You may find it hard to relate today’s homily to today’s Scripture reading, since we haven’t yet heard that Scripture. That is, we haven’t heard Scripture proclaimed yet today. Of course, words and story of the Passion have been with us every year, as, on Palm Sunday, we recount the agony that led to our ultimate salvation. Our incredible Emmanuel choir will be presenting words from Scripture as they sing the “Walk Worthy” cantata.
Please listen carefully to the words that are spoken and those of the songs, as the cantata will guide us through Jesus’ journey during what we refer to as “Holy Week.” There will be a place where we will all join in singing “Were You There.” When I hear this song, I nostalgically say to myself, “It wouldn’t be Lent without it.”
Today is Palm Sunday, and we celebrate with traditional palms the way the original followers of Jesus did nearly 2,000 years ago. Can you imagine the festive atmosphere that surrounded Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that day? Today we’d line the parade route with balloons and banners that said, “Welcome, Teacher” and “Welcome, Healer”—and maybe even “Welcome, Messiah.”
But we wouldn’t be so elated, knowing as we do, the rest of the story. I’d invite you to try, just try, to imagine the emotions of the people there in real time. They were excited and hopeful as this man Jesus, whom some called the Son of God, came into Jerusalem to speak truth to power. The crowds did not know that four days later this messianic figure would be betrayed and arrested, and then executed within 24-hours. The only parallel I can think of in my own life is the shock and grief that followed the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the slain president’s brother, Bobby Kennedy. Hope seemed so far away following those deaths, as I’m sure it did following Jesus’ crucifixion.
I get a little numb to the horror of that week, because I know the story so well—and because I also know how the story ends, or rather continues to this day. Lent has been a season of reconciliation—a time for examining where we are in our relationship with God and to God’s calling for each of us.
As a child, one year, I gave up eating popcorn for Lent. For me, popcorn is one of my proofs that there is a God who loves us—so this was actually quite a sacrifice on my part. Well, I failed this noble mission but struck a bargain with God: I would eat popcorn but would put pepper on it so it would taste bad. To this day I add pepper to popcorn. I guess I failed Lent 101. But as a child, I tried.
Lent really invites us to choose once again to be followers of Jesus, and this season encourages us to explore ways we can more closely align our will with God’s will for us, as we live each day, seeking to be people worthy to be called Jesus’ disciples.
Lent for me is an opportunity to take time to see how I’m stacking up against the call in Micah 6:8, where the prophet lays out what God asks of us: “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” If we can do this, we will not be afraid of the journey Jesus undertakes this week, because we know that Jesus will rise again—and that His work to bring about the Kingdom of God will continue in and through our lives. Because of our belief in the Resurrection, we can choose to live in ways that allow us to walk worthy of the Lord.
And though we may not have included a multitude of new spiritual practices this Lent, bear in mind that there’s still seven days left before Easter. Maybe we can find a way to still try to draw closer to our God during this holiest of weeks.
Listen, now, as our choir tells us the story of our salvation….(Choral Cantata “Walk Worthy” performed)