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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Palms to Passion - 03/20/2016

Like the people in our gospel story today, we are drawn in by the palms and left with the heaviness of the passion. Today, as we exit Lent and enter Holy Week, we re-enacted Jesus' jubilant entrance into Jerusalem. And now we move on to re-enacting the last supper, the trial, the crucifixion and death of Jesus. And we try very hard to put ourselves there, on those streets and among all those people. 

In doing so, we give our voices and bodies over to remembering that the very same people who shouted hosannas and waved palms as the Messiah entered their lives, quickly found themselves yelling “Crucify, crucify him!”

We certainly are a species with a capacity for violence. It's all around us. The instincts and chemical makeups that God created in us have helped us survive as a species in this world, but it also gets the better of us, just like it did the people in our story today. I think many of us have probably had to confess to God that our quick and hot emotions are sometimes used against others when our fears get the better of us – our fears of death, of losing all that we've worked for in this life, fears of being in pain or judged or embarrassed, fears of displeasing God. In that fear we act out violently against others sometimes.

This capacity for violence doesn't go unanswered by Jesus in our story today. It's quite illuminating to consider how Jesus responds to violence in this story.

When one of the disciples cuts off the ear of a slave among those who come to the garden to arrest Jesus, Jesus says “No more of this!” and reaches out to heal the injured slave.

When Jesus is brutalized, mocked and crucified by the Roman soldiers, the high priests, the people and all those who we give voice today, he doesn't lash out in revenge or ask God to send eternal damnation upon the people. He says, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

We are followers of this man who we accompany to the cross today and as such, we are called to model Jesus' Way – this different way of responding to violence and all the other things that get between us and God's love in this world. It's a difficult call, but it's a world-changing call.

When we recognize that we are doing violence to ourselves or our loved ones, Jesus calls us to resist our temptation to continue that behavior, to resist the easy way of feeding our poor self-care habits, to resist letting our frustrations and fears ruin our relationships. Instead Jesus challenges us to name this violence we do to ourselves and those we love, and say “no more of this.” He encourages us to heal these wounds we cause for ourselves and our loved ones. He encourages us to and seek and give forgiveness at every opportunity.

When we see other people inflicting violence or calling for violence against others because their skin is a different color, or they call God by a different name, or they are from some unfamiliar place, or they have different opinions, we are called by Jesus to resist joining those ranks of fear and hate. Instead Jesus teaches us to name that violence, to proclaim “No more of this,” and find ways to heal those wounds and forgive those who perpetrate that violence.

When we see all around us how violence is done to this beautiful planet God has created as our home, Jesus calls us to resist our temptation to throw that one little piece of litter on the ground or turn a blind eye to poisoned waters or pretend that climate change doesn't have a human fingerprint on it. Instead we are called to courageously name that violence against creation and yell from the mountaintops, “Enough of this!” and then dig into our God-given human strength and imaginations to heal the planet and forgive ourselves for not being better stewards.

And when we feel the uncomfortable weight of giving voice and body to a chain of events that begins with a jubilant welcome of our Savior and then jarringly turns to shouting for his execution, Jesus asks us to resist our urge to sink into despair and hopelessness. Instead we are asked to keep our eye on that cross and what it reveals to us about God's love for us, what it means to our weekly journey to this table and our lives forever marked by the waters of baptism. Instead we are asked to name that great and steadfast love of God, proclaim it from all the places our lives take us, say “no more” to violence and open our very lives to the healing and forgiveness that Jesus demonstrated to us all along the way to Jerusalem and even from a cross.

There are many things we learn today in our journey with Jesus from palms to passion. And so let us have a prayer before we begin reliving the story of Jesus's passion, inspired by the Letter of Paul to the Philippians and words from the most ancient Christian hymn known to us.

Let us pray.

God,

Let us be of the same mind that is in your son Jesus. Teach us to empty ourselves of violence, apathy, cynicism and all else that puts a wall between us and you. Teach us also to empty ourselves of all that you have have bestowed on us for safekeeping too for the sake of your lovely world– our bodies, our minds, our things, our love. Set our hearts on fire as we remember our story of your son, let it bring us to our knees in obedience, humbleness and gratitude. Give us courage to name those things that are contrary to your abundant presence in this world and to stand up to say “Enough of this!” And be with us as we seek to heal this world and as we seek to be as forgiving as Jesus, who is, after all is said and done, our perfect example of trust in you and love of one another. Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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