The Rev. Jennifer Adams -April 9, 2017 – Palm Sunday, Year A
This week is different than others, which is some case goes without saying. The story is more dramatic – there are no light parables being told this week. And the services happen almost every day – I expect to see you all again before Sunday! And the extremes happen more quickly than they usually do – we just moved from “Hosanna in the highest!” to “Crucify Him” in a matter of minutes. The drama is high, the schedule full, the pace fast.
And actually that’s sort of how we tend to approach life in general these days and so it would be easy to see this week as any other, allowing the drama to simply land on the massive pile of other dramas, to basically see the services of Holy Week as just being “one more thing” on the calendars of our busy lives, to race through the week like we do other weeks so that by the end we are exhausted rather than resurrected. But that “same as any other week” is really not the effect we’re hoping for here. We want and need this week to be different for us.
It is set apart to be very intentionally something else.
Notice that we began this service outside, aware of Creation, surrounded by that which God made, in the world which God so loves.” There were trees and grass and sunshine and birds which is different than our gathering on most Sundays. And then we walked together, we processed all of us not just a symbolic few. And we didn’t run or ride or drive or fly. We walked. Slowly. Making sure that the youngest and oldest among us were a part of us. Nobody was left behind in his procession and while we walked we sang a single chant over and over again. (Thank you choir and musicians for helping that happen.)
Our pace was slow, our music gently repetitive and by the time we reached the doors, our bodies, minds and souls had been invited to be present, and to actually be participants in this sacred story.
And then we read the gospel – and it wasn’t just me reading and you listening – not that that’s bad – but this week is not like other weeks. We are very intentionally doing something else. There were voices from all over the sanctuary who brought this story to life, one character at a time, a whole congregation at a time. It took a little longer than usual but every voice was heard – the one who followed, the one who denied, the one who betrayed, the ones who exposed, the one who discovered, the one who sacrificed, the ones who wept.
You sat during part of the narrative and then the bodies that walked into this place stood up when we reached the place of crucifixion – bodies, minds and souls invited to be present through the telling and living of this sacred story.
Thursday this will happen too. It won’t be an hour-long experience where you sit in the pews and a bulletin guides you through “the normal” experience of prayer because this week we are about helping something else happen. Thursday will be all hands on and eventually socks off.
There will be hundreds of people who come here hungry on Thursday for Feeding America and it will be our bodies that empty the truck and our hands that distribute over eight-thousand pounds of food to all who come –It will be our hands that cook and share a meal and lots of mouths, ours included that enjoy the feast because it will be Maundy Thursday too. After some guests have left, and maybe some have stayed and the food outside has all been distributed and the truck has left, we will wash another’s feet, celebrate Communion in remembrance of Jesus’ Last Supper and process upstairs to strip the altar in preparation for Good Friday. It will take time. And it will take all of us. But this week we are helping something else happen. Bodies and minds and souls participating in this sacred story which on Maundy Thursday commands us to “love one another.”
On Friday we’ll pray the Stations which the kids will hang today in the windows during the Offertory. On Friday all through the day Grace members and guests will walk again, around this sanctuary in silence, still hearing the voices and perhaps the shouts and the tears that this story speaks. All day the sanctuary will be open for anyone who wishes to come and pray, again walking, moving through the story bodies, minds and souls. And at night we will stand and sit and kneel and listen and sing and pray as the light of this morning, the joy of Hosanna! turns to darkness.
Which will last until we light a fire late Saturday night. And we will light a fire late Saturday night in the side yard. And we will process again, together, slowly following the same route we did this morning but this time each of us holding a candle. We won’t see the trees or the sun or even one another very easily that night. But as we process we will proclaim Christ’s light and that light will carry us not only to the next day but into the bell-ringing, darkness ending proclamation of Alleluia, He is Risen! It will take time. And it will take all of us. Bodies, minds and souls invited into the hope and promise of this sacred story.
And so today we begin a week that is not like any other, a week in which we are very intentionally doing something else. And yet by its very difference Holy Week offers to teach us what any other week in this world that God so loves can be. A time of walking with. A time of loving one another. A time of sharing food. A time of weeping together. And a time of rising together with the light of this world, the world that God so loves.
Welcome everyone to a Holy Week that begs to be different. May it be so in order that we too can be transformed bodies, minds and souls into the story, and by a God that loves every step of the way.