s017g99 Somerton Park Palm Sunday 28/3/99
A shorter sermon in the light of the processional and long passion gospel for today.
"The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! "" (Matthew 21:9).
At Christmass we have a tradition of blessing the Christmass Crib, and at Easter we have the singing of the Easter Anthems in place of the "Venite" at Mattins - but other than Palm Sunday there is really no other Sunday which has a set mini-liturgy on it's own. And even the blessing of the Christmass Crib doesn't feature in the prayer books like the Palm Sunday procession. I really don't particularly mind that we don't make too much of the procession here, but the tradition of reading the procession gospel is one I would hate to loose.
For it brings to us in clear and unmistakable terms the fickleness of the crowds. On the one hand the exultant jubilation of the crowds, just a few days later, liturgically I suppose within half an hour, it seems the same crowd are baying for Jesus' blood as they demand that he be crucified.
It is idle to speculate how this transformation took place among the general populace, but clearly the lay and ordained religious authorities were the only ones with the authority, networking, indeed even the motivation (it is astonishing to have to admit it) to accomplish this. But it IS idle, for the pointing of the finger, the accusation of blame for what happened, all too easily rebounds on the accuser. Would any of us really want to be able to claim that we would have been able to withstand the "logic" of the opposition? I certainly wouldn't! It is easy to be swayed by strident voices - and yet they must be resisted. It is all very subversive - for these words even mock democracy - though I hasten to add that I am not advocating any other political system!!!
I wonder if Jesus was actually surprised at how quickly the mood of the people changed and how little warning he was given? I doubt it.
And we have just heard read the passion narrative, from Matthew chapter 27, and the words which form the foundation of our faith - that Jesus was crucified at the instigation of the crowds whipped up by the lay and ordained religious leaders.
We too are surrounded, inevitably, by human nature - none of us, least of all me - can escape it, for it permeates our own souls - my own included.
Surely this should bid us recognise that for all our hearty singing "What a friend we have in Jesus", for all we too recite the creed: "I believe in God ..." sincerely each week, we will all most likely find a time when we have been blithely unaware how shallow our faith is, and suddenly find ourselves on the wrong side of the ledger, sometimes without us even knowing how we came to be there. I certainly have.
And it is then that we find how ineffective my faith really is, and how supremely important the fact that Jesus died for me becomes.
We come to the realisation that it is far more important that Jesus died on the cross in love for and belief in me - than how loudly I can profess my faith in God. We come to the realisation of how little God needs my support, and how much I need God's support. And the last thing that God needs is to be "protected" from sinners, when I and all else are in no way different.
And of course this attitude ought to permeate our whole existence, not just during Holy Week, or on Sundays, but throughout the whole week. Indeed we are of course more likely to meet others who more need to know our acceptance during the week than here in Church - our attitude to others in the "secular" world is paramount for Christian ministry - that God loves and believes in them also.
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