The appearance of defeat

Watching for the morning of April 13

Year A

Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion

2011 Easter Pix 005Sunday will immerse us in the passion of Jesus. We gather with the festive procession with palms, joyfully entering the church with acclamation and song – there to share in the story of the one who was broken for us.

In this Lenten season we have been reading in John’s Gospel. We have heard about the birth from above, the living water and the blind man seeing: life, water of life, light of life – and then life from death, the resurrection of Lazarus. Now, for this Sunday we switch back to Matthew and that powerful narrative of the welcoming crowds, the expectant hope, the betrayal, the crushing defeat. Or, at least, what looks like defeat.

But it is not defeat. Jesus knows the path he travels. Scripture bears witness to his work. It is in his hand to call upon twelve legions of angels, but he will not. He comes to fulfill the scriptures. He comes to embody them. He comes to be the faithful son – the theme with which we began this Lenten season when the devil assaulted Jesus in the wilderness but could not turn him from his fidelity to God. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is for this cup to pass him by, but his deeper prayer, his more fundamental request, is “not what I want but what you want.”

It is not that God wants Jesus to die, but this is the path upon which God and humanity have been set since Adam and Eve eyed the fruit in the Garden and thought they could be gods. It is the path that brings our rebellion from God to its terrible climax and changes forever the chemistry between God and ourselves. Humanity does its worst; God does his best; and in that interchange the door opens to a new world, a world reborn, a world brought back to its right place under the governance of God’s creating, life-giving spirit. The door to a new world opens, if we will choose it, if we will enter, if we will turn from fighting God to following him.

But whether or not we turn toward God, God has turned toward us. Decisively and eternally. At whatever price.

The Prayer for April 13, 2014

Almighty God, Hidden in Mystery and Majesty,
trusting your promise, Jesus entered Jerusalem
knowing the sacrifice he would offer.
Grant us a share of his Spirit
and the courage to follow his way of love.

The Texts for April 13, 2014

Procession with Palms Reading: Matthew 21:1-11
“The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” – Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.

Processional Psalm: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord…The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” – A song of salvation from an ancient festival in Israel as the community enters through the gates into the temple, rejoicing in God’s deliverance.

Reading from the prophets: Isaiah 53:1-6
“He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole.” – Isaiah’s vision of the suffering servant who bears the sins of the people.

Passion Reading: Matthew 26:1 – 27:61
“Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” –The passion narrative according to Matthew.

Appointed Readings for Passion Sunday

First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9a
“I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” – Another of the ‘servant songs’ from Isaiah describing a teacher who suffers, but trusts completely in God’s vindication.

Psalmody: Psalm 31:9-16
“My life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.” – A cry from one who suffers and who faces the threat of a violent death. It echoes with themes of the passion and contains the words Jesus used from the cross “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Second Reading: Philippians 2:5-11
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.”
– An early Christian hymn reciting the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus. It is used by Paul to remind the community of the mind of Christ and to call them to abide in his Spirit.

Gospel: Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

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One thought on “The appearance of defeat

  1. Pingback: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! | Bible Aid

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