April 14, 2009 — Rev. Kathryn Matthews
From our readings today, we accompany Jesus in the events of the final week of his ministry as we move through this important drama in the life of Jesus, from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, to the last supper he shared with his dearest friends, and then to his death on a cross. It happens quickly and in our own lives, we may at times find ourselves stuck in Lent, burdened or weighed down by sorrow and fear much like the followers of Jesus experienced on the day of his crucifixion. Despite what Jesus has foreshadowed to them, they really could not have imagined what was to come. Jesus is dead and their great hopes are buried with him.
Many people experience pain and suffering in their lives. Often, people seek to find meaning or purpose for that suffering, some way to make sense of what may feel meaningless. I have met people who have embraced this story of Jesus’ passion as a way of making sense of the suffering they have endured; somehow they have found strength in remembering the suffering of Christ and this has enabled them to get through very difficult times. I think I have mentioned before that some of the people I came to know in the poorest areas of Nicaragua, of Mexico, of Ecuador and other places I have visited have truly resonated with the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross. They believe that in his suffering he gained an understanding of the pain of their lives, that Jesus joined them in their suffering and that powerful understanding held profound hope for them. They believed that God does not want our suffering, that God suffers with us.
We don’t know the answer to some of the ultimate questions of life; we don’t know ultimately the reason why there is so much suffering in the world and in our personal lives, but it is important to be mindful during the days which unfold as we re-tell the story of the Passion of Christ, that God chose to enter the world in human form, to take on the fullness of humanity to better enter into relationship with us and to more fully experience the suffering that is unavoidable in life. There are many forms of suffering, as we know well… physical suffering as well as emotional and spiritual suffering.
The stories of the Gospels invite us to walk the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, and to consider the suffering of our own lives and the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the world…and to walk with one another in that suffering, and to work so that suffering may be lessened. God does not want our suffering; Jesus came to share a vision of the Kingdom of God, a vision of a Beloved Community where all are welcome, all are treated with dignity and most importantly with love. It is a vision that seeks to eliminate the suffering of hunger, of sickness, of alienation and of shame. Our Creator loves us as and invites us to continue on this Way of Jesus, a path that leads to a Life that few may imagine. We have all had a taste of the triumphs and sorrows of life. God is there with us in the midst of it all. That is the promise.
This Sunday begins the holiest of weeks for Christians. However, there is no “off-season” for being a Christian: not just Sunday, not just holy days and not just when we’re in church or when we’re praying. Being a Christian is an every-day, every moment, all-of-our-lives journey. But this Holy Week comes at the end of Lent, a season of conversion, of turning our lives toward God, if we’ve slipped off course. It’s been a time for us to study and pray, and to ask ourselves the difficult question of whether we’re ready and willing to follow Jesus not just today, in this glad procession, but all the way to the cross. This week, as we stumble toward Jerusalem, we can rely on God’s grace to carry us every step of the way. On this Palm Sunday, in this one moment, we can make a way for Jesus, we can throw our cloaks on the ground and sing our songs of praise, and trust the unknown future to the God who works good in every circumstance and in every, holy week of our lives.