Parade of sorrows – Matthew 21 – Palm Sunday yr A

We are at the beginning of a great adventure.
Holy week – the final lap in the race towards Easter – begins today.
We recall excited crowds, waving palm branches – a welcome fit for a king.
We remember a man gathered with his friends – sharing his wisdom and his hope,
even as they share their last meal together.
It is this Easter story that we look forward to –
the Easter story we claim as our great hope as Christians
This is the story we live for.
But what of the story we live with?

What about the story of bitterness and betrayal?
What about the story of darkness and desertion?
These things are part of this story too.
We talk about the “Good News” – that is what the resurrection story is for us –
but the good news comes with its darker side.

We know that there is more to the story than we heard here this morning.

Palm-waving crowds welcome a king on a donkey –
the disciples are puzzled, for this is a man they thought they knew.
And Matthew reports that the parade ends at the temple,
where Jesus drives out the moneychangers and merchants in a fury.
Later we will hear of the priests, who are determined to eliminate a threat to their power.
Jesus will predict a lonely end for himself, and his friends will be loud and loyal;
None of them able to imagine what awaits them.
In a few days everything will change.

The resurrection story keeps us coming back – because in resurrection there is hope and joy and celebration;
by next Sunday, there will be no doubt that God has conquered and we are free.
But what keeps us coming back to hear the rest of the story;
The part that involves deceit and doubt –
the part that reveals more about us than we are comfortable with?

The rest of the story suggests
that we have learned none of the lessons that God would have us learn.
+++++++++
We read that Jesus taught of a “kingdom” that was like no other
one that favoured the weak, the oppressed and the outcast.
We read that Jesus healed all who sought wholeness,
that he ignored cultural restrictions and religious boundaries,
and sought to establish new boundaries, based on the kingdom he proclaims.

We read this message and claim it, seeking to follow this man we call Christ
– yet we continue to establish kingdoms based on power and privilege for and among ourselves
– we establish greater religious boundaries, and operate in fear of our natural diversity
– we cast out those who would complain or resist.
This is the legacy of the Christian world, two thousand years after the fact.
This is the story we live with, and yet there is hope even in this reality;

When we read in Scripture that one of Jesus closest friends was eager to betray him,
we can convince ourselves that our weakness is excusable.
When we read of the uncertainty of the disciples,
we can forgive our own doubts.
When his friends boast of their loyalty,
we too can claim to stand firm in our faith.
And when we fail, as they failed – we find that this is our story.

It is our story to live with – all of it, from beginning to end.
The power and glory of Easter –
the thrilling welcome of the palm parade.
the confusion of the disciples as they watch their teacher hailed as king.
The bitter words over wasted perfume; the boastful assurance of continued loyalty –
the secret, silent plotting of the betrayer.
It is entirely ours, and we have to live with it.
To live with the guilt that comes from valuing the wrong things – pursuing the wrong things.
To live with the knowledge that we cannot live up to our inflated expectations –
to understand how vulnerable we are to greed and temptation,
even though we have heard the call of Christ.

The whole story is ours – in it we hear familiar challenges,
and recognize ourselves in the subtle twists and turns of the plot.
The whole story from beginning to end, but how difficult it is to see it through to the end!

So easy to give up when we see ourselves in such a bad light.
So easy to despair when our faults are so boldly and realistically displayed.

But we must not give up.
This is a story worth finishing, because it ends in triumph;
Both for Jesus and for us.
We can live with it, because though there are painful truths revealed (about us),
there is also glory and hope revealed (for us) through Christ and his triumph.

This story will soon descend into deep darkness, but ends in the bright light of Easter day.
Once, we lived in darkness – lost in our story; but now we live as people in the light.
Let us remember, as the story unfolds, that it ends in hope.
Thanks be to God.. Amen

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