/12/2006 9:39:14 PM PDT by sionnsar

From the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama, we have this sermon for Palm Sunday:

Sermon on Palm Sunday (2006)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

This is a day – this is a week – of dizzying contrasts in the Church’s worship, reflecting the character of that first Holy Week. It begins with a crowd shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord.” Five days later another crowd – probably made up of not a few who had been part of the first – is shouting with equal enthusiasm, “Give us Barabbas! Away with this Jesus: crucify him!” A few hours after this, another group – hardly a crowd by now, but perhaps containing people who had been in one or both of the other assemblies and who have stayed on at the site of execution to see the end – is saying, “Truly, this man was the Son of God."

Now, we must not take refuge in saying that we don’t understand how they could have done this, how they could have been so fickle. We mustn’t take solace in assuring ourselves that it had been us, we would have behaved differently. In that very week between that first Palm Sunday and Good Friday, Jesus had words directly addressed to that attitude, which he pronounced as he taught in the Temple: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!,” he said, “because ye build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.” [Matthew 23:29-32] He knew to whom he was talking, better than they did themselves.

The fact is that each of us – every man Jack and woman Jill of us – in one form or another has done to Jesus in the least of his brethren just what the crowds and the religious leaders and the civil authorities then did to Jesus. And the reason we have done it is fundamentally identical with their reason. It is a reason that comes out of a very basic confusion that exists at the core of our fallen nature – the confusion of what we need with what we want, the confusion of necessities with desires, the confusion of our will with God’s will.

In essence, Jesus is done to death because he does not meet the expectations that the people have of him. They have cried to God for a Saviour for centuries, and he has sent them one, but because he does not meet the expectations they have of him, they despise and reject him. How often it is that we ask God to provide us with what we need, but when it turns out not to be what we want, what we thought he ought to give us, we do not or will not recognize it as God’s answer to our prayer and therefore reject it, and with it the Giver.

Judas may have thought – correctly – that Jesus was the Anointed Saviour needed if the nation was to fulfill its destiny, but his preconceived notion about the nature of that salvation was all wrong. It may have occurred to him – brightest bulb in the apostolic band that he was – that Jesus shared his view, but was not moving along with it fast enough with it and so he needed some incentive to manifest his power, such as being put in a position where – according to Judas’ lights – he would be compelled to act openly. So he arranged the arrest behind Jesus’ back. But when during the trial it became evident that Jesus was not going to manifest himself as the kind of Messiah that Judas thought God ought to have sent, that his plan therefore was not going to work, in despair and rage he killed himself.

The religious authorities saw Jesus as a threat to such status, power, and pre-eminence as their occupiers had let them keep. They had to put him out of the way because in the end the survival of their institution and the privileges they had because of it was more important to them than the God whom they claimed to worship in it. They were willing to do anything at all – even to conspire at a judicial murder with the hated Romans – to keep things the way they were.

The Romans themselves, of course, were amenable to this. They were long-practiced in subordinating the demands of justice to the will to power. Probably when Jesus broke his silence – on one of the rare occasions during his Passion that he did so – to tell Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world, Pilate could not believe it, since it might have been the same sort of thing he would have said himself to save his skin if he had been in a similarly tight spot. Pilate may have thought, “If I were conspiring to take over a kingdom and got caught and was before the governor without my friends and supporters, I might play at insanity to escape the cross.” Besides, who would expect that any kind of god would let himself get in such a position? The essence of deity to the Romans was coercive power, and this man before him showed no sign of having or of using any.

So, they all had their reasons, but they all come down to a preference for their own desires over what God had given them. The pattern was not unique to Jerusalem during that first Holy Week: It is a pattern that is an inevitable consequence of unredeemed human nature at work, and it can be discerned throughout human history, in every time, place, nation, and institution, the Church militant here on earth not excepted.

Sometime in the thirteenth century, a great Dominican priest, Saint Raymund of Penyafort, wrote to a fellow friar who had reported to him on the external difficulties he was experiencing in his Christian journey. Raymund’s message is as follows:

If the preacher of truth [Saint Paul] is really not deceiving us when he says that all who want to live godly lives in Christ will suffer persecution, then no one, I think, is exempted from this general rule. If he is, it is because he neglects or does not know how to live a sober, upright and religious life in this present age.

I should hope that you would not be counted among their number. Their homes are peaceful and complacent. They live in security and never feel the touch of the Lord’s rod. They pass their days in plenty and in the end go straight to hell.

Your purity of life, your devotedness, deserves and even demands that since God has made you his own and loves you, this goodness of yours should be refined into absolute integrity by many blows. Even if you are threatened with the sword two or three times over, you should consider the very threat a sign of love and a cause for joy.

Your struggles in the world and the fears in your heart are a sharp, two-edged sword. Interiorly, the threat of this sword is doubled or tripled when that cunning evil spirit disturbs the depths of your soul with his deceits and his flattery. You have already experienced a fair share of this kind of warfare, or else it would have been impossible for you to reach the splendid inner peace and serenity that you have.

The threat of the sword in the external world is doubled or trebled when persecution breaks out against the Church without reason, over spiritual things. Here the most serious wounds are those dealt by friends.

All of this is the cross of Christ, which we should long for as the source of our happiness. Andrew accepted it joyfully, with true manliness. Paul, God’s chosen instrument, tells us that we must seek our glory only in the cross. Look to Jesus, then, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith; he suffered even at the hands of his own people, though he was perfectly innocent, and was reckoned among criminals. When you drink from the precious cup of the Lord Jesus, thank the Lord who gives us everything that is good.

And may he, the God of love and peace, fill your hearts with peace, and speed you on your way. May he hide you for a while from all human disturbance in the shelter of’ his presence, until he brings you totally into the fulness of glory. There you will sit enthroned for ever in splendour and peace, in the tents of his faithful love, in abundance and at rest.

[Mon OP Hist 6,2; pp 84-85]

What Saint Raymund is saying is that we have a choice of only two options in the end. We can be among the crowd, or we can be on the cross. We can cling our own desires and expectations and so end among the wrecks of time, or we can glory in sharing the Cross of Christ which towers above them. If we accept that grace which he ever offers and which alone enables us to make that saving choice, then we may just find that our faithfulness moved at least a few in the crowd to see Jesus and to say, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”
I have to say this is something of an unusual sermon for Palm Sunday--but the point is actually quite fitting: will we be among the crowd, or on the cross? May our testimony be one that glorifies the Lord.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 04/12/2006 9:39:16 PM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 04/12/2006 9:40:30 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi 2006 | 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY))
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