April 2, 2023
Liturgy of the Palms: Matthew 21:1-11 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 Matthew 26:14-27:66
In our liturgy today we move quickly from Jesus entering into Jerusalem with great fanfare to his betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It is a stark reminder of how quickly the mood of a crowd can change.
On Friday, people in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Wynne and several states, experienced a dramatic change in not only their moods, but also their circumstances. Homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, people killed and injured, and thousands of people found themselves without power as a storm cell moved across the country bringing with it tornado after tornado after tornado. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone whose lives have been affected, including some our own family and friends.
As we typically see after a natural disaster, people are coming together to help their neighbors. I was in Russellville attending a clergy retreat with several priests from central Arkansas when the weather alerts sounded. They returned to their churches and are offering assistance to those in their community who have been affected by the storms. I am thankful for this, and believe this is where we find Christ. Christ is in the midst of the pain and suffering offering help.
Today’s readings are not about what Christ has to offer, though. They are about what Jesus experienced. In a matter of a few short days, the shouts of the people change from “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” to “Let him be crucified!” Today began as Palm Sunday, but it quickly changed into Passion Sunday as we read from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ betrayal through his death on the cross and his placement in the tomb.
This reading, this story, is painful, it is very difficult to hear. Fortunately, we know it is not the end of the story. It is, however, important for us to sit with it for a while so that we might remember that Jesus knows our suffering. As we heard in Philippians, “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross”
And Jesus not only knows suffering and death, he did not run from it. Jesus did not fight to stay alive. He experienced his torture and his death on the cross for each one of us.
There are people today who are suffering in the aftermath of Friday. Jesus is with them to comfort them in their distress and offer them strength to continue forward. No matter how dark the hour, the light of Christ is shining to lead them and us home to where we will be surrounded with God’s love.
Let us pray.
Loving God, our hearts are heavy. We grief for those who have just suffered a great loss. Help them, we pray, to find peace in their lives and the strength to face the days ahead with courage. Be with their neighbors who seek to help them, that they, too, may have the strength to assist them in rebuilding their lives. Keep us ever mindful that in all the frailties of human life, you are in the midst of us. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.