Sermon Starter: Palm/Passion Sunday

April 10th, 2011

Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

How quickly the crowds of Palm Sunday disappear. The loud “Hosannas” echo in the stillness of the night. The cry of the crowd that gathers on Good Friday is not “Hosanna to the highest” but rather, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Death is an assault on our sensibilities. Maundy Thursday affronts us with the threshold of an event so horrific that it takes us a lifetime to assimilate its ghastliness. Death does that. Death comes and takes us to places we would rather not go. It roughly thrusts itself between us and the vision of life we embrace in faith.  Maundy Thursday is not a night of life. It is instead the kiss of death.

Maundy Thursday is a man sharing his last meal with his friends in the numbing realization that this is their last get-together. But they just don’t get it. Jesus pleads, “Stay with me and pray that this cup of death might indeed pass from me untouched.” But even His closest friends fail him and He prays alone.

“I’m dying. Wake up to the truth of what this night holds.” But His friends fall asleep on the job and Jesus waits for death to come, isolated from human companionship.  Jesus carries the awful burdensome weight of certain death without the loving hand-holding of a friend. This night shatters us with reality. There exists only death staring us in the face, for this is the night the life support has been disconnected.

We try not to wallow in the death and emptiness of Holy Week, preferring instead to leap forward to Easter morning when all is well again. On the darkest day, Holy Saturday, we jump the gun with egg hunts and spring festivals. But we must sit with this devastation, this darkness, to truly see the light that Easter brings.

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