Thursday, April 21, 2011

Palm Sunday

So, why do we still keep coming back?

Not just to church,

but today specifically – Palm Sunday.

Why not just wait one more week

and join the other 300 on the twice a year plan?

Why today, of all days?

Maybe it's because we want to be reminded

of who we are.

And maybe there is a deep need

to bring something to the Cross this morning?

What are we looking for at the Cross?

Most of us, I think,

are people who come to Palm Sunday with needs…

with a purpose.

Let’s face it,

Christians are pretty needed people…

We NEED to know so much, don’t we?

We need to know:

there is a God somewhere out there who cares.

Even when the closest to us has died,

or when our aging parents

can’t take care of themselves like they used to.

Lord knows, we have needs…

But trouble is, where and to whom

can we bring those needs?

The famous Dutch Roman Catholic priest,

Henri Nouwen,

has a lot to say on this subject.

Apparently one day,

Nouwen found a sculpture of "Jesus on a donkey"

in the Augustiner Museum in Frieburg, Germany.

He said this sculpture turned out to be

one of the most moving Christ figures he would ever see.

It came from the 14th-century

from a small village along the Rhine River.

And was made to be pulled around on a cart

during the annual Palm Sunday village procession.

Nouwen found himself drawn to the sculpture.

He sent postcards of it to his friends,

if he was still alive

would likely post this photo on his Facebook wall.

Looking at the face of Jesus he wrote,

"There is melancholy, but also peaceful acceptance.

“There is a deep awareness of the unspeakable pain to be suffered,

but also a strong determination to do God's will.

Above all, Nouwen said, “there is love.

An endless, far-reaching, boundless love

born from an unbreakable intimacy with God.”

Barbara Crafton – dear friend of Connie and me.

Priest, writer, actress, retreat leader.

tells the story of Clint Daniels.

Clint was in his 50s

and one day came to her church in Manhattan,

St Clement’s – off Broadway theater weeknights.

Clint noticed people putting on long robes.

Tying ropes around their waists,

fixing headdresses.

I can only imagine what he is thinking…

"Come be a part of the mob," a stranger told him.

It was Palm Sunday and the church was re-enacting

the Crucifixion in costume.

He was to be part of the crowd or mob that shouted,

"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

He wasn’t sure about this group at all…

Another stranger hurried up to him and said --

"The man who was supposed to play one of the thieves

on the cross didn't show up.

Would you like to take his place?"

Clint agreed and was shown to the cross

where he would look on as Jesus died.

But just then,

something about Clint's manner

caught Barbara’s eye.

And she turned to him and asked,

"Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive you?"

"No," Clint replied softly,

"but I think that's why I came here."

Why do we come to church on Palm Sunday?

What are we looking for?

Two months before coming to St Clements’

Clint had been released after serving15 years

at Sing-Sing State prison.

He was a real thief.

Even after his release

he had gone on stealing cars and trucks

until he realized that something was missing from his life.

In that moment at church, at the Cross

Clint found forgiveness, and acceptance.

Forgiveness is always present

for those who are willing to ask.

You and I came back today looking for something,

didn’t we?

Maybe like Clint…

looking to that old Rugged Cross

for forgiveness?

It's quite a day, isn't it?

And it will be quite a week, too.

A week filled with

A meal and a garden,

A Cross and a Tomb.

A Dead Jesus and a Risen Lord,

the prospect of Nothing

and yet

the prospect for Eternality.

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