“From Joy to Sorrow”

Mark 15:1-47

Palm / Passion Sunday – March 25, 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion and East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 15:1-47

(http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=388722160)

 

Prayer.

 

Oh, how wonderfully filled with promise did this day begin!

The sun rose in glorious splendor.

Warmth is returning to the earth.

Creeks and streams are filled to the brim with Spring runoff.

The soil is waking.

 

Anticipation, like the crowd, was electric!

We were waiting for Jesus to enter the city

And parade right before us.

Then, there he was!

We were all swept away

Dancing and waving our palm branches

Like young children at a dance recital.

 

We were laying down our cloaks before him,

Pledging our loyalty to him,

Even unto death,

If that’s what it would take to give our cruel overlords the boot.

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To an outsider on this Palm Sunday,

Our worship must be mystifying.

 

But then, everything has gone to hell.

 

Clouds rolled in.

Towering, deep purple thunderheads turned the sky to black.

The earth quaked, and the curtain of the Temple was torn in two.

What was done to Jesus deserves a cuss word from the pulpit.

The truth must be told.

Innocence was being punished.

Evil in the heart of the Chief Priest, the Romans and the crowd

Stole his life.

The last breath, the final heartbeat of Jesus,

Was taken from him with premeditation.

If this isn’t hell on earth,

I don’t know what is.

 

In a New York minute,

Every faithful disciple of Jesus has been whiplashed

From joy to sorrow.

 

“Eie-yie-yie,” my father used to wash his face with his hand and complain.

 

From joy to sorrow.

Where and when did everything go wrong?

How did it all run off the rails?

 

Left out from this abridged reading of the Passion,

Jesus had been anointed by a woman with costly ointment at Bethany.

Judas agreed to abandon and betray Jesus.

Jesus broke bread and shared a common cup of wine with his disciples.

 

Walking after dinner to the Mount of Olives

To overlook the City of Jerusalem,

Jesus foretold Peter’s denial,

Prayed fervently in Gethsemane,

Was betrayed, arrested, and taken before the High Priest and the Jewish Council.

What Jesus foretold became true:

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times,

And he broke down and wept.

 

From joy to sorrow.

Jesus ends up dead;

A corpse on a slab.

 

Where and when did everything go wrong?

 

Jesus is suffering here.

Yet, feeling bad for Jesus is not as substitute for faith.

Searching for deeper meaning feels risk adverse and overly academic

When Jesus is whipped, and stripped, and nailed to a cross, taking his final breaths.

The Gospel Passion draws us into the experience

And adds meaning to the suffering Apostles,

The suffering Early Church,

And the endless suffering of the human condition.

From Christ’s suffering

We can deeply draw

And drink from the well

Giving meaning and support

To our suffering today.

 

Christ’s suffering does have meaning.

 

Does everything go wrong?

I’m not so sure.

 

Holy Week does not glamorize crucifixion or death.

Holy Week doesn’t point the faithful to

God’s action that went horribly wrong.

 

The Passion of Jesus Christ direct us to

What God perfectly accomplished:

Jesus identifies with the common human experience

Of not being in control.

Incarnation followed by crucifixion sends a powerful message:

Jesus wasn’t in control,

Yet, his confidence,

His trust, remained firm,

Residing in his Heavenly Father.

 

Likewise, our human experience

Of life, death, and resurrection is out of our control.

We like to think we are in control;

But, these thoughts are merely delusional.

Each of us are one heart beat or one breath away from catastrophe.

 

So, let us place our trust in our Heavenly Father.

Replace anxiety with belief.

Exchange fear with confidence

In our God;

The one who created us,

Cares for us,

Loves us,

And saves us.

 

Does everything go wrong?

Of course not.

Everything goes according to God’s plan to redeem the world,

That the world might be saved through Jesus.

 

Everything doesn’t go wrong,

However, there is one detail that does.

Jesus is repeatedly abandoned by those

Who could give support and strength to him.

Peter denies.

Judas betrays.

They slumber in the garden,

And afterward,

They’d hide away behind locked doors in fear for their lives.

At Thursday’s table

All drank from the cup.

All pledged loyalty unto death.

All would end up scattering like cockroaches fleeing the light.

 

With this Passion insight

We are begged to ask:

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Are we among the twelve?

Do we run and hide when faced with an opportunity to witness

What we’ve seen, know, and believe?

Do we deny Christ with our words or with our deeds?

Do we make promises to God we have no intention of keeping?

 

If it is hard to see ourselves as one of the twelve,

Perhaps the Passion is prodding us to ask:

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Can we identify with Christ the forsaken?

Liken Christ to those times in life that you’ve felt

Abandoned,

Discarded,

Kicked to the curb,

Deserted.

So, too, was Jesus.

 

From Palm branches to Passion and death on the cross

We are whipped this Sabbath

And propelled into Holy Week.

Though there is much darkness and deathly trials ahead,

Let us journey together,

Knowing,

Believing,

That light will shine from next Sunday’s empty tomb.

Amen.