Palm/Passion Sunday, Year C
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
Luke 19:28-40, Phil 2:5-11, Luke 23:1-49
April 14, 2019
The audio recording of this sermon can be found here.
We begin this holiest of weeks with a joyful procession, even when it’s cloudy and chilly outside! Our procession with palms is meant to re-enact in some way Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, though I have to say, I’m glad that we don’t include an actual donkey in our re-enactment as they tend to leave “presents” along the path that would be difficult to dodge. (Also, note this year that Luke’s re-telling of this story doesn’t include palms. We cheated and used palms anyway.) Luke, just like the other three gospel writers, puts his particular spin on this scene. His focus can be seen in verse 37 when “the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice…saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”” In this joyful proclamation, we hear echoes of Luke’s telling of the Christmas story in chapter 2 in which a multitude of angels appeared and sang, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace goodwill towards men.”
So is peace found on earth…or in heaven?
The answer to this question is dependent upon which king you choose to serve.
Will you serve Caesar or will you serve Christ? Caesar’s kingdom is based on domination and ruthless power, the kind of kingship Jesus refused when he was tempted in the wilderness. God’s kingdom is based on justice, mercy, and love.
To which kingdom do you belong? The kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of this world? The kingdom of this world with all of its hate and war and conflict and suffering led by self-serving leaders? Or the kingdom of heaven, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first… where there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fulness of joy?
St. Paul’s beautiful hymn we heard from his letter to the Philippians reveals the type of king that Jesus truly is: a self-less king who took the form of a slave and humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. His humiliation lead to his exaltation. His death led to life. Jesus submitted himself to death the same way he had submitted himself to everything else that made him fully human.
Paul calls us to let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. Someday, you and I will also be called to be obedient to death, just as he did. But today, we are free as Jesus was to decide how to orient our lives: inwardly, to serve our own selfish desires, or outwardly, to serve God and other people.
And then, after Paul’s hymn, we heard Luke’s Passion narrative, and again we hear of this conflict between the kingdom of earth and the kingdom of heaven. The assembly accused Jesus before Pilate, the governor of Roman province of Judea, saying that Jesus was perverting their nation, forbidding them to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he’s a king. Pilate, representing the Emperor, finds no reason to convict him. He then tries to pawn him off on the Roman governor of Galilee, Jesus’s hometown, and Herod, too, didn’t find him guilty and sent him back to Pilate. Finally, Pilate declares that Jesus will be released. But the crowd was having none of it. They finally convince the representative of the earthly king to execute the heavenly king for crimes he didn’t commit.
To which kingdom do you belong? The kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of this world?
Right now, you and I are living in the tension between the two. Every human being is held captive by the aftereffects of the sins of our first parents, and we can’t escape this world without dying. But by our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been grafted in to God’s family. By going down into the water, we renounced our citizenship of the kingdom of this world, and by rising again, we received new citizenship in God’s kingdom.
On Palm/Passion Sunday, we are reminded that despite the fact that we live in this world, we are not of this world. In a sense, we are living in a strange and foreign land where our allegiance to the true king is mocked and scorned and rejected.
Jesus entered Jerusalem to these cries: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” He left Jerusalem having been executed as a criminal, convicted of crimes against the state he didn’t commit, and the crowds who gathered there for his execution returned home beating their breasts in utter despair. For the king of the universe was dead, killed by the human authorities of this world.
Why did he die?
To bring peace, in both heaven and on earth.
Jesus Christ stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to his Father’s will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world.
But the peace that he brought to us in his death will not be brought to completion until Easter. Today, in the cycle of the church year, we enter into a time of intense sadness. The peace that we long for and know will ultimately come isn’t here quite yet. For now, we are left in sorrow, for it seems that the rulers and principalities of this world have defeated and killed our Lord. Despite knowing how the story ends, the Church invites us to walk with Jesus this week on his long journey of suffering. The Church invites us to let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus. To follow our Lord in his obedience to death, even death on a cross.
In a moment, as he’s preparing the table for communion, Deacon Gerry will quietly perform an ancient part of the liturgy that has been around since at least the year 150 AD. He will place a single drop of water in the chalice of wine and say quietly under his breath, "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity." The water represents humanity, and the wine represents Christ, and in the comingling of the two elements, they become inseparable. Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus, that we may share in his divinity just as he shared in our humanity.
 David Lyon Bartlett, and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. Kindle edition, location 5243 of 18450.
 Ibid 5819.
 Luke 23:1-3.
The sermons preached at High Mass at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!