my miscellany

Homily on St Matthew 27:1-54; Year A, Palm Sunday — 13 Apr 14

Homily on St Matthew 27:1-54; Year A, Palm Sunday

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.     (Hymn 158, Stanza 2)

We just have made those words true. We have just denied him, and in denying him, we crucified him, just as if we nailed his hand to the cross-beam. It is hard to hear those words unless we take some responsibility for putting Christ on the cross. We really can’t hear them unless we recognize our hand in the terrible business that went down in the Passion. To drive this point home, we divide the Passion into parts, so that it is all the more difficult to pretend it was the Jews or the Romans who did this to Him.

Palm Sunday is one of those times when it really is about us and not so much about him.  If we denied him, it’s about us.  If we crucified him, it’s about us.  And, if it’s about us, it isn’t really about anyone else. We really don’t need to know whether the Romans were mostly responsible or the Jews were mostly responsible if, indeed, we can ever find the answer to that question.  For, remember, it really is about us, about what we do that puts him there on the cross today and every day.

I once heard in a sermon about “the dark, secret pleasures of the soul.” Those dark and secret pleasures also make today about us. We all have them.  We all think no one else, even God, knows we have them.  But the truth is, you cannot have “dark, secret pleasures of the soul” and enjoy them without other people knowing that you have them and without other people knowing that you enjoy them as much as you do. People, when they enjoy such things, are not invisible.

You see, Palm Sunday really is about us, because those dark and secret pleasures of the soul are very close to our sins. I don’t know how to explain it, but those dark and secret pleasures take a form, a shape, that we cannot control, that we cannot limit, and they become our denials, our crucifixions, of those we envy, of those we pity, of those we look down upon, and of those who, we think, have no reason to be associated with us at all. Today is very much about us and how we live day after day, and year after year, preferring Barabbas to the Lord.

But today doesn’t last forever. It lasts long enough for us to get the picture of how the world would be if at its foundations any one of us were in charge. We can thank God that none of us has the last word. We can thank God that the last word lies outside our power to demean and to contemn; we can thank God that the last word eludes and mystifies us until that Word, in the person of the Lord Jesus, takes us by the hand and loves us, loves us beyond the grave and beyond our faithless fear.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
Think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
Not my undeserving. (Hymn 158, Stanza 5)

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