11 April 2009

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

5 April 2009

Mark 11: 1-11

By Canon Sharyn Hall

            A few weeks ago in one of our Sunday worship services, I was listening to Canon Stuart preaching from the pulpit, when suddenly I saw Jesus listening intently to what Canon Stuart was saying. No, it was not a miraculous vision, but it was a startling vision. What I saw was the figure of Jesus in the stained glass window beside the pulpit. Like many of you in the parish, I have looked at this window often, but that day, I saw Jesus from a different perspective.

            In this window, the artist has slightly tilted the head of Jesus, giving the impression that Jesus is leaning forward to listen, and perhaps begin a conversation. When I was startled to see Jesus in this way, I also saw Jesus as curious, wanting to ask Canon Stuart, and any preacher in this pulpit, “What are you telling the people about me?” “Are you telling them MY message, or is it YOUR message?”

            These are challenging questions for a preacher, and I remember these questions as I stand in the pulpit beside this window today. If I could talk with Jesus, I would have many questions about what he said, and what he did, and about what message he has for us in the world today, in this new millennium, but Jesus had a way of asking probing questions of people who came to him for answers.

            Jesus might say to us,

“Some people call me a prophet. Did I prophesy death and destruction? Did I come to condemn the world?

“Some people call me a saviour, but did I bring freedom and peace to all people?

“I have lived among you as a human being, and I understand your vulnerability to pride and to fear and to hopeful dreams. The crowds who greeted me with palm branches and ‘hosannas’ on the road to Jerusalem were full of hopeful dreams for liberation and for their return to a proud nation with God’s anointed king. But, when they saw that I had no army, that I did not rise up as a mighty warrior, they turned away in fear, and their fear led to anger against me and against God.

“The road to Jerusalem was not about me. It was about them.

“They took my message and transformed it into what they wanted to hear,

I preached love and they heard glory.

I preached faith and they heard power.

They wanted the power and the glory of a warrior king, a saviour with a sword.

Pilate was not the only one who washed his hands of me that day. The people who shouted ‘hosanna’ deserted me when I did not fulfill their dreams.

But what about MY hopes and dreams, MY message for humanity?”

Jesus has much to tell us, and he has some tough questions for us. For over two thousand years, the followers of Jesus have molded his message and his mission to suit their own desires and dreams. As I look at the questioning face of Jesus in this window, I wonder if he is amazed that the people who follow him today, like the crowds on the road to Jerusalem, can misunderstand his mission, and turn away to another road.

Jesus thought it was such a simple message. Love God. Love your neighbour. Love yourself as God’s creation meant to love and to be loved. There was too little love for Jesus. Love was swept away by pride and fear and broken dreams. 

Today the road to Jerusalem still leads to a war-ravaged city. The road to Jerusalem is every road where people dream of peace and live in fear, where hope is ground down by despair because people turn away. Are we the people who turn away from the hard realities of human life, from the suffering of our neighbours? Or do we follow the Way of Jesus to confront the pride of power and the fear of death, believing that this world can be healed of its broken dreams. 

If we look at the other stained glass windows in our church, we see familiar images of Jesus as the shepherd, the compassionate healer of the sick and the risen Lord  Those windows tell us something about Jesus. In this window, we can see Jesus from a different perspective. This is the questioning Jesus who wants to know about us, his disciples in the 21st century.

We are millions of people all over the world who praise and honour Jesus, but what do we do to Love God, to show kindness to our neighbours, and to work to heal the broken dreams of God’s people? These are questions for each one of us, not only in this Holy Week, but day by day and year by year, because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, …always.   Amen.

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