Reflections from Sunday, April 9/17 Palm/Passion Sunday
Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday
5 Marks of Love – Treasure: Striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustaining and renewing the life of the earth.
For the Sundays in Lent, we have been looking at the 5 Marks of Love, the Marks of Mission that form the foundation of our life of faith. Today we have arrived at the final mark. Treasure: striving to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustaining and renewing the life of the earth. To that end you will find some simple suggestions for strengthening our ties with creation, and taking moments in the week ahead to nurture our relationship with creation and with the God of creation. We are part of creation, and in the often-frantic pace of our lives, it can be too easy to forget this all-important connection. As we look for our role in God’s mission to the earth, we keep ourselves open to this all important aspects of being Jesus’ disciples.
During this final week of Lent, we pause of this day of waving palms and remembering the passion of Jesus, to recall that it was St Francis of Assisi who reminded us that we are one with creation. We are called to challenge those things that would threaten creation and to live gently upon the earth and to protect and preserve God’s creation.
I once heard a story about the world famous Passion Play that takes place every ten years in the Bavarian village of Oberammergau. One of the most famous of the actors who portrayed Christ was Anton Lang. One day, following one of the performances, a tourist and his wife went back stage to meet the actors. After taking Lang’s picture, the man noticed the great cross that the actor had carried during the performance. He said to his wife, “Here, take the camera and I’ll lift the cross on my shoulder, and then snap my picture.” Before Lang could say anything the tourist had stooped down to lift the prop to his shoulder. He couldn’t budge it. The cross was made with solid oak beams. In amazement the man turned to Lang and said, “I thought it would be hollow and light. Why do you carry a cross which is so terribly heavy?” The actor replied, “Sir, if I did not feel the weight of his cross, I could not play his part.”
To feel the weight of the cross is what we have been doing in different ways during this season of Lent, and what we are about to do in a focused and intentional way as we begin today to live out this Holy Week. During this week, as we gather for worship, as we pray and meditate on the life-giving events of these last days of our Lord’s life, we try to enter imaginatively into the story of Christ’s passion, to try, each one of us, to feel the weight of the cross, to understand a little of the immensity of God’s sacrifice for us, and the immensity of God’s love for us.
Today it all begins: Palm Sunday. We began our service today, with a distinct sense of triumph, walking with Jesus into Jerusalem, singing our Hosannas. But now … everything has changed. The Sunday of Palms is now the Sunday of the Passion. We have just heard Matthew account of what they did to Jesus after he had entered the holy city. This reading of the passion narrative, on this Sunday, acts as a kind of overture to the whole week, which lies ahead.
This week will provide us with a series of snapshots, of images. On Thursday and Friday of this week there will be the last Supper, the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, Peter’s denial, Jesus before Pilate and before Herod. The crowds baying for blood, ”Crucify him!’ the crucifixion, the three crosses, a criminal on either side. Jesus dies, his dead body taken down from the cross. Jesus in the arms of his mother, his dead body lain in the rock-hewn tomb. Then the Sabbath, when they all rested; when they all entered into the great silence.
The overture is set before us today, and in the days ahead we shall reflect in depth on each part of the story, so that we too may feel the weight of the cross, to hear again and to experience again and know again, just how much God has sacrificed for me, for us, and just how much God loved the world, how much God loved us.
The great spiritual writer, Ida Goerres wrote that coming to Holy Week was like approaching a great waterfall; like approaching a great waterfall with an empty cup in your hand that you long to fill up with water. If you put the cup right into the middle it will likely be dashed away. It is better, she says, to aim for one small part of the waterfall, perhaps on the edge, one particular trickle of water, and fill up your cup there.
And so, as we approach this Holy Week I invite you to find one part of this week which seems most inviting. Perhaps be guided by your thirst, asking, ‘Where is my deepest need right now; where is my deepest thirst?’ Name it, and offer that need, that thirst to God. Bring that particular, specific intention before God for this Holy Week.
So as we begin this week, let us ask God to bless us all on the journey. And, may there be grace on this journey to both “feel the weight of the cross” and to walk with hope and trust in our hearts, for we know and rejoice that the weight of the cross will become the weight of glory.
As we begin this journey, let’s remember the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who in the darkest of days wrote
I know that goodness is stronger than evil.
That love is stronger than hate.
That light is stronger than darkness.
That life is stronger than death.
That Victory is ours through him who loves us.