April 1, 2007 Palm Sunday (RCL, Year C)
With the drama and vivid power of these great stories of Holy Week, and with the poetry and compelling imagery of our hymns and anthems, all stirring our imagination and our lifelong associations in such deep ways, it seems the last thing we need today is a sermon. Sometimes, brother preacher, you just need to get out of the way and let the Gospel preach itself.
And never truer than this day, Palm Sunday, with the road into Jerusalem and the cheering of the crowds and then the last evening in the upper room, and then, finally, the catastrophic turn of Good Friday. Just get out of the way, preacher. Get out of the way. But even so—and I know you may have guessed that there would be a catch—even so, I would this morning highlight one more phrase, to offer as a kind of lens, a conceptual frame, to gather in all that we have going on today, as the great eternal eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass intersects in the real time of the calendar with the story of his arrest and trial and torture and execution, the beauties of our liturgy contrasted in this moment with the ugliness of the reality of that day, the cries of agony, the pervasive stench of death.
One phrase, and really a remarkable one, a phrase that takes my breath away every time I hear it, that word from the 5th verse of the Second Chapter of Philippians, and St. Paul, to his friends, his fellow Christians, pilgrims on the way, struggling with life issues in all the ways you and I do, so his word to us as well: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Just to hear that, with all that we’ve just watched played out in this gospel Passion Play. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
Trying to sort that out, in our lives. Which isn’t easy. In a world where so much of the time we worry about getting things or keeping things, and he loses everything. In a world where what matters is that we are right, that we are affirmed, that we are loved and cared for, that our self-esteem is preserved and enhanced, that our priorities are acknowledged and protected. Our rights. So what in the world could he be thinking ? Let the same mind be in you . . . ?
I think that’s enough for the preacher this morning, as we would mull this story over in our minds again and again, even as we approach the altar today to receive the gift of his body broken, his blood poured out, for us. That we are his body: being broken, being poured out. That somehow that might be where even this road we are walking today, in the journey of our lives, is taking us. I don’t know the details.
We’ll each one of us need to figure them out step by step. But there is the lash of the whip, the weight of the beam, the heat of the day, the pounding of the nails. For us. Figuring out how to move from the hypothetical to the practical, from the theoretical to the physical, to what we have before us today. And to struggle to put that together: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.