Hey, I’m not disappeared by aliens!
Please forgive the blog-silence; my attention has been on the immediate stuff these past few months. But I am now trying to get the blog back up to date with previous sermons as best I can.
I want to warn you–preaching in pandemic is a different beast, at least for me. I haven’t been doing as much full-manuscript writing. There’s been more “write the high points on a page, and go for it.” Preaching to a camera rather than a group of people is a whole different energy, and I find that it’s easier for me to keep the energy up if I can just Talk About This Interesting Thing, rather than Preach To These People I Am Having To Imagine.
With that caveat, let’s get with the catchup! First up: Palm Sunday from 2020.
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
April 5, 2020
Palm Sunday, Year A
Palm Sunday is about a story. Today is the day we begin to remember the most central story of our faith—the story of the last week of Jesus’ life.
When I was a kid, I was in a touring production of Godspell for two years. (This description makes it sound very important—it was a kids’ production that went around to local nursing homes and churches.) But for two years, a few times a week, we would put on this story through songs and strange, 1970s era skits. And before each performance, our director, a secular Jewish guy, would remind us—remember that the audience loves this story. You’re telling them the story that they love.
And we do love this story. Not because it’s a nice story. It’s really, really not. This is a story that—if we were to remove the place markers—wouldn’t sound so out of place on the newsfeed of today’s litany of awfulness. A leader, who has gained some popular support for suggesting that religious and political reforms are necessary, comes into the capital city. He’s quickly arrested on charges, tried without evidence, and condemned to death. It’s both no one’s fault and everyone’s fault, as well-meaning bureaucrats wash their hands and say “Well, I did the best I could.” It is a story of institutions failing their people, and people turning on each other. Of friends abandoning and betraying one another. Of power corrupting, and of human life held cheaply. It is a story of abject human brokenness and cruelty.
And we tell it again and again, because in this story we see parts of our own story. In this story, we see the moments when our friends failed us. We see when we were treated unjustly. We see when the powers of earth ally themselves against the weak. We see when violence is dealt out indiscriminately. We see those times when the children of God have been silenced, brutalized, and harmed. When we have turned against one another, when we have failed one another. In this story, we see reflections of our own story.
But most of all, we cherish this story because in this story, we don’t just see ourselves—we see God. We see God come within this story of despair and anger and violence and injustice. We see God-Incarnate experience the WORST humanity can experience, and the worst that humans can do to one another—all the worst effects of our pride and arrogance, hatred, and ignorance. We see Jesus go through that, and we know that none of it defeats God’s love. That somehow, God endures all this—all of it—and loves us anyway. Gives us a way out of the wreck all of this has built for us anyway. God endures all of the worst humans can dish out and in the end, God wins. God’s love wins. Wins out over evil, over hatred, over violence, over death.
This is the story Christians have been telling ever since the beginning. That we knew a God that loved us so much that God entered the essence of what it was to be human, and that God was not defeated by the forces that seem so scary in our world. And we have told this story in the good times, and the bad times. When we were at the head of conquering armies, or hiding from those armies in the catacombs. This was the story that gave us hope when there was no more hope to find. That God came to be with us when death seemed all around, but that not even death could separate us from God.
This has been our story for the ages, and this is still our story, even now. This week, may we all hear in it the same truth and hope as the first disciples did.