God in the Mess
Even in my relatively short life I have known triumph and tragedy. I have been alongside many of you in your darkest hours and also celebrated with you when things go your way. We are human beings and so we share with each other the things that are good and we suffer with each other when things in life hurt us or those we love. Many of you who have come to know me as a person know that while I’m not perfect, I also know that neither are any of you and rather than using that truth as something to either avoid or else, something to use as power over you to get you to do something for me or that you would use to get me to do something for you, no, instead we gather around the truth of the human experience… life is messy. When things go wrong we experience them both as individuals and as a community.
It is in those sacred moments of life that we often find ourselves, as people of faith, not so much asking, “Where is God?” Although I know we have all at times wondered that, but our faith gives us the power and the ability to enter into a confession that is not so much where IS God but more like THERE is God. On the cross, suffering the passion for me and for you.
That is the whole reason we have this Holy Week, a week that begins today, comes to its crescendo on Good Friday and then comes out of the grave of death and loss on Easter… it is our reminder that Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us, all the way, through suffering and into death.
And he is also our Lord and our King. That is different than any other religion on this earth and it is especially more different than the religion that most of us actually practice on a daily basis. The religion most of us practice is the religion called Me First and that is why today, Palm Sunday, is a glorious entrance into this holiest of weeks for we are confronted by our King, our Messiah, riding on a donkey into Jerusalem and then on towards betrayal and death, all at the hands of those who should have known better.
This story, especially as told today by Matthew, is our dramatic reminder that the freedom that comes to us as Christians was won for us by Jesus on the cross at the cost of his life. The Christian, as Martin Luther wrote, is a perfectly free lord of all, slave to no one. But, at the same time, the Christian is a complete and utter servant to all of humanity, master to no one.
What better way to show us how this works than in the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry in Jerusalem. When a king conquered a city he would then enter that city on his horse followed by all of his plundered wealth, the entire city would be required to turn out to witness the conquering king as he made his way to take up his rule in the castle or the temple, whatever the center of the life of that city may be.
This morning Jesus enters into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and what followed him was… nothing. What followed him was not a train of wealth and an army of strength, it was just his own body and soul, he brought not his wealth and not his titles or his powers, he brought to us himself.
And his throne was to be upon the cross. It is to this instrument of death that our God, our Messiah, was lifted and in his death, the ultimate gift of submission to life’s tragedy and pain, that our own destiny became intertwined with Jesus’ once and for all.
In gathering at the foot of this cross, this week let us confess that if we were to truly reveal our griefs to each other we would discover that they are all one grief, one sadness, one tragedy. May this sanctuary be a place where we might lay our triumphs and our fears, our fears and laments, at the foot of the cross and may we then turn to each other in the knowledge that true hope comes not because of tragedy or even from it but through it as we follow Jesus this holy week to the cross, into the grave and through into the hope of eternal life.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, as we enter into this holiest of weeks, help us to come along with you on this narrow road to the cross. May our tragedies be transformed in the light of the cross and resurrection. May we be not only receivers but then deliverers of your presence and your compassion.