Saturday, March 15, 2008

Palm Sunday

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

Philippians 2:5-11

We are about to read the very heart of the Christian story together as remembered by Saint Matthew.

As we do so, we are reminded by Saint Paul to “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

The “mind of Christ” Paul lifts up is that of a self-emptying Christ – that is Christ Jesus does not regard equality with God, that is being created in the redeeming love of God, something to be grasped, exploited or held onto, but rather empties himself, taking the form of a slave, a servant, humbling himself unto death – even death on a cross.

The “mind” of God, the “mind” of Christ is self-emptying, that is, God willingly limits God’s power in order to become engaged in life on earth. And more: God is willing to limit God’s power to undergo the ultimate in powerlessness so that the power and glory of God can enter the world. (Maggie Ross, The Fountain and the Furnace, (Paulist, New York: 1987) p.4.

More provocative than this, however, may be the realization that Christ had no assurance of a reward for his self-emptying. He acted on our behalf without any view of gain. This is what God exalts and vindicates: self denying service for others to the point of death with no claim of return, no eye upon reward. (Proclamation [Fortress, Minneapolis:2007])p.232

So it is we will see Jesus before the religious authorities and before Pilate refusing to answer the charges against him. How remarkable is it to see someone stand before political power and say nothing? Imagine being lied about and letting the words stand without opposition.

Pilate polls the crowd. He takes advice from advisors, including his wife and her “dream,” but he cannot be moved from responding to the public opinion polls. Like many political and religious leaders, Pilate lacks vision – not only about his power and how it might be used, but about his own place in time.

We are not unfamiliar with the kind of myopia of experience and impatience with complexity that blinds Pilate and Pilates of all eras and every generation to the larger scope of things. We are all too familiar with leaders who use slogans to describe the basis of their policies, thus pandering to lazy minds rather than teaching people how to reason with real compassion. Such practices are in full evidence in Jesus’ appearance before both the religious and the Roman leaders. Thus his story serves as a poignant commentary on all of human relationships.

We might also notice the economy of the narrative in Matthew. Only six words are used to describe the actual crucifixion itself, and then almost obliquely – “And when they had crucified him…” Then immediately all attention returns to the actions and responses of those on hand: dividing up the spoils, mocking, torturing and tormenting the crucified one.

So it is again when Jesus dies, only four words suffice, “and yielded up this spirit.” This is self-giving beyond all human imagination.

These events we read about are depicted in terra cotta, and surround us at worship every time we gather in this place – the Stations of the Cross. They are recalled, re-membered each week in our Eucharistic Prayers, the Great Thanksgiving! They form the core of our daily and weekly prayers, our hymns, and the very melodies of composers throughout the ages. In every possible medium of human artistic communication, we are reminded of just what we are to let ourselves be.

To let something be in one’s self is a restful, gracious reception. It is not a grasping but a welcome, suggests Melinda A. Quivik in her Holy Week Commentaries (Proclamation [Fortress, Minneapolis:2007])p.232. It is visible and palpable in the reception of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, as when the celebrant and assisting ministers hands to each person in the assembly the elements in which Jesus has located his presence. The members of the assembly are not expected to take the elements; they receive them. The difference here is important if we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus who does not grasp but empties and receives. The invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the people and the meal gives a regular glimpse we all receive of the words “let the same mind be in you” that Paul prays for us all.

As we remember one more time the events of that Friday so many many years ago, may we remember Paul’s prayer for us. May we remember that there are those whose lives are lived on the cross with Christ day in and day out. May we remember that Political and Religious leaders continue to be blinded by the myopia of experience and impatience with complexity, misusing and misdirecting the power and possibility of their respective positions of public trust.

As we listen to this story, and each time we come to this altar for refreshment, may we remember we come to receive the body and blood of Christ, not take the elements, so that in receiving them we might know ourselves even now to be living members of his Body, the Church. That it is to this we say Amen before we receive what we have become.

To let the mind of Christ become the same mind that is in us means to become cooperators in him with respect to everyone and everything else – to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to strive for justice and peace for all persons; to respect the dignity of every human being. With God’s help and an attitude of receiving and self-giving, with no eye on reward nor claim to return, we may yet hear the good news in this ancient story so that we may indeed let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, According to Saint Matthew….

Matthew 26:14-27:66

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