Isaiah 50:4-9a ??Philippians 2:5-11

April 13, 2014 by Ken Dale

So here we are ? Palm Sunday.? Just a week away from returning to whatever ? if anything ? you gave up for Lent.? Palm Sunday sort of pops up in Lent like the first daffodil through the dead leaves on the cold ground of winter slumber.? It is a welcome surprise and a sure sign of spring and it points to things like fishing and baseball games and even summer vacations that are no longer unimaginably distant.? Those are my memories of Palm Sunday and as a child the next thing to follow in church was Easter!? Until I started preaching I really don?t have too many memories of Passion Sunday.? But when I found myself responsible for the order of worship on Palm Sunday I became very aware that we came too close to skipping over the hard part of the story.? Yes we had that beautiful yet difficult experience of Maundy Thursday but it was easy to say that most of the church?s congregation didn?t show up for that.? They went from Palms to Easter lilies.

Celebrating palms without the passion, runs the risk of imitating the parable of the sower where the seeds immediately sprang up but they had no depth of soil so when the sun had risen they were scorched.? So now Palm Sunday gets followed by a slash and the words Passion Sunday ? and the purpose of worship is to begin with Palms and end with passion.? And the truth of the matter is that they are inseparable.? And they point to that reality of life that is captured in how close ?Hosanna? can be to ?Crucify.?? But I believe they grant us a faith for the reality of how short the distance can be from ?I will love you forever? to ?I want a divorce? or how near ?I trust you? can be to ?you betrayed me!?? There are times in life, there are chapters in our journeys, which can go pretty low.? But observing this holy week before us speaks of God?s presence with us in those times ? in all times ? and grants us the assurance that God is with us ? even when God seems to have abandoned us.? We see it by looking at the life of Jesus.

In our reading from Isaiah this morning there are two spiritual themes.? One is listening for God and the other is listening to God.? First we must acknowledge God?s presence, which we may become aware of in worship, in meditation, in our relationships with one another in family or friendships, perhaps in nature or science or the arts.?? Remember that God comes to us in unexpected and surprising ways.? But we need patience if we are to listen for God.? We need that willingness to stop and be still and wait ? to relax in the love of God until we hear that still small voice of God within.? God?s presence may also come in an awareness of the holy that brings fear or confusion or transformation as it did in Paul?s life on his way to Damascus.? It may come in the peace and comfort of daily living.? But we do need to listen for God.

In the Isaiah passage we read, morning by morning [God] awakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.? As the passage continues the prophet speaks of God?s help that is ultimately victorious even in times of being struck, in the face of ?those who pull out the beard? ? what a powerful image ? and because of God?s presence and standing together ? he is able to say ?the Lord God helps me; therefore I will not be disgraced?I shall not be put to shame?it is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty??

I would invite and encourage us each and all to observe this holy week ? beginning with the palms of today and continuing throughout the week to follow the story ? even through the struggles and ugliness of Good Friday ? and the haunting silence of Saturday ? all before we come together again for the glory of Easter morning.? I would encourage us each and all to listen for God and then to listen to God as we read or hear the story of the passion.? It is impossible for us to do it all in this hour of worship ? so I would invite us to consider the story during the week that follows.? It is impossible to do it all ? but I fear, that we will do nothing.? So I ask you to read it over the next week.

What does God say to us when we consider the story of that last supper in the upper room when Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal and new way to be present – and what do we learn of ourselves when we hear of the awkward conversation at that table about betrayal and desertion?? What does God say to us in the story of Judas and his secret meetings, silver coins, and a midnight kiss on the face of Jesus?? What happens if we meditate on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane ? his loneliness and his struggle in prayer with his will and the will of God?? Jesus is crowned King of the Jews with a crown of thorns as he is beaten, mocked, spit on, and ends up hanging bleeding on a cross feeling forsaken by God ? yet still crying out to God.

I love Peter ? but God speaks to me in and through Peter ? how about you?? A story of big faith and big promises and big failure.? Consider the cast of characters in the story ? and what do we learn from them ? Jesus before Pilate, before Caiphas, before the great crowd whose cries of hosanna have turned to crucify.? Or how about Simon ? recruited to carry the cross, or Barabbas who gets set free at Jesus? expense, the disciples who are asleep in the garden but also in so many other ways ? the dream that Pilate?s wife has- or the women who are always there, keeping their vigil ? even at the foot of the cross ?or Joseph who lends his tomb, or the soldier at the end of the story who makes such a surprising pronouncement. ?How about the ground shaking and the curtain in the temple tearing in two?? We need to spend time with the story and listen for God and listen to God.

There is so very much in this story ? and in and through this story God speaks and God reveals ? and if we listen for and if we listen to God in this story ? we too will know that faith of which Isaiah speaks.? For in this person of Jesus of Nazareth God has come and shared in this life we live with its ultimate highs and its deepest lows ? even death itself.? And in this incarnate one ? God has sustained and overcome and gifted us with such faith that we may live fully in all things.? Truly ? ?Our? Song is Love Unknown.?????? Amen.