Palm Sunday, 2014

Palm Sunday, year A, 2014 (preached April 13, 2014)

processional reading:  Matthew 21:1-11

first reading:  Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm:  31:9-16

second reading:  Philippians 2:5-11

reading of the Passion:  Matthew 26:14-27:66

***preface – because of the procession with palms and the reading of the Passion, the sermon is shorter than usual

IMG_1308I have often said that a life of faith does not mean our life will be easy.  It’s not as if our baptism into Christ provides us with a warranty against pain and struggle.

I’ve thought of that a lot recently.  A plane vanishing with hundreds of people, leaving hundreds more behind to grieve.  A landslide in Washington state killing dozens, leaving more homeless.  A school stabbing in Pennsylvania.  A bus/truck crash of aspiring young people killing teachers, students, and both drivers.

And in our own little corner of this big world, we have our personal worries – either for ourselves or those we love – physical ailments and accidents.  And we sometimes feel powerless to make any of it stop or get better.

This is one of the many reasons why the book of Psalms is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  The various writers of the Psalms have what I’ve referred to as an “honest faith.”

There is no sugar coating in the Psalms, no false sense of hope or security.  No smiling in the storm – just a fierce determination for God to see them through it.  In the Psalms we find open and honest dialog with and about God.

Our psalm for today sums up how I’ve been feeling in the face of all the world and local events – “as useless as a broken pot.”  What a wonderfully rich image.

We look at the world around us, and at our own lives, and we know it can be hard to sing the old hymn, “It is well with my soul.”  All we really want to do is cry with the psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.”

When we think as Christians that our lives have to be perfect, full of happiness and praises or we’re doing something wrong, we’re setting ourselves up, and we set God up too.

Living a life of faith isn’t living life in some kind of happy bubble where everyone is healthy, where there are no poor and none hurting.

Living a life of faith is about confronting the challenges and pain of the world and our lives head-on.

This is what our psalm does, this is what this coming week of passion and crucifixion does.

In the life of faith there is a constant tension between saint and sinner, now and not yet, hard reality and real hope, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

When we feel as useless as broken pots, when we look at our lives and around the world and say, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,” we’re acknowledging this tension and asking the Lord to break in and remind us of that REAL HOPE.

It is the hope that broken pots aren’t entirely useless after all, and that our troubles will not be the end… because of how our psalm ends today:  “But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord… My times are in your hand… Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.”

This sustaining hope, that we are God’s, and that God holds us in his hands, is the hope, the love, that sees us through this most holy of weeks.  It is the hope that sustains us through the hard realities:  the betrayals, the humiliations, pains and deaths in our lives, so that the deep abiding joy of Easter can be ours too.

Our baptism may be no guarantee of an easy life, but it IS a guarantee that we don’t navigate life’s journey alone – EVER – and that through the good and bad we are in God’s hands and are saved by God’s steadfast love.

AMEN.

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