The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks; Palm Sunday—Year B; Mark 11:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15:47. Video
This day never fails to take our breath away. At breakneck speed, we move from triumph to desolation. We move from the Mount of Olives to that knoll outside the city walls, “the place of the skull.” We are always left asking, “How did it all go so wrong so fast? How did we get here?” And it is indeed a “we.”
Today, and all throughout this Holy Week, we are invited into a journey. We meet all these people along the way; we walk in their shoes; we look through their eyes; we tap into their hearts—and in so doing, we come to see ourselves more clearly. Some of what we see will shake us to the core as we examine the hidden places of our heart, those spaces that are broken and dark.
We touch our bravado and sheer cowardice in Peter who denies his beloved Lord.
We know the weakness of our flesh and our fickleness in the Disciples who can’t stay awake.
We move into deeper complexity when we see Judas’ broken heart and his retaliation against the one in whom he had placed all his hope. We know Judas more than we would like to admit. Anytime we move into the bright shadow, anytime we project our own power onto another, anytime we adore and idolize another, and then they fail to meet our expectations, oh, we can lash out with a vengeance and betray the one whom we adore.
We step into the crossfire with the High Priest’s Slave—in the wrong place at the wrong time caught up in currents not of our making.
And we touch our capacity to “out” someone as we sit around that fire with the Servant Girl.
We feel the pressure of powerful people pushing and pulling to say something we know is not true; we bear false Witness.
And our desire to please the higher-ups, our desire for order and control and status kicks into high gear as we follow the lead of the Chief Priests and Scribes and Elders.
The High Priest gives voice to our innate desire to hold onto our power and position, no matter the cost.
And Pilate pulls us into that place of political expediency revealing our capacity to sell-out because we can’t tolerate the risk of going against the prevailing wind.
Barabbas allows us to touch that place in us that is all too ready to let another take the fall.
And then, there are the smaller parts that reveal some of our most broken places—the Bystanders, the Passersby, the Crowd—all caught up in the mob mentality.
And the Guards and the Soldiers pull back the curtain on all the ways we have been desensitized to violence and all the ways we are capable of dehumanizing the other—these show us that part inside of us that is bloodthirsty; these Guards and Soldiers show us what it looks like when we abdicate our own moral decision-making for the sake of following orders.
But we must also note that some of what we see this week will shake us to the core for the sheer courage that lives within us.
The Woman who anoints Jesus’ feet shows us the best of our heart and what it looks like when we live with no armor and love wholeheartedly.
Simon of Cyrene helps us claim those times when we are thrust into the middle of something that we didn’t ask to be in the middle of, and yet, we stand firm and hold fast anyway.
The Centurion awakes that giant inside of us who can see the injustice and proclaim the truth at great risk, even if it goes against the grain of all of our training.
The place deep inside of us which is willing to risk our position to do the right thing is made manifest in Joseph of Arimathea.
And the Women, oh the Women who follow Jesus, they show us our own faithfulness; they show us our great capacity to be faithful to the end, no matter the risk, no matter the cost, because love will let us live no other way.
The Christ who lives in us rises up as we witness Jesus receiving, yielding, feeling exposed and abandoned, surrendering, trusting, standing in absolute solidarity with our suffering, broken humanity. As we watch him make his way to the cross, as we watch him stretch out his arms trusting the larger Love that would hold him in death, we touch our own capacity to be utterly transformed.
There is a temptation this week, and that’s to stay on the sidelines and watch this sad, tragic movie play out before us. But this week is a full-contact proposition.
There is one character in this story that we never pay attention to, but who caught my eye this year—that certain young man following Jesus, who is wearing nothing but a linen cloth. And when the disciples all desert and flee when Jesus is arrested in the garden, this young man turned to flee, too, and those arresting Jesus caught hold of the young man’s linen cloth, but he left that linen cloth and ran off naked.
There is a part of us that wants to flee this week and move as quick as we can to Easter because this week will strip us naked, down to our bare, raw humanity. But please, please, don’t run away. This week isn’t about naked emotional sentimentality; this week is about discovering the depth of God’s love that heals our hearts and gives us the courage to live wide-open from that place, knowing that our hearts will be broken, and knowing that they will also be made new. This week is about standing naked before God with all that we are—good, bad, redeemed, broken, and all points in-between—it is standing before God in the nakedness of all of that, knowing, trusting, that God will clothe us once again with love and grace and forgiveness and compassion, just as God has been doing since God first encountered our nakedness in that first garden.
Walk through this Holy Week with intentionality and watch as God weaves you a new set of clothes. Walk through this week faithfully, and come next Sunday, every fiber of your being will be radiant. We may fall apart this week, but God will knit us back together, and then, when we put on our Easter best next Sunday, it won’t just be about our outfits, but it will be about the resurrected hearts and minds and bodies and souls that wear them. Amen.
The Rev. Cynthia K. R. Banks
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Boone, NC
March 29, 2015