Sermon for Palm/Passion 2015

It’s one of the most legendary stories ever told. Jesus riding a donkey through the gates of Jerusalem to a crowd of adoring “fans,” knowing that the hour is upon him and this celebration is going to be short-lived. In fact, in the liturgical calendar, it’s the same Sunday…. the celebration, and then the stab in the back that causes Jesus to lose his life. He knows it’s coming, but he can’t say anything yet. Now is not the hour. Now is the time to look pretty for the cameras, and remember to show his good side.

Do you ever have to do that?

Do you ever have a feeling of dread that you know what’s coming, but you’re not there yet? It’s time to smile and get through it, knowing that the situation will likely not end well. But you do it anyway. Grin and bear it, as they say. Can you picture the scene? Can you picture what this clown parade did to Jesus on the inside?

You know where he is, because you have experienced it yourself…. just maybe not during a public event… but let’s not forget that some people have.

Just a few days before his assassination on April 14, 1865, Lincoln shared a recent dream with a small group that included his wife, Mary Todd, and Lamon. In it, he walked into the East Room of the White House to find a covered corpse guarded by soldiers and surrounded by a crowd of mourners. When Lincoln asked one of the soldiers who had died, the soldier replied, “The president. He was killed by an assassin.” The play he’d come to see, “Our American Cousin,” was an absolute farce. I can imagine laughter coming through the sense that his legacy would be secured in death, because his dream is particularly involved…. along with a recurring dream that he needed to sail as fast and as far as he could.

Smile. Grin and bear it. Show your good side.

It was November of ’63, and the air had a slight chill to it when the car turned onto the parade route. I imagine that there were lots of people chatting with excitement to see the real-life version of Camelot. It was a site- the president in an open-air car so that everything seemed brighter, closer… memories that would live forever, especially after The Passion. Kennedy knew that in some factions, he wasn’t well-liked. In fact, according to Jackie Kennedy’s oral history about the president, he had a premonition that he would be assasinated. She said that after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Jack said, “if anybody’s going to kill me, they ought to do it now.” When the news was revealed, it seemed like he had a death wish. He asked a historian, “if Lincoln had lived, would he have been remembered as the great president that he is?” The historian, David Donald, said probably not, because he would have had to deal with the consequences of Reconstruction.” From then on, Kennedy knew that his legacy would be somehow secured in death.

Smile. Grin and bear it. Show your good side.

Queer as a three dollar bill. Hailed as the Mayor of Castro Street. Widely loved as a city supervisor, but not immune to the fact that as a gay public figure, he was not winning brownie points with everyone, even in San Francisco. The office was quiet as Dan Brown gunned down both Milk and George Moscone, the actual mayor. Though Milk often covered up his pain with a bright and bubbly countenance (my name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to RECRUIT YOU!!), the tapes of his last days are morose. He knows the tension is building between gays and people who hate them, but he’s at a loss as to what to do about it. So he did what everyone else seems to do, which is dance around the issues in hope of getting support for some of them. You can’t win them all. He certainly wouldn’t.

Smile. Grin and bear it. Show your good side.

My mother used to be a music teacher in a REALLY bad neighborhood. A third of her kids’ parents were in jail. She was and is still remembered there as one of the greats- the teacher that all the kids wanted to be near all the time. But there were kid fears that stumped even her, like a black child who came up to her and said, “why would anyone want to assassinate President Obama?” She’d heard on the news that there were death threats because he is black.

How do you deal with those questions? Especially when kids just nail your heart like that?

Smile. Grin and bear it. Show your good side.

It’s Palm/Passion. Joy and anguish. Life.

Every day is Palm/Passion for someone, and sometimes, we are loathe to respond. We gather into our own pain, because it is easier. Helping someone else requires understanding the situation- who has time in an iPhone world? No illness is a five second soundbite. Poverty, hunger, thirst exist and pleas fall on deaf ears. We don’t want to get involved…. and yet, there are moments that astound us into either the Palm or the Passion set of emotions. I believe that this is just such a moment for Jesus.

Hear the words of Mark:

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

Palm and Passion in the same breath.

Every day is Palm/Passion for someone. What are you going to do that promotes their resurrection into wholeness? How are you going to enjoy their glory while you have them?

I have said many times before that everyone has an inner angel and an inner asshole. We fluctuate back and forth between these two characters in our heads all day long. Sometimes, we feel ten feet tall…. and others, it’s just ten inches. It’s Passion and Palm in a repeating pattern that will either further your life or end it. Casey Cease, one of my favorite preachers of all time, said something in one of his sermons that sticks with me to this day…. “I LOVE MY SINS!”

We all do, don’t we?

Every day is Palm/Passion for someone.

Which one are you?


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