April 13, 2014, Palm Sunday – A Meditation

To listen to this sermon, click here: 131014_001

I have a bunny named Nell, who has been living in our kitchen for the winter. A few days ago I was cleaning out her cage I found an ad in the newspaper for a program called “Luggage with Love.” It is run by a group called the Jefferson Leadership Institute, and the purpose is to benefit children in the foster system. The idea of the program is to collect decent luggage for foster children to carry their few possessions from home to home, because all too often all they have are plastic garbage bags to use. The ad points out that this would help give kids a greater sense of self-worth, and I think that is an important thing. But I think there might be another, even greater need that is revealed by this program, and that is the problem of uncertainty. The lives of foster children are all uncertainty; they have no sure and solid anchor to hold onto. They often don’t know who they will live with next year, or maybe even next month. They don’t know whether to expect comfort or discomfort, kindness or harsh treatment. These children have such a crying need for certainty and stability in their lives that even the small certainty of a decent bag to keep their few possessions in is a real help to them.

And we are not so very different from them. Creatures in a broken and unstable creation, our whole lives are spent in fickleness and uncertainty. Despite the fact that we are the most fickle of all creatures, or perhaps because we are the most fickle of all creatures, we human creatures desperately crave anything that gives us something solid to hang onto. We need the security of human relationships, even though we know that they eventually they will fail us. We seek the stability of financial security, a secure career, a good retirement plan, savings accounts and IRAs and investments. We like to own things so that we can be more sure of them, to own our home, to own a car so we can go where we want when we want.

The problem is that all the instability and insecurity and impermanence that we spend our lives running away from actually come from within us, so that it is a hopeless case. We can never escape them with any of our feeble human efforts. The only hope of permanence, the only promise of stability, the only escape from decay and corruption, can be found in Jesus Christ. Christ, who is the image of the eternal Father, is the one, the only one, who is the same, yesterday and today and forever. And that permanence is the desperate need of every living being, As surely as we are created to need food and water and clean air to breathe, we are created with a need for the sure and eternal love of the Creator. Augustine described it like this: “You formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Of all days in the Church year, today, Palm Sunday, speaks to us most clearly about the stark contrast between the fickleness of man and the eternal faithfulness of God. We began the service with the joyful reading about the children who sang and the crowds who laid their cloaks down in the street to welcome the Son of David in triumph. But then just a moment ago we finished the long story of betrayal as Jesus was arrested, and accused with entirely fictitious charges, beaten and tortured, and finally killed.

And that distance, between the joyous “Hosannas” of the crowd as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, and the murderous and bloodthirsty cries of “Crucify him!” that followed only a couple of days after, seems enormous – yet it was so short a distance that it could be traversed within the confines of a single human heart. But for the grace of God, there is not one person in this room who could not have made that same journey, from hope to hatred, from joy to anger, from expectation to fear. In our own individual lives we have all been known to veer wildly between the extremes of faith and despair, trust and fear, gratitude and bitterness. We are all fickle creatures. Left to our own self-seeking devices we are untrustworthy and untrusting. But the Good News of this Holy Week is that we are not left to our own devices. We are fickle, but our God is absolutely faithful.

 

The Meditation

1. Peter said to Jesus, “I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you,this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

O Father, in our pride and self-delusion, we make promises to you that we cannot keep. But you never fail to fulfill your promises to your children.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

2. Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me. And he came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

O Father, in our weakness, we all too soon grow weary of loving you and serving you faithfully. But you never tire of loving and serving your children.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

3. The crowd came and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

O Father, in our recklessness and impatience we take things into our own hands instead of following you. But you never cease to have patience with your children, even in their foolishness.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

4. All of the disciples left him and fled.

O Father, in our cowardliness, we run away instead of putting our trust in you. But you are gracious and loving, ready to forgive us when we return to you, and to seek us out when we are lost.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

5. Those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following at a distance.

Our Father, afraid of what other people will think, we sometimes keep our distance from you. But you are not ashamed to call us your children, your brothers and sisters, your friends.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

6. The bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.”

O Father, afraid of what other people will do to us, we sometimes speak foolishly and faithlessly. But your words are always life and health to us.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

7. As soon as the rooster crowed, Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

O Father, ashamed of our sin and our weakness, we are often tempted to despair. But your mercies are new every morning. When we confess our sins you are always faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;

For his steadfast love endures forever.

Amen,

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