Sermon for Palm Sunday Year C
April 14, 2019
Anyone who thinks that we in the Episcopal Church do not read the Bible should attend church this week! Our readings cover the Old Testament, in which we hear from the prophet Isaiah, through the Psalms, the Gospels, and the letter of Paul to the church in Philippi. On Easter Vigil this coming Saturday at St. Paul’s, we will hear multiple readings of Scripture that span the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This week is a good week to read your Bible, following the suggestions in the Lectionary, because all the readings will relate to the most important event for Christians—the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We began the service in our lovely garden, hearing about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, singing along in spirit with those who stood cheering him on, waving palm branches, but we will end our service with his suffering and death fresh in our minds. We will not talk about Easter yet, although it is the highlight of the week. We cannot experience Easter fully unless we also accompany Jesus on his walk through this, the last week in his life.
Palm Sunday is a day in which we realize how easy it can be for people to go from lauding and adoring someone to turning our back on them, and even demanding that they be put to death. Of course, we don’t really believe that we ourselves are capable of such fickleness, but we know that others are. We have only to read world history to see how quickly people, or sometimes a whole group of people, can go from being accepted and respected, to becoming scapegoats for all the evils that exist.
It is important to remember our own culpability, our own sinfulness, when we see the way things are played out these days on social media, on TV, or in any other way in which we get our information on what’s going on in the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
There are many sources available that will take us through Holy Week with appropriate readings for each day. The main Episcopal Church website even has an option to live stream services beginning Maundy Thursday through Easter. The Forward Day by Day booklets have a short commentary and a list of Bible readings for each day. There is a very handy website called Mission St. Clare that has all the readings listed for each day of the week. Or you can simply turn in the back of your Book of Common Prayer, and follow the readings for Holy Week which are listed on p. 957.
A few days ago, I read a short piece that spoke about the Confession of Sin, which we say most Sundays, and in the Daily Office. It made me think about the way we say the confession. While it is a good thing to do a General Confession rather than requiring each person to make a private confession to their priest, we do not really allow time to ponder our sins when we do it this way. I think a very good practice during Holy Week is to take the time each day to say the Confession slowly, to ponder what we have done in thought, word, and deed, and then think about what we have done, and what we have left undone.
At the very least, I would urge each of you to meditate each day this week on the life of our Lord; remember the tremendous blessings that have come to us because God sent Jesus to live among us, fully human yet fully divine. Be thankful. Look forward to Easter, but do not forget that we only have Easter because Jesus willingly endured Holy Week. And he did this for us; he did this for us.