Homily for Palm Sunday - April 1, 2012
Mark 14:1 - 15:47
By Deacon Rick Fisher
"No Cross, No Crown"
Today we begin Holy Week, a day of fleeting triumph when Jesus enters the great city of Jerusalem. Next Sunday is another day of triumph, of lasting triumph. In between is a strange mixture of joy and pain, of sorrow and fear known to all of us human beings. We sometimes wish life was a bowl of cherries, but we know only too well that reality is often, for many, the exact opposite. We may talk as much as we like about joy, contentment and peace, but only a fool believes that Christians have the recipe for a trouble-free, golden future. We don't. Common sense tells us that human life - yours and mine - is complex, confusing, even tragic.
At this very moment, you are sitting close to someone who is carrying a great burden of suffering or tragedy. There is a husband or a wife who has lost a beloved partner - the couple may have been old or even young. There are married couples who long for children but whose hopes remain unfulfilled, even as the number of abortions rises annually, almost a mockery of their infertility.
There are others, young as well as old, who are crippled by disease or badly injured in accidents. There are those who suffer from frightening depressions, or from strange mental illnesses, while their families stand by helplessly. There are those who feel unloved and unwanted, those who even feel they are unlovable.
Each Sunday, a great number of people come to this church to worship. We represent a cross-section of society. That means, on the law of averages alone, there are some amoung us who cannot face life without drink or other artificial props. There are some among us who carry around within themselves the burden of a terrible past mistake - a mistake which may have diminished them, or landed them in prison, or damaged others.
Each Sunday, there are among us persons caught up in the agony of mistaken marriages, or people technically living in sin because they can find no other way to live. There are others faced with the moral dilemma of divorce and remarriage outside the church.
There are among us some who are victims of persistent temptations or compulsive urges - everything from gambling to stealing to sexual self-gratification. There are those crippled with guilt they cannot release.
To imagine that this gathering is a group of perfect Christians is foolish. Most of us have problems. Some of us have what others would call normal problems. But they cannot stop you from being a Christian. The church is not a club for the respectable and guiltless. God is not the God of the normal. He is the God of everybody.
There is nothing that can change God's love for us. He accepts us as we are. We are the ones who sometimes have difficulty in accepting ourselves!
There is truth in the old adage, "No cross, no crown." Suffering is necessary if we are to become the persons God meant us to be. Suffering enables us to know ourselves and to get outside ourselves. It matures us into the fullness of being human. The type of suffering - the cross of our lives - is not what matters, but how we react to it.
Jesus did not shy away from his suffering. His was a literal cross and he showed us how to deal with it; take hold of it with both hands, grab it and wrestle with it. Jesus did not accept his cross. That is a passive attitude. Jesus took his cross, embraced it because it was his Father's will for our salvation.
Holy Week begins as it ends, in triumph, to remind us that suffering is a journey with a goal, not a winding road that leads nowhere. The end of the journey is resurrection, a new kind of existence.
The way to that new life is through the cross and tomb. It is the road that Jesus traveled. And he accompanies us along the way today - and every day of our lives.