Sunday, April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion
The Word for This Day
FIRST READING - ISAIAH 50:4-9a
4The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
5The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
6I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
7The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
8he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
9aIt is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
SECOND READING - PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11
5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
GOSPEL - MATTHEW 26:14 - 27:66
Today's Gospel is the entire story of Jesus' suffering and death as told by Matthew. You are invited to read it from your Bible and reflect upon it. Today's sermon (below) is a brief introduction to guide your reading and reflection.
"Introduction to the Passion According to Matthew"
We are about to hear a painful story. That is what a “Passion” is. Passio is Latin for “suffer.” And there is plenty of suffering in this story. Matthew describes a grizzly execution. There is raw and naked anger—a crowd gone frantic. There is torture and cruelty. There are two betrayals and a suicide and a great unmasking of pretension. By the end of the story is seems everyone has been undone—Jesus, the disciples, the leaders, the crowd, Judas, and Peter.
In a time of pandemic, why should we put ourselves through such a horrendous tale? One answer is simple and honest: “It happened.” And if it happened it could happen again. It could happen to you or me. And so we have an obligation to remember. As Matthew tells the story, however, he gives it a twist—uses a phrase he loves to use throughout his gospel: “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet....” This story of pain is not an accident or mistake. It was plotted beforehand, and the author of this tale is no one less than God.
In this story there is one character who stays in control. It is the one for whom the story seems most certainly to go spinning of control. It is Jesus. He sets a course for Jerusalem and the hill called The Skull and he will not be swerved from it. Even more, he has determined that he will not travel this path alone. He brings everyone else in the story with him. It’s not a trick or a deception. He told them from the beginning this is how it would have to be: “If you would follow, take up your cross.”
None of the other characters end up on crosses with Jesus, but one way or another, everyone in this story dies. They cease to be what they had been. The crowd that once cheered Jesus now calls for his death; they offer their own children as a sacrifice to their rage. Judas thinks he will make the world better but discovers he’s made a terrible mistake. Peter must confront the reality that he is not the hot-shot disciple he pretends to be. A Roman governor executes a man he knows is innocent. Religious authorities become transfixed in their jealousy and orthodox convictions and it leads them to murder. Interestingly, only the women fare well in this story. Pilate’s wife tries to call her husband back from disaster. The women from Galilee will watch the proceedings while the men run away. The women fare well because in Matthew’s world they are “the little ones”—the ideal disciples of whom Jesus has been speaking throughout the story. Relegated to second-class citizenship in a patriarchal society, these women are closest to the kingdom of which Jesus has been speaking. They understand what it means to empty oneself for the sake of others.
And if Jesus walks this path and brings his disciples with him, it is only so that they can be undone, too—so that they can also be raised from the dead like him and assume his new life in the world. This most certainly is risky business. Jesus says so and he shows it. Everyone loses their lives. Some like Judas never come back. Other like Peter and the disciples will need to die to what they were. But the story does not end here—today. There is an open tomb and a resurrection. Jesus is going there, and he wants us to follow.
Let us hear the Passion of Our Lord According to Saint Matthew....
Sermon by Pastor Ron Roschke