|The Way of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem|
O God, for whom all things are possible, you have highly exalted your suffering Servant, who did not hide from insult but humbled himself even to death on a cross. As we begin the journey of Holy Week, take our sin away by Christ's glorious passion and confirm our worship and witness, so that when we proclaim the name of Jesus, every knee shall bend and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. We ask this through Christ, with whom you have raised us up in baptism, the Lord who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year B, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.
Now, let me say here that I am not in favor of preaching the passion on Palm Sunday. I am well aware that the pilgrim Egeria c380 participated in a palm procession to the Holy Sepulchre in the same day. However, our tradition is a Holy Week and I encourage you to invite people to make it so. I would be in favor of removing the passion reading to an evening service. You will have to read my thoughts on the passion narratives in the Good Friday postings.
Some Thoughts on Mark 11:1-11
"This Palm Sunday can we get beyond a scrap of palm we never know what to do with, & a feel- good procession that leads to nowhere?"
Marginally Mark, by Brian McGowan, Anglican priest in Western Australia.
"The use of palm branches in Maccabees was related to military victories. Is that what the people were expecting from Jesus?"
Exegetical Notes by Brian Stoffregen
"Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan suggest there was not only a procession from the Mount of Olives on the east that day, but also a Roman procession entering from the west, which would have had as a focal point the Roman governor named Pontius Pilate. The juxtaposition of these two processions would have set up quite a contrast."
Join the Feast, Mark 11:1-11, Kirby Lawrence Hill, Union PSCE, 2009.
"Jesus Enters Jerusalem as Messiah," Michael A. Turton's Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, "a complete verse-by-verse commentary on the Gospel of Mark, focusing on the historicity of people, places, events, and sayings in the world of the Gospel of Mark."
How will you bear witness to Jesus' passion and resurrection? How will you walk the way with Jesus this week?
One of the first things I want to encourage you to do this Sunday is to really pay attention to the triumphal entry and its narrative offering. All too often we rush to the foot of the cross! While we certainly have a long tradition of reading the passion this Sunday, we also have a long tradition of bypassing the triumphal entry.
Encourage your people to attend the pilgrim journey through Holy Week. Dare to preach the passion narrative as it comes. Resist the "cliff notes" version of preaching Good Friday's message Sunday. Invite people back and invite them into the life journey of Jesus as experienced in our liturgy this week.
So then, what to do with our passage from Mark 11? This carefully constructed passage parallels 14:12-16; and provides for an understanding that what is taking place is of central importance to Jesus ministry.
He has been very clear from the beginning of his ministry (in Mark's Gospel) that to walk the Way (the reoccurring theme of this Gospel) is to walk towards the cross. This is true for Jesus' own ministry. It is true in the life and ministry of all those who would follow him. Here in this passage the pilgrim way of walking leads directly to Jerusalem and to the Temple. Therefore the way is tied inextricably to the faithful traditions of our Abrahamic ancestors and will in the end unleash God's presence in the world, God's embrace of the world. The triumphal entry is the point at which walking the way TO the cross arrives on the doorstep of Jerusalem to become the the way OF the cross.
The entrance rite is royal (see Genesis 49:10-11 and Zechariah 9:9). This is an eschatological and messianic reign that is being unfurled into time. The stage and the plan are underway and the unfurling of a new creation and new order of living is at hand.
From Psalm 118 comes the imagery of a new Davidic reign. The gates are open and the people fervently receive their king; yet as the reader know this crown will be laid upon the king not in victorious triumph but complete and utter powerlessness. The worlds undoing and recreation will come from an explicit rejection of power as this world deals it out and an embrace of forgiveness and grace of which the world had yet to behold.
This is all in juxtaposition though to the victory parade of Pilate who is entering the city on a stallion with the might of an army behind him. By the end of their conflict it will be the one who rides in on a donkey, suffers, and dies...who has no army...and who gives over all the power of God to completely enter the death of the least and the lost that will be victorious.
Note in this Gospel there is no cleansing of the Temple but only an embrace. Jesus enters, and retires to rest. Why? Because in Mark he has been on The Way to the Cross since chapter 1. The way is a way of suffering where by weakness he will deliver us all unto God. Robert Farrar Capon, Episcopal priest and scholar wrote that while the people are thinking of an interventionist king Jesus has only one thing on his mind and that is his "left-handed" and "implausible" death by which he will become the sacrament of abundant life. ( Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, 433.)
And, so we begin. We make our journey. We choose to follow Jesus along the way of the cross. We pledge fidelity not to power which overcomes, but a power which will yield unto death. Unlike those who met Jesus at the gate, we greet him this Sunday knowing that only complete submission and not a powerful revolution brings about the creative cataclysm. And, we rehearse, remind, and remake our way to the foot of the cross as a reminder that our Christian way is clearly marked by grace, mercy, and forgiveness - and not by authority, power, and abuse.
So, I charge you to remember, Walk with determination turning your hearts and minds to the actions of God. A God who went suffered pain, and entered was crucified. By walking in the way of the cross, may you find a blessing, and a way of life, and a way of and peace.
Previous Sermons For This Sunday
Sermon on the Atonement and an invitation to experience Holy Week again for the first time. Palm Sunday - Trinity, Galveston. Year B.
Sermon preached Palm Sunday, Trinity, Galveston 2013. Year C.
Sermon Preached at St Cyprian's Lufkin Palm Sunday Year B.
Palm Sunday Sermon preached at St. Cuthberts, Houston, Texas 2011. Year B.
This sermon is in Spanish and was given at San Mateo, Houston, Texas on Palm Sunday, 2009. Year B.
If you just can't resist it... here is the textweek resources:
Special Resources for the Reading of the Passion