Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Crosses - a sermon for Palm Sunday

Every Palm Sunday, we make palm crosses.  They’re great.  They can remind us of Jesus, and they’re fun.

But they are just pieces of plant fiber.  They get hard and crumbly after awhile.  In time, they fall apart.  Remember that because otherwise, they can become a distraction.  We might begin to think the purpose of Palm Sunday is to make palm crosses, rather than to lead us to what’s coming next.  Which we might want to forget.  All this ceremony - and then wham, Good Friday. (That’s why we bother to put the Passion on Palm Sunday as well as Good Friday - because people liked to skip over the unpleasant part).

Which is probably how Jesus felt, too.  He probably enjoyed that festive entrance into Jerusalem.  Lots of adulation, celebration, admiration mixed with a little bit of consternation.  A heady moment with all those palms.  Probably made him forget -- or want to forget -- what was coming later.

And yet, he could not have stopped with that palm-laden entrance.  Because without the shameful death on the cross, we would not be honoring him.  We would know him to be the Christ who emptied himself for our sake.

We would not know God as Christ revealed him to us, would not know the love of God as Christ made known to us.  Jesus presents a God whose love for us is so great that he is willing to die for us, to break down the barriers that divide us.  A God who reaches out to us.  To do the hard work we cannot do.  That is the difference between us and other religions.

Sadly, even many Christians still do not know God’s love as revealed by Christ because they think everything is up to them, up to the way they worship, up to the pedigree they flaunt, up to the moral code they live by, up to the amount of work they put in.

But those are just palm crosses -- ephemeral, fleeting, weak.  

If I were to depend on one of these to hold me up, built on praise and works and all those other things, it would not hold me or my desire to be loved by and to love God.

To be the Son of God, he needed more than a cross of palm.  He had to let go of the ceremonial, the  praise, the good feelings and move through the pain.

It’s hard to let go of, all that beauty.  But he did, and he calls us to do it as well.  More than just in ceremony but in our lives.  Not that we have to accomplish what he did -- we can’t.  But to look into our hearts and ask what God has in mind for us that is more than mere ceremony.  To pick up our crosses as well -- crosses that are more than little pieces of palm we braid together once a year.  Crosses that transform us.

The ceremony has its purpose.  These palm crosses have their purpose.  But they are not the real thing.  The real cross was necessary for Jesus to fulfill his mission.

It is necessary for us, too, to live into our roles as disciples.  Our crosses don’t have to be wooden ones to which we are nailed.  But they will need to be more than palm.  Amen.Palm