Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On Our Lips

Three weeks ago, way back on the Second Sunday in Lent, when we were just getting used to withholding our "alleluia" from the fraction anthem, we read Luke 13-31-35 and heard Jesus say to the Pharisees, "And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (I must admit that I had forgotten which Sunday it was because I preached on the smoking fire pot and flaming torch of Genesis 15 that week.) As I prepare to preach on Palm Sunday, however, I am thinking about those words from Jesus: "you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

This week, as we begin our worship on Palm Sunday, we will not only hear Luke 19:28-40, in which the crowd heralds Jesus with shouts of "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" but we will even put those words on the lips of presider and congregation, when, immediately before we make our own procession into the church, we say responsorially, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." (BCP p. 271). In other words, those words of identification and acclimation become our own.

Of course, we won't stop there. Luke's story of Jesus' passion, death, and burial will be read in dramatic fashion by members of the congregation. And, when it is time for the crowd to speak, the entire congregation will urge Pilate to do the evil deed, exclaiming, "Crucify, crucify him!" No matter how many times I preach on Palm Sunday and no matter how many blog posts I write about this moment, I am still amazed and how quickly the crowd changes its mind from shouts of hope to shouts of anger.

I don't know about you, but I want to see Jesus. I want to see him this Sunday, when we gather to celebrate both his passion and "the benefits procured unto us by the same." I want to see him on Good Friday, when he is hanging on the cross, mocked and scorned by the world. I want to see him on Easter Day, when he appears to the women at the tomb. And I want to see him when he comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead and, at last, to make everything right in God's kingdom. I want to see him, and so I yearn to say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." But I also know that to see him as the God-sent one I must first cry out, "Crucify, crucify him" because Jesus' perfect majesty is not revealed in a political or royal processional but in his agony and death.

In the story of Jesus, those acclimations go together. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord and is crucified for us. I want to see the real Jesus. I want to know the one who came and lived and died for us--not the idol of power and privilege the world has made him to be.

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