This Sunday, my Episcopal congregation, like many Christian congregations, will celebrate a hybrid of Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion. We will begin by welcoming the radical prophet’s triumphal entrance into our midst with cheers, waving of palm branches, and songs of “Hosanna, he comes!” By the end of the service we will have denied even knowing him, we will have left him alone to die at the hands of those in power, and we will have sealed him in the tomb.
I will leave that liturgy with a sense of overwhelming sadness and guilt. It happens every year. And that is as it should be. Because the world is a broken, sad place. We do ourselves a disservice when we pretend that it is not.
The Sunday of the Passion, along with Good Friday, forces us to sit with the agony of our own culpability on the way to the resurrection. We may not have driven the nails into the flesh God’s Son Jesus, but we are part of a broken system that kills God’s precious children every day.
It kills God’s children at Fort Hood. It kills a 32 year old single mother in Florida, God’s own child, who couldn’t get health insurance because rich people were playing politics. It rounds up, tortures and kills God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children in Uganda, Nigeria, and other places around the world. It kills God’s women children in developing countries as they give birth to the next generation of God’s children. It kills God’s children in Syria, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Crimea, Brazil, Venezuela and Taipei in so many places. The world kills. Our governments kill. Our leaders kill. Our broken systems kill.
It is necessary for Christians to call to mind the ways in which we deny, kill, and bury Goodness. It is necessary for us to “repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” [i] We preachers must be both pastoral and political. We must call out evil even when we ourselves are implicated, and then we must help ourselves and our people find ways to proclaim life in the midst of death. We may be an Easter people, but we cannot get to the resurrection without first sitting with death.
[i] Enriching Our Worship 1 (New York: Church Publishing, 1998), 19.