Palm Sunday, Year B
Back in 2010, when I was serving at Christ Church Riverdale, my sponsoring parish, the rector at that time got very sick in the middle of Holy Week. He was so sick that he was unable to serve at the Easter Vigil. Fortunately for all of us, his wife was also an Episcopal priest, working on her PhD at Union Seminary. She was able to seamlessly step in that evening on short notice. Even though I was already an aspirant, working my way through the initial steps of the ordination process, that was the first time I had stood at the altar when a woman was presiding at the table. Listening to her chant the Eucharistic prayer, I had to hold back tears. The sense of connection to both the ground of being and to the great cloud of witnesses was palpable. It was so much stronger for me hearing it in a voice that echoed my own (no offense gentlemen). The rightness of that feeling reached every cell in my body and was overwhelming. Men had felt this identification for 2000 years. Women for only 40. What had we lost as a church by denying this to half of the people who inhabit the body of Christ? What a joy it was (and is) to know that we have begun to rectify and make up for those losses.
This story illustrates that for me, and perhaps for many of you, it is when we enter into embodied experiences that we feel most keenly the embrace of the divine. Not long ago, we had the pleasure of welcoming Rev. Hershey Mallette here at Ascension. She led us in a series of storytelling exercises. Over Lent, we have enjoyed many house Eucharists. These two practices: sharing our stories and sharing a meals, have created community and connections among us in ways that go hand in hand but also beyond the normal practices of our Sunday and weekday evening liturgies. They have invited us to stretch our own boundaries and see what happens.
Today we enter into a week of liturgies that will also invite us to stretch our boundaries and see what happens. Earlier this morning, we processed around the block, waving palms and crying Hosannah, welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. And then we participated in Mark’s version of the Passion narrative, acknowledging our complicity in the systems that led to joining Jesus’ journey to Calvary and to death.
As this week goes on, we will wash feet, share the bread and cup, stand at the foot of the cross, and finally — gaze in wonder at the empty tomb. As Christians, we are called to bear witness to God’s choice to share our human nature — to be deeply embedded in all of it — the joy and the grief of human life. God so loves the world that God chooses to be involved in all of it. Fully human and fully divine. God does this — God chooses this — in order to set us free. God chooses this to remind us that our view, our limited human view, is not the only way to understand how things are.
So, as we enter into Holy Week, I implore you to come to as much of the Triduum as you can. These liturgies invite us to participate, to be involved, to stretch our boundaries. What we will be doing this week in NOT performance art. It is NOT a theater event. It is NOT a historical re-enactment. We will NOT be an audience watching a show. Instead we are participants. We are involved. What this week IS is a chance for us to be fully present– to intentionally encounter God’s loving embrace of the world. It’s an opportunity to be awake and aware of what it means to be a unique and beloved creature, made in the image of God.
Maybe you have come to them before and you think, “I know what to expect.” But this year, and indeed, every year, the journey will be different. Because this year, and every year, WE are different. Because our lives are in Christ, we are always growing and changing — discovering and becoming. Christ is working within us and within others, now and always. That is why we say at Easter: HE IS RISEN, present tense, not HE WAS RISEN, back then, a long time ago. Even now, everything is being made new.
So please, join in the three day liturgy of the Triduum as fully as you can. Make the choice to intentionally explore how Jesus is active in our lives right now, at this moment – how we are living and dying and being reborn daily, hourly and in every fiber of our being. Please, this week, be involved. Dive in. See where it takes you. Allow yourself to intentionally embody the experience of Christ — present and working in your life – right here. Right now. Amen.