Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, 2006

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, 2006
Mark 1:1-11, Psalm 118:1-2;
Psalm 31:9-16, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 15:1-39
St. Martin's, Davis

This morning I'd like for us to meditate briefly on a person we hardly know, Simon of Cyrene. We hardly know Simon because the gospels tell us almost nothing about him. All we know are the names of his sons, and that he came into Jerusalem from the country for Passover.

We also know that he was waiting along the road to Golgotha,where he was compelled, by Roman soldiers, to carry Jesus' cross.

We know it was Passover in Jerusalem, a time of celebration, worship, sacrifice, a time when grand political claims were made, and when political movements were crushed.

On this particular year, a man named Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a colt, and he was claiming by his prophetic actions to be the Messiah. This same Jesus was hailed as the one that was to usher in a new Davidic kingdom, and who was to throw off the yoke of the Roman oppressor.

On this particular Passover celebration, later in this same week, this same Jesus was bound by the high priests, the elders, and the scribes, and handed over to the Roman authorities. The crowds demanded his crucifixion, he was tortured and mocked, and sentenced to death.

We take a grim lesson from the events of that Passover.

It's a grim lesson, to learn that the same crowds that can praise a man at the gates, can bitterly hate him in front of Pilate.

It's a grim lesson, to learn that it's well within the sphere of human possibility that in the same week we both praise Jesus with Hosannas, and cry for his crucifixion.

It is a testament to the frailty of the human will and to the weakness of our desires, that in a single act of religious celebration we can both praise and mock, both honor and hate.

All this makes me wonder a little about Simon of Cyrene.

If the crowds around him were so volatile and so conflicted, I wonder what it was like inside his heart, how volatile his emotions might have been, how conflicted he might have felt in the moment that Roman soldier looked in his eye and Simon realized that he was about to be compelled into carrying that cross.

I wonder, when Simon was pressed into service, and asked to carry Jesus' cross, did Simon gladly take up that cross?

Was Simon all "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" when that Roman soldier demanded his time, his strength, and his pride?

Or was Simon in more of a "Crucify him!" mood?

Perhaps Simon said to the centurion, "who me? No, you got the wrong man. I actually carried the cross for that other guy last week."

Maybe he just stood there, hoping that the soldier found someone else, trying his best to avoid eye-contact when the centurion began looking around for help.

Perhaps he took up that cross happily, secretly thankful that so many people could see him being such a good disciple, thinking to himself "Look at me! I'm helping Jesus!"

"Aren't I great?"

I wonder about Simon's reaction because St. Mark gives us the space to reflect upon it. Through St. Mark's silence we can reflect on our own response to the demand to carry a cross.

I guess I wonder about Simon's response because I wonder about my own tendency to praise, and hate, and avoid, and proudly display my so-called holiness when the demands of Christian discipleship become clear.

I hope it gives you the space to reflect on your own response to the very real demands of discipleship, of living a life of justice, of breaking bread and saying the prayers, of loving God, your neighbor, and your enemy.

Most of us are screwy, conflicted people. Our motives are rarely pure, even when we do the right thing.

We demand love in return for love, we serve in the hope of praise, we hate for our acts of mercy to remain hidden.

Perhaps not knowing Simon's reaction is a blessing, and St. Mark's lack of detail a message in itself.

Sometimes our mixed motives do matter, and are worthy of transformation, and of deep and lengthy self-reflection.

But there are also other times, when the demand is real and present, that our conflicted hearts don’t matter, any more than it mattered to Simon of Cyrene that day.

All we know about Simon is that whether he was reluctant, overjoyed and proud, or pure and holy, Simon simply picked up that cross.

All we know about Simon is that in the presence of Jesus, when our Lord's body was breaking, and his blood spilling, Simon simply did something: he simply lifted the cross.

He lifted the easy burden of love and discipleship, and offers an example to us. Simon shows us that we too are called to discipleship. Conflicted or not, reluctant or not, we too, are called to lift high the cross.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting your Passion Sunday Sermon. I heard two different ones Yesterday,a dn your's is far better. Thanks.

Monday, April 10, 2006 4:47:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Thanks Steve. I appreciate your encouragement.

If you see this, and you get a minute, drop me a line. My e-mail address is on the upper left hand corner of the main-page. I hope you are well.


Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:06:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home