March 24, 2024 – Palm Sunday

Speaker: Drew Brislin
Category: Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark 15:1-39

The Rev. Drew Brislin

As we enter into Holy Week, we are making a shift. We are shifting from the season of preparation to what you might call a season of embodiment. We are doing something we practice every Sunday when we gather for worship. We are doing something my liturgy professor used to call moving from the corporate to the corporeal. We are no longer just a group of people but have become one body, and with Jesus’ help, resistant to the forces of evil. As I was thinking about this movement, I could not help but think of our ordering as Episcopalians. We are individuals that gather at our respective parishes. Our parishes collectively constitute the Diocese of Alabama, which is part of Province IV of the larger Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Communion that is part of the larger universal catholic (or Christian) church mentioned in our creeds. Our Christian faith is a part of the larger body of faiths worshipped throughout the world. As Christians I think we are meant to be in community. A community that is bound together by the Holy Spirit to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Jesus called on us to love one another which commands us to be in relationship. As we continue to seek this kind of oneing with each other and with Christ we hear in our collect what has been called the nearest thing to a statement of atonement to be found in the Prayer Book and it is significant in that it associates Christ’ Incarnation and the Passion.

The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms states that the word atonement comes from the combining of the English words “at” and “one.” This at-oneing is defined as the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which effects salvation as the re-establishment of the relationship between God and sinners. In essence atonement is Jesus removing the barriers that man has established between God and his beloved. Our collect this morning dates back to the Gregorian sacramentaries and was edited by Cranmer who inserted the phrase “of thy tender love toward man” and translated some of the earlier text of the collect into that portion that reads “grant that we both follow the example of his patience and be made partakers of His resurrection.” In doing this, it is said that Cranmer is trying to inform us that there is no crown without the cross. That our intentions should be that first we seek to be more like Jesus and then secondly to make it through this temporary life so that we might enter into the promised land. This is said to be Holy Week’s prayer. That from the triumphal entry into the city to the empty tomb, we are asking for perseverance in Jesus’ way and for the fulfillment of His achievements. We are seeking a restoration of our relationship that can only come with the unearned and underserved grace given to us as the result of what Jesus endures in the passion and His death on the cross. The shadow of Good Friday transforms the light of Palm Sunday. Over this Lenten season we have been talking about our relationships with technology, social media and the sources of our information and how these things can not only be tools for connection but also tools for separation. Just as the authorities sought to separate Jesus from those who followed him though crucifixion, Jesus overcame the humiliation and death on the cross because his love was never broken. Because we seek to be like Jesus because we are made in his image, we too will seek to overcome those things that divide us because our love for one another too will not be broken.

As you continue your pilgrimage through this Holy Week, I hope that you will take just a minute to look around you while in church or throughout your day. Look at the person next to you in the pew, sitting across from you at work or next to you in the checkout line of the grocery store and think about why God put that particular person in your life at that very moment. We are all the beloved creations of God made in his image. In our Baptismal Covenant we commit to serving Christ in all others. That is an unqualified statement making no distinction between anyone. We are stronger together and meant to be one body loving God and each other. Jesus shows us the way to living into this way of life with him and with each other. This is in the end what I think the Kingdom is about. This is a beautiful eclectic group of people that are as various and plentiful as a field of wildflowers and is what I think paradise looks like. A place where love is not broken but lifted up and lived into. I pray you all have a wonderful and blessed Holy Week and I look forward to journeying with you.