In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
In 2018, which in some ways feels like a lifetime ago, you granted me the gift of a sabbatical, and not just a sabbatical, but a trip to Jerusalem for Holy Week. The pilgrimage I signed up for followed Holy Week in the Orthodox tradition. That year, like this one, Orthodox Easter was a week later than Western Easter. Having that pilgrimage in mind, I was paying less attention to the days of Western Easter’s Holy Week. Our Presiding Bishop was in Jerusalem for Holy Week, the Western one, and some in his party asked if I was going up the Mt of Olives to walk down with the pilgrims tomorrow, Palm Sunday. I hadn’t planned to or honestly even thought about it, but it sounded like a really good idea.
I’m so grateful I did that. Thousands of pilgrims marching down the hill to Jerusalem. At one point, I was near a group of Philipino pilgrims. Having lived in the Philippines as a child, that felt very familiar and comfortable. They began to sing, to shout Hosannas. It was a wonderful, lively experience.
Jesus is riding a donkey into Jerusalem, claiming the signs of kingship. We know that some of the factions of zealots, who were more interested in overthrowing Roman occupation than ushering in the kingdom of God had been following Jesus. In the days before and after his arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus makes clear that a political overthrow is not what he is about. And those folks begin to fall away. The crowd, who was so pro-Jesus during his entry into Jerusalem is quickly swayed by the authorities in a different direction. Things turn dangerous, quickly.
Before we finish this service, we will hear the Passion Gospel. We know how this story goes. But like my gift of coming down with thousands of pilgrims from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, there is something to reenactment. We practice a reenactment every Sunday. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me.” Gather at the table. Share bread and wine. Every Sunday our remembering Jesus in the sacrament of bread and wine is more than a memorial, or a simple remembering. It is anamnesis. Anamnesis is a Greek word that is not easy to translate in English. It is different than a memorial, to remember one who is gone. Anamnesis is a remembering that makes the one in question present. That is what we do every Sunday.
This week, Holy Week, we attempt anamnesis in other ways. Today we started outside, to get a taste of what Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem might be like. We heard those words of Zechariah: Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey. Was today a perfect reenactment? No, but neither was that Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. But it is certainly better than us listening and talking about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem simply seated here. On Maundy Thursday we will reenact the last supper complete with foot washing. We will be reminded that Jesus came to serve not to be served, and we will be reminded of the very beginning of the sacrament of communion, the beginning of the remembering that makes Jesus present in the bread and the wine. We will end the service by striping the altar, symbolizing turning this altar space into a tomb for Good Friday. There are two days every year we don’t celebrate the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Those two days Jesus is in the tomb. On those days we don’t need an altar for communion. Good Friday is a very somber service. We will venerate the cross, we will not have a reenactment on Good Friday. I mean I like to think I am pretty committed…but Jesus was nailed to a cross so we don’t have to be. On Easter morning, we will find the stone rolled back and find that he is not here, he is risen.
I hope you will join us as we walk with Jesus from this triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the Last Supper, and to the cross. Getting to Easter morning without the cross, well it leaves out a central part of the story.
If someone ever told you following Jesus was easy, they lied. Look at his journey. How can we follow Jesus and think it is going to be easy? Following Jesus doesn’t save us from all the difficulties and tradegies a human life can have. But in the end, all will be well. If all isn’t well, it’s not the end.
It hasn’t been the easiest two years. When it finally looked like the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel was in sight, Russia invaded Ukraine. Another reminder that this creation for so many is still a nightmare that falls short of the dream that God has for all God’s creation. But we are people of hope. In times like these, how do we continue to hope? Because the one we follow spent three days in hell, so that we don’t have to go there. In the end, all will be well. If all isn’t well, it’s not the end. Amen.