Sunday, April 05, 2009

Passion Sunday - becoming "little Christs"

Below you'll find my homily notes from today's 8:30 a.m. service at Grace Cathedral.

Liturgy of the Passion

This is our story, this is our song…disturbing, confusing, challenging, moving, troubling, inspiring, complicated….

A lot of words, texts, stories have been read today, have been in a way performed --- it has been the church’s tradition for some time now to read on Palm Sunday the passion narrative and not simply the passages of scripture relaying the story of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem on a donkey and being greeted by people with palm branches.

We’re invited to read along and we --- the masses gathered here--- were given the part of the crowd, we got to say , repeatedly, “crucify him, crucify him”

Looking back at Christian history, the church has again and again betrayed the teachings of Jesus ---- humanity has again and again turned our backs on Jesus’ vision of the realm of God and those who sought to live a life in the way of Jesus. Humanity says these words “crucify him, crucify him” every time we choose violence rather than peace, whenever we are unable to tolerate the voices and perspectives of those who challenge us, when we fail to honor the dignity of others or the image of God within ourselves.

Yet reading these parts, “crucify him, crucify him” I wonder if these recitations --- don’t take our eyes off the one we’re to be following --- rather than identifying with the one who is inviting us to come and follow, to love as he loves, to live as he lives --- we on this day in the dramatic reading spoke the language of the oppressor, took the role of the betrayers. This performance, this text pushes us to ask whom do we really identify with? Whom do we really seek to follow in our day to day lives?

These two questions are central to all of the readings we heard today, all the passages of scripture we’ll engage in this week--- these questions are central to our lives --- to our moment in time --- whom do we identity with? Whom do we seek to follow?

John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg --- in their important book “The Last Week” remind us that two processions came into Jerusalem in the year 30 -- one was a peasant procession waving palm branches, the other an imperial procession with soldiers and weapons. Which procession do we find ourselves in? Whom do we seek to follow? Jesus, the nonviolent revolutionary teacher or the power and wealth of empires, corporations, the stock market?

Perhaps the church in its wisdom in having us read these words, “crucify him, crucify him” is giving us an opportunity to purge ourselves of our inclination to do that in our lives, to acknowledge the ways we betray and deny Jesus --- and even taunt the one who seeks to give us life and make us whole. This collective performance then is a confession and an opportunity for reorientation. May we see other options, may we find a different part --- may we come to more deeply identify with Jesus, and those whom he identified with ---with the nameless woman who anointed his head, Mary Magdalene and the other women who stayed with him to the very end. Let us open ourselves to the possibility of becoming “little Christs.”

Author Diana Butler Bass writes, “Early on, Romans scornfully tagged the Jesus followers with the name “Christian,” meaning “little Christ.” Being a Christian meant being like Jesus; following his way meant imitating the life of its guide and founder, even to the cross.”

As we enter Holy Week --- let’s keep our eyes on Jesus --- and invite the Spirit to help us make his script a central part of our lives, praying that our identity and our path be focused on Jesus and what Jesus was passionate about, the reign of God as Crossan and Borg write “the first passion of Jesus was the kingdom of God, namely, to incarnate the justice of God’s distributive justice that led inevitably to the second passion by Pilate’s punitive justice. Before Jesus, after Jesus, and for Christians, achetypically in Jesus, those who live for nonviolent justice die all too often from violent injustice.”

May we follow Jesus into the broken relationships, systems and institutions of our contemporary world, follow Jesus into the homes of the sick and marginalized, into the midst of demonstrations and protests, the cold complicity of churches, the inhumanity of the judicial structures, may we follow Jesus into the cruel torture chambers, the lonely jails and prisons, the bloody golgathas and calvarys, the abandoned tombs --- let us follow Jesus --- may this be our story, may this be our song. May we be known as “little Christs.” Blessed be the King who comes in the Name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and Hosanna in the Highest”

The image above is by South Asian artist, Solomon RAJ

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