Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
St. Luke 22:14 – 23:56
In my blog on the lectionary, I advised preachers not to step into the pulpit this day – the Passion According to Luke is an elegant sermon in and of itself. It needs no commentary. But there’s my name in the bulletin, so I will give you a brief homily on the Passion, and what I think are aspects that are overlooked in our Psalm Sunday, Passion Sunday preaching.
Once, while having dinner with friends, one of whom was a priestly colleague, she described to me what they were doing in their church for Palm Sunday. It was to be just that – all Palms, no Passion. All triumph, no sorrow or grim glances at the Crucified One. I hesitated for a moment and then just said it, “That’s just wrong!” I retorted. In that moment I think I destroyed a relationship, but I was firm in my conviction that to skip the passion on this day is to miss a great opportunity, a great juxtaposition of event and emotion.
To be honest, the scenes of the day, the entrance into Jerusalem, and the trial and execution of Jesus, are a mixed lot. One is not all joy, and the other is not all sorrow. For those who think that Palm Sunday is all joy and triumph, there is the forgotten reality that Jesus goes to Jerusalem, not to enter as king, but because Jerusalem is the place that kills the prophets. Jesus the prophet sets his face like flint and goes to Jerusalem. At one point in Luke’s Gospel Jesus reminds us in the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Lent,
“Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, in a recent speech to attendees at the Sojourners 2018 Summit for Change gives us a clue as to Jesus’ real agendum. He speech was titled, “Jesus Acted Out the Alternative to Empire.” He said, “The second task of prophetic imagination that I could identify is that we have to pronounce the truth about the force of the totalism that contradicts the purpose of God.”The palms, the singing, the garments scattered on the roadway deceive us if we are looking for Jesus’ real purpose. The triumph of the morning is dark. It is a confrontation with the powers that be – the state, the church, and the culture. It’s a familiar situation.
And then there is the Passion Narrative with its awful realities – or is there more, something totally different? In his book on Luke’s Passion Narrative, Peter Scaer argues for a different lens through which we might observe the Crucified One. He argues that Luke in his sophistication, uses an ancient Greco-Roman model to talk about the death of Jesus, and compares it to the aspects of the death of Socrates, among others. Luke abandons the “weak Jesus” of Matthew and Mark, and opts for a strong, noble Jesus who boldly goes to his death. Dr. Scaer writes, “Within the New Testament, Luke-Acts stands at the forefront of Christian apologetics. Luke was intent on demonstrating that Christianity did not arise ‘in a corner’, but was a proud, indeed ancient religion, whose founder was an honorable benefactor and savior.”
Why am I arguing for all of this? There are some reasons and some hopes. First, that in honoring this day and these events we need to honor them in their totality, in all of their aspects. Yes, we can rejoice with our palms, but yet understand the intent of the one whom we hope to honor. That it is alright to have sorrow – to weep with Peter, and to keep watch with Mary, but also to see what the Centurion saw – the noble man giving up his life on the cross. Secondly, we need to bind these joys and sorrows to our own lives and our own circumstances – our own joys and sorrows. We need to know the true value of the Incarnation, the fleshiness of God in Jesus. We need to recognize his sharing our own difficulties and our own circumstances. Read the passion and see the human being at the center of the story – not just some divine character floating above it all, but rather God caught in the flesh just like you and I. Finally, we need to hear in the Passion a challenge. God is calling us to something different in the world, and it is summed up in a man giving it all up on a cross. The “giving up” that hopefully accompanied us during Lent was, I hope, more than chocolate, but rather a giving up of our hopelessness, and a taking on a life lived in hope. In Luke, the noble Jesus says from the cross to one who is sharing his humiliation, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” If the crucifixion embarrasses you, take a second look, and find hope, love, and nobility there.
 Luke 13:31-35
 Scaer, P. (2005), The Lukan Passion and the Praiseworthy Death, Sheffield Phoenix Press, Sheffield, UK, 155 pages.
 Ibid. page 3