Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
20 March 2016, Palm Sunday Year C: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16 ; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14-23:56
The scripture we have just heard has
“gruesome familiarity, & as frustrating as it is,
we can't do anything to change it.”1
Despite how frustrating it is to hear the story of Jesus' Passion – the betrayal, Jesus' pleading with God not to have to go through the suffering, the agony, the dying – you & I know the rest of the story. We know, as our own Paul Fryer said yesterday in an email:
“This is the heart of the Gospel.”
We know the Gospel is Good News.
Even on Palm Sunday & throughout Holy Week, we are Easter people. We know the rest of the story. That's why, when the going gets tough, when things take a sudden, unexpected turn we know God is in charge. The crowd of people beating their breasts as they leave the scene of Jesus' crucifixion don't know the joy of Jesus' Resurrection will happen soon.
Like so many people in our neighborhood & lives,
they don't know:
God is in charge!
In your mind's eye, what expressions do you see on the faces of the people leaving that scene?
I remember Palm Sunday 2008 when some of you weren't so sure God is in charge. I remember the stunned, confused looks of you who were inside the church when our outside Liturgy of the Palms was delayed. You didn't know the whole story: as we were about to start the Liturgy outside, our priest had a medical emergency we thought was a stroke.
Before he was taken to the hospital, he asked me to lead the service since I was in the process for ordination. After checking with the Senior Warden to be sure he didn't want to lead it, I scrambled to find words to help alleviate the stress with which you were so obviously struggling. It was the shortest sermon I have preached!
After explaining what had happened outside, I assured all of us: God is in charge. My confidence in that fact was because Twin Lakes had water despite the severe drought. That confidence came from a chat with a neighbor about the lake. His wife had questioned why he wasn't worried about it. He assured her rain would come because “God is in charge”.
When we stay centered on God, we respond differently when the unexpected happens. In his book Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter, the Rev. Tim Schenck reminds us: In our own lives we often make judgments about why certain things happen to us without fully knowing the breadth of God's plan for us. This is why the beginning of Holy Week offers no better starting point than to pray with Jesus,
"Yet not what I want, but what you want." 2
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. USA: Forward Movement. 2015. www.forwardmovement.org
1 Schenck, Tim. Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter. P. 34.
2 Ibid. P. 35.