Prayer: May your words be as a healing balm to the chaos and busyness of our lives. Still us in this moment that we may listen for your voice and your direction this Easter time. Amen.
If I was to ask you the question “What is the highest form of prayer?” what would your answer be....? I believe that the answer to this question is “tears.” We are often misunderstood when we cry, sometimes we think people will see it as a sign of weakness, sometimes we see it as sorrow, or joy, we cry when we are in pain or hurting, we cry when we remember in sadness and lament, we cry when we see a beautiful sunset or an amazing scene of God’s wonderful creation, we cry when we are born into this world and we would like to think that the world cries too when we depart this life.
As Jesus wept for Lazarus, as we weep when we are in pain, as we weep when we lose our loved ones in death, as we weep in thanksgiving for the life that dearly departed had and we have today, that is the highest form of prayer. Tears, our tears that connect us to God. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we are open to the power of God in our lives. For some it is equally as easy for them to walk away sorrowing because God seems absent in their time of loss, but it is also a time where we find God in the midst of our struggle and crisis.
The first song we sang this morning was Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest…. Lord we lift up your name, with our hearts filled with praise, be exalted oh Lord our God, Hosanna in the highest. I visualise the fervour of the crowd, the enthusiasm, the excitement, the hope of new things to come… is it hard to pick up a palm and wave it enthusiastically when you know how the story is going to end?
Does this procession stir something up inside you still like it used to do for me in Sunday school or are we so steeped in our annual traditions that the remembrance no longer stirs anything within us? How can Easter be different for you and me this year? That is a question only you can answer. Are our voices raised in praise, or are our voices lamenting the things to come?
I guess it’s hard when we already know what is going to happen, very soon the shouts of hosanna will taunt crucify him, crucify him. We know that Jesus will be hung on a cross to die and three days later rise to newness of life. Riding with Jesus into Jerusalem that day were the hopes of the oppressed and exploited peoples and the oppressed and exploited individuals. His ministry demonstrated some realisation of hope for them then and hope for us today.
The Gospels all treat the palm and the passion narratives differently. In Matthew's gospel it is the voice of lament that pervades Matthew’s passion narrative. “My God, my God, why…?” marks more than the voice of Jesus as he hangs dying. We hear it as Judas betrays, as witnesses lie, as disciples desert and deny Jesus. We hear it as the women wait faithfully at the cross and the tomb. He also portrays the Twelve disciples in a harshly revealing light. Bid to keep watch with Jesus in prayer, they fall asleep repeatedly. Once arrest occurs, they flee into the night. They are not at the cross or the tomb as the women disciples keep vigil.
Do you have a Gospel preference for the Easter story, does it matter to you which version you read or listen to each year? Our lives are a combination of Christmas and Easter stories interweaving themselves in and out of our lives year in and year out. A combination of the good the bad and the ugly, we cannot always choose which chapter will be visited upon us this year and the next.
To journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is to journey with him to challenge and change the structures and authorities of religious leadership and piety. I believe that is quite a powerful statement. For us to journey with Jesus not just this week and next week and on Christmas day and all the other Christian celebrations but every day, means that we too cannot just sit back and allow ourselves to be silenced because of authority and power. This Palm Sunday journey is not just an annual event but is a guide for us to prepare ourselves for the different journeys in our lives that will lead us to shouts of betrayal and contradiction. How urgent is our passion that our conviction hurts us so much as to feel that God is abandoning us? Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane asks God to take
away from him the cup of suffering, I can’t take it, he says? Wow! Jesus the human admits his limitations, no way God am I going to die this horrible death. He can see the path laid out for him as if it is in DVD right in front of him, but then he adds, “Not my will, but yours be done”.
Not my will but yours be done. This is the form of highest prayer. Tears and total vulnerability. God take this cup of suffering away from me…. Not my will, but yours be done.
The highest form of prayer is tears. Tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of sorrow and loss, tears of conviction, tears of fulfilment and relief, tears of hopelessness and abandonment. Tears of faith.
God hears our lament as much as our praise. God will not desert us; God’s presence can be trusted. When have you felt compelled to raise your voice to God and cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We are invited into the story, to see in it images of darkness and despair of our own times and our own world.
We are invited into the story to also see within the darkness and despair, suffering and passion and death, a light that shone then, and shines still.
When you come for communion today, you will receive bread and wine as usual but you also carry
the palm cross as well. The crosses invite you to take the story away, as part of you, into the week ahead, the months, and the year; into your daily life.
To take the story, to take the images of the palms, the cross and the resurrection to be life-transforming and life-renewing for you and for the people of your daily lives. To let the daily experience of passion and rising, of death and resurrection bring life and light, joy and loving. Amen.
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April 2011 to June 2012