Palms ... folded into crosses

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Revd Linda Anchell
Sunday 1st April 2007, Palm/Passion Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-18; Philipians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14 - 23:56

"Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom…"

Three on crosses,

    Three dying people,


       and in agony.

And here, they are tested…. at the extreme, as they are dying.

One, deriding Jesus, do we say he fails?

       perhaps he does…

the other, rebuking him,

    maybe he had been in the temple that week,

          seen the driving out of the money changers,

             heard the teaching of that week…

This one asks a question of Jesus.

"remember me……"

and is comforted.

Were they involved in the insurrection, like Barabbas? terrorists of freedom fighters, or were they just men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, with a knife in their hand as a friend fell on it, or….

Whatever their crimes, one of them said they deserved the sentence. But all three of them, Jesus included, were facing their own deaths, and experiencing an excruciating punishment.

'Excruciating': with crux, cross, in the centre of it. A word that has come to us from the Roman Empire.

We pray in the Lord's Prayer: "save us from the time of trial." You may have noticed the Iona service had save us IN, not from. It's a small difference, and not important in the translation, just an attempt to put something into an English language that can't really express what is meant.

"Tempting/'time of trial" is a word used in metallurgy. Don't lead us into temptation/the time of testing… the testing of gold in the fire, the refining… There is a testing here for all three men, although perhaps Jesus had had his test in Gethsemane….

Peter denied him, he failed the test. Jesus had known he would. Peter went out from the courtyard weeping.

Judas, he failed the test; as Jesus had known he would. He went out to the potter's field.

The two crucified with him: did one fail? It was a very human thing to curse and deride. It wasn't only the crucified who did that! These failures are all so human. This death is so very human.

We are discomforted by God.

Is this death different, — or is it no different? For the women following, and those watching at a distance … where are they to go now, after this day?

This Sunday, the passion narrative comes with the Hosannas of the entry into Jerusalem. We cry out with the crowd "Hosanna", but on Friday we hear again the Passion, from John.

The crowd no longer cries Hosanna!

Peter Millar of the Iona community writes:

"…the gospel narrative must—time and time again—propel us to a place of "unease" before we are able to comprehend the mystery of God's love."

And he has this prayer from Helder Camara,

Come Lord, change our lives, shatter our complacency. Take away the quietness of a clear conscience. Press us uncomfortably, for only thus that other peace is made, your peace.

We enter now into Holy Week; with this passion reading now, and the Passion of John on Friday…

Today we have palms but they are folded into crosses. We are not in a comfortable place. There are no easy answers. But in this discomfort, this ambiguity, set your face, like flint if need be, to the way that God calls us to go.

Meet us Lord, in the darkness. Enfold us with your love. Amen.


from my bookshelf: bibles, dictionaries, Kittel, Fitzmeyer commentary et al…

Peter Millar of the Iona Community wrote a piece: "JOURNEYING TOWARD EASTER".which had the Helder Camara prayer in it. Found on the web in Coracle, the magazine of the Iona community, February 2007 issue 4/27.

St Philip's Anglican Church,
cnr Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602.