A few words on Palm Sunday

I want to suggest a few things to listen for in today’s reading of the Passion Gospel, and when it’s over, we’ll sit in silence for a short while to let it all sink in. Because this is a hard story to hear.

And the thing to remember through all the brutality and betrayal we’re going to hear about is that this is a story, first of all, about self-giving love. The love of God. A love that’s almost unimaginable in its overwhelming generosity.

But it is also a story about human weakness. It’s about betrayal, injustice, political intrigue, fear, jealousy, abuse of power, bitter bitter regret, pain, and finally, death. It shows how a mob can be swayed by angry voices, and it shows just how dangerous that can be.

It’s a heartbreaking story, but in the end, we know that love overcomes all those terrible things. And there are also some shining moments of bravery and faith and loyalty and tenderness, showing us who we can be, with God’s grace.

Because it’s such a familiar story I think it can be hard to hear it with fresh ears, so I’d like to suggest that we listen especially today for what it tells us about the nature of God. The loving, giving nature of God.

In his letter to the church at Phillipi, Paul tells us about the self-emptying love of Jesus. And Jesus gives himself again and again. He gives his friends bread and wine, the gift of himself—even Judas receives it.

He gives them the promise that he’ll never desert them.

He gives himself to that kiss from Judas, and he gives himself freely to the crowd that comes armed with clubs and swords to capture him. He gives himself to his accusers, in the sense that he never contradicts their charges against him. He doesn’t struggle when he’s led away. He gives himself to the cross.

He gives himself for us. For love. He gives himself for love.

Preached at St. James the Greater Episcopal Church, Bristol, PA.