Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered loss, and entered not into glory before he was crucified, Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord
This week we attempt to respond to that invitation...to walk the way of the cross...to find ourselves in the story that took place once for all, long ago and far away, but which belongs to us and to people of all times and all places, since it is the story of our salvation.
Yesterday we looked at a story told in all of the gospels, and thought about whether or not we could aspire to the love that Mary showed as she poured out her treasured perfume, declaring her Lord dearer to her than all of the poor of the world.
Today, I'm inviting you to find yourself in a story that is all but untold, at this midpoint between the high triumph of Palm Sunday and the desolation of Good Friday, between Mary and Judas....between the extremes of love and betrayal. In many churches when a dramatized gospel is presented in Holy Week, the whole congregation takes the role of the crowd...and it can be a disturbing experience to find oneself moving from adulation to scorn in such a short space of time...
A crowd is a strange organism...both more and less than the sum of its parts...
notoriously fickle, as individuals cede personal responsibility, and stifle the inner voice of conscience so that it is drowned out by the surrounding hubbub.
You can get lost in a crowd, it's true, – but you can find yourself too, discovering who you really are as you choose to go with the flow, or to go out on a limb, risk standing alone.
So let's join the Holy Week crowd as we reflect on where we are in this greatest of all stories.
Looking back to Sunday,the crowds were there, gathering in the city that was already preparing for the festival to come. Men, women and children going about their business or loitering in the spring sunshine on a day when the whole world seemed full of hopeful possibilities...
We know that they were quick to sense the excitement, to lend their voices to the cries of Hosanna that filled the air as that unlikely, ragamuffin procession made its way into Jerusalem.
Did they really believe that the longed for Messiah was here at last, that they were seeing the ancient prophecies fulfilled before their very eyes?
Were they convinced that here – HERE – was their salvation...
Perhaps they were simply jumping on a bandwagon, - looking for someone, anyone, to help them emerge from under the yoke of Roman occupation?
Or were they just joining in because that's what you do...because here was a welcome diversion, something out of the ordinary to get involved with, something that would make a good story when they got home that night.
Being part of a happy crowd is such fun...it's easy to get swept along, suspending your own feelings and becoming part of a larger whole.
Does it really matter what the man on a donkey stands for? His face is kind and it's a lovely day...Who cares really? It's not that important...
But...but...the sky darkens...the hopeful innocence of Palm Sunday morning challenged when that same “kind looking young man” behaves in a way that scares and challenges, upsetting not just the money changers tables in the Temple, but the whole hallowed order of Temple culture, with its rituals for everything, its sliding scale of atonement sacrifice. Now leaders are angry, priests and worshippers outraged...
This is sacrilege.
It doesn't feel like fun to support the man from Nazareth any more...It's dangerous.
Small wonder that he and his friends have vanished from the city – getting out of harm's way, no doubt.
Now is the time to keep mum, to keep your head firmly beneath the parapet. To befriend Jesus is to lose the friendship of those who really matter, the people whose approval will keep you and your family safe. Now is a good time to keep your opinions to yourself, - or to shift your ground, so that you stand with the vocal majority once more. I'm sure there will be something else to shout by the end of the week.
In choosing faith, or rejecting it, this is one possible agenda.
Each of us has the choice to join in with our peers, or to stand out from the crowd...
To recognise and welcome Jesus as the answer to all our deepest needs and longings...or to jump on a different bandwagon in the hope of a better here and now...
Where are you in the story?
Sometimes they strew his way and his sweet praises sing
Resounding all the day Hosanna to their King.
Then “Crucify” is all their breath
And for his death they thirst and cry.