PALM/PASSION SUNDAY - REFLECTIONS ON PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11 AND MARK 15:1-39 BY REV. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Excerpts of a Sermon Delivered by
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Palm/Passion Sunday – 2021
Philippians 2: 5-11 & Mark 15:1-39
In places around the world today, people are celebrating an event that has come to be known by different names in various circles. Some call today Palm Sunday. This is due to the fact that on that fateful Sunday some 2000 years ago, our Lord came into Jerusalem riding a colt he was hailed by the people with waving and strewing palm branches accompanied with the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
The people we are told, were ready for that day.
They had been waiting for generation after generation, reminding themselves of God's promise to restore them.
They were waiting for the one person, God would send who would liberate and lead them into a new time, a new life, in which they would be free from the powers of this world.
Yesterday evening, our Jewish brothers and sisters; our forebears in the faith, entered into Pesach--Passover and began an eight-day celebration and remembrance of when with an outstretched arm and mighty hand, God delivered them from the power and stifling grip of Pharaoh. A time when they were led from death to life; slavery and bondage to freedom.
So too, do we enter into a Passover of sorts, when we remember that acts of salvation that freed us from death’s grip and won for us life eternal.
Yes, the people looked for the One would deliver them, and they would follow him into victory.
But as, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Victory is elusive and all-too-often the human triumphal entry, is soon to be forgotten like a ticker tape parade for human heroes.” Often times we are jubilant, celebrating and welcoming Jesus. But at other times, not so much.
But, the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into our sinfulness, can never be forgotten because, for it was the greatest sacrificial entry ever offered.
That’s why others will call today “The Sunday of the Passion.” For we remember that, marked the beginning of that Week of weeks, a week full of paradoxes. When, popular acclaim turned to public execution. You have to wonder if the same crowd of people who shouted Hosanna on Sunday, where the same who, like us, began to cry, "Crucify him!" on Friday?
It marked a time when Thorns would take the shape of a crown. When Jesus would be led to the gibbet of the Cross, and there "Sorrow and love would flow mingled down.”
So, what does today mark?
Today on this second Palm/ Passion Sunday in the time COVID. We recognized the vaccine is present and being distributed, the death rate is down. But we are still not out of the woods yet. There are still many of us who mourn the loss of loved ones. We mourn the loss of friends. We hold the two human tensions in mind. The celebration and the suffering; the here and the not here; That very real reality of the pains and the joys of life.
So, what does today mark? It marks the day when this community faith can once again enter those red doors and come together, after being separated for over year, to join with countless other believers around the world and symbolically enter into Jerusalem to recount the saving acts which wrought our salvation and guaranteed our entrance into that heavenly and new Jerusalem.
So, what does today mark? It marks the beginning of showing us that the flaws inherent in human nature haven't changed in two thousand years. For we will see just how many times the faithful can become fickle. How lovers can become betrayers. But, we can also see how the fearful become fearless and how life ends and new life begin.
So, what does today mark? Today, we remember the One who, according to the Epistle to the Philippians, achieved victory by "humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of a Cross."
Humility is at the heart and center of what we celebrate this week. The collect of the day says, “Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection.” There is no humility without humiliation. And it’s in the shadow of the Cross, we experience Jesus' mercy and we share in his ultimate triumph over death.
And it is in the shadow of that same Cross, then, we experience our turning around, our conversion, our repentance and our hope of resurrection life.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.