No matter how old or how young you or I may be, we’ve still got a lot to learn. And God has a great deal to teach us. Sometimes, we have to learn what God has to teach again and again – learning and relearning. Day by day. Week by week. Year by year. For, of course, we often forget. At other times the world presses in on us and without our knowing it impresses us with its own false wisdom and we lose hold of the deep wisdom of God. The wisdom which overturns the wisdom of the world, as St. Paul tells us.
And that is one of the reasons that the Church observes Holy Week in the deliberate and detailed way that she does. Not only to mark events which took place in the past, but also to give us the opportunity to rethink and to relearn things that are essential in understanding and living one’s life and which God reveals and intends that we should know.
The Liturgy today has just taught one of those things. It’s something we all know well, but whenever it happens, it never fails to surprise, shock, and hurt us. And that is: how things which begin sweet can very quickly turn sour.
Jesus was hailed as Messiah and King as he entered Jerusalem. In no time, however, the crowd became a mob and was screaming for his blood. Those who had come to smile and cheer returned to spit. Acclamation becomes denunciation. Triumph slips in to catastrophe, and there’s no turning the clock back.
Of course, it doesn’t take Palm Sunday to leach us about reversals. Life is full of them, and each one of us has had his or her share. Even so, it’s important – perhaps, even comforting – to know that God understands reversal and disappointment just as well as we do.
But there are some things that we can only learn from God. And this week we will learn them for God will teach us. Through the power of His Holy Spirit God will come to us. He will come in his Word in Scripture. He will come in his word as it is preached. He will come in his Word as it is prayed in liturgy and worship.
God will teach us about power, for that is one the issues as stake this coming week. What is real power ? Real power ? Is it the ability to dominate, to humiliate, to destroy ? Or is it obedience and love and the will to let go and let be.
And God will show us hatred and evil and sin and envy and malice and jealousy. And as distasteful as these things are, we need to know about them. For it is they which tear us away from the life of God and diminish us. And it was to do away with these things that his Son endured what he did endure.
And God will show us love, for that was his meaning and his intention from the very beginning. You and I were created for love. For love ! And when we fell captive to those very things which destroy us, God sent his Son in love to save us.
And that love is his obedience to God’s intention.
And that love is real power – the power to forgive, to let go and let be.
And that love is his glory – the fullness of our life in him.
And it is by that love that he declares himself to be our God.
The Epistle for Palm Sunday – Philippians 2:5 – 11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be held on to,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death –
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.