Palm/Passion Sunday (B)

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A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer

First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches

Palm/Passion Sunday—April 13, 2003

Text: Mark 14-15

Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A whirlwind tour is what you would call it.

Four years ago I was working for the South Dakota Department of Tourism. In a rather ambitious move, the tourism department had set up an informational booth in the gargantuan Mall of America. I was an impoverished seminarian and looking for work at about that time, and I signed on as a travel counselor. Problem is, no amount of reading brochures can make up for never having seen the Badlands, Mount Rushmore or Wall Drug with my own eyes.

So the State of South Dakota decided to take me and a few of my colleagues on an all-expenses-paid whirlwind tour of South Dakota.

It was an exhausting, exhilarating experience. We traveled from Pierre to Keystone, from Sturgis to Lemmon, from Mitchell to Chamberlain, all in three crazy days. Each day was filled with fantastic moments, whether it was standing atop the Crazy Horse mountain carving or taking in a beautiful sunset on the Missouri River. It was all our tour group could do just to take it all in and keep up. And when it was time to go home just 72 hours later, we were ready. Whirlwind tour intensity is the kind of thing a body can only maintain for a short while.

Today’s Passion reading is a whirlwind tour of emotion. It took just one short week for the cheering crowds of Palm Sunday to turn to the murderous mob of Good Friday—a whirlwind, indeed—but we experience all the drama and emotion of that entire week in the course of one hour this morning, and it’s all we can do to just take it in and keep up. As high as we were lifted up as we processed into this room half an hour ago waving palms, so our thoughts are turned to much lower, blacker, bleaker things before we are done here today.

The only people who can truly keep up with such an insane emotional pace are our children. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a chance to observe young children during times of great grief, and it’s remarkable to me the capacity they have to fully experience the emotion of each moment, completely and utterly unaffected by the emotion of the moments before or the moments on the horizon.

I think about precious little Mikaela at Alf Opdahl’s committal on Friday. There she was, twirling around and experiencing the sheer joy of the sunshine and the wind one moment, and the very next moment weeping because she loved her grandpa and missed him a lot. Her delight in a gorgeous spring day was in no way tempered by her sorrow at losing someone she loved. This child was able to fully live in each of these two emotional extremes. Mikaela did much more than just take it in and keep up…in a way that we adults there at Alf’s service missed out on, Mikaela truly experienced the whirlwind on Friday, and I marvel at that.

So perhaps the only way to receive the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry, humiliating execution and terrible death is with the ears of a child. Holy Week, the seven blessed days before us, is a whirlwind tour of emotion, taking us from joy to grief in the blink of an eye. Without the heart of a child beating within us, we’re just stunned spectators passing through this week in a daze. But look inside yourself and see if you can’t find that childlike aspect hidden inside, that part of you that can let such conflicting emotions stand side by side in all their heart-stopping power.

And remember as we journey toward grief and loss this week that the whirlwind tour doesn’t end with the Passion of Good Friday. Even as little Mikaela was open to the joys each new moment might bring despite her sorrow, so to we realize that there is great joy just beyond the horizon for us. Let us open our hearts and live as God’s little children this week, fully experiencing the wonder and awe and joy of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. Amen.

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