Gracious God, pour out your blessing on these palms and on all your people who gather this night to remember and recall this journey of faith. Help us this week to listen ever more deeply to those who encourage us when we are in doubt, and those who make our roads as smooth as possible. As we sing and pray, may your grace flood this space with amazement and hope. For you are One God for ever and ever.
Palm Sunday 2019
This is a Gospel and a Sunday of our Liturgical Year that is packed with symbolism and meaning almost beyond time to explore.
The distance from Bethany to Jerusalem….a rugged, rocky, dusty descent from the hills into the City….of 1.5 miles.
In Ancient Mediterranean culture a donkey was a symbol of peace. A horse was a symbol of war.
How one approached a city or an encampment was the greeting card declaring your intent.
The Road from Bethany to Jerusalem ends at the Sheep’s Gate into the City of Jerusalem…immediately on the back side of the Temple.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of symbolic representations throughout this story…
A story that is shared..with all Four Gospels….
so most likely an event which actually, historically took place, with nuances as to exactly how.
But herein lies the question for us to ponder…..So What?
So what that we celebrate this day every year?
So what that Jesus came into Jerusalem?
So what that we wave branches of palms?
So what about the people laying down their cloaks?
Maybe there is something in the symbolism of this whole celebration that will help us to answer that question of “So What?”
The founder of the Salvation Army, General Booth used to say: I like my faith, like I like my tea—HOT!
I want and I think our Spiritual life ought to be HOT….
Real, relevant, authentic, honest….
So let’s get real, relevant, authentic and honest.
I wonder if we have ever critically thought about our faith?
I mean really critically looked at what we think, and believe, and know and understand?
I asked at the beginning of Lent….two questions…..what do you know and what do you believe?
I did not do that as a whim….I invited us to really ponder….or as General Booth would say…to make our faith HOT!
So allow me to just begin to explore with you what I see as HOT!
I would encourage you all to continue this discussion with one another….
You see—one of the things I have come to know and to believe is that It’s ok to wrestle with God….to struggle….to question…to ponder….to pray………..
It took me years of Spiritual Direction and Therapy to get to the point where I was able to understand that God is safe….
safe enough to question,
to argue with,
to disagree with,
to struggle with,
and even sometimes to agree with,
because one of the things I know and I believe is clearly stated in the very first line of our Creed…..
I believe in One God….
I may not believe in that One God the way that you do,
and you may not believe in that One God the way that I do…
but ultimately, I know and I believe deep in my bones…
that there is a Divine Source that lay at the center of the created.
-I know and I believe that this Divine Source is knowable through my human experience and yet infinitely beyond my complete comprehension.
-I know, beyond any doubt that I am loved and cared about by this Divine Source….whom I call God….
-I know and believe that everyone else is as well.
And not just everyone else, who thinks and looks and acts like me, but absolutely everyone else….yes even those whom because of my lived experience I cannot understand how it is possible….because lets me HOT—real, relevant, authentic and honest, I know people that I do not understand how God loves and cares for….
And I know and believe that the God of my understandings not only loves and cares about people, but everything that is created,
Everything that is a part of my lived experience and those things that are beyond my lived experience as well.
-I believe that God is the ultimate source of everything…..
from black holes to snow flakes…
-I believe that God is most fully understood as one, in the concept and experience of Love…that inexplicable mystery that grabs our hearts and minds and holds us in free love…not binds us, but holds us free like a dove in the hand of St. Francis.
-I also believe and know that I really have a miniscule understanding of this amazing Divine Source and that I will always try my best to tread lightly on presuming that anyone else believes or knows this Source in the exact same way as do I.
-I wonder if we will be willing to risk riding into the cities of our own uncertainty as did Jesus and continue to ask ourselves the very exciting and challenging questions of life and faith?
If you take a copy of the Creed, which I would encourage you to do….I would encourage you to take some time this week personally and as family and friends and ask once again what you know and what you believe.
One of the greatest gifts of this journey of faith is the freedom to ask the questions which we may have never realized that we had the permission to ask.
It’s a great question and I look forward to learning from you what your understandings and answers are.
You see my friends, one other thing I know and I believe is this….
the empty tomb is just waiting for us to discover it once again.
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
By: Bishop Marty Shanahan