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 Bible readings: URL: http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=30

Palm Sunday Year A (April 13, 2014)     St James', Peace River

It's been quite a week. I noticed a lot of different feelings in myself (and in other people too) as we got word about the Pat's Creek flood, the damage to our lower hall and elsewhere in town, and then of course the aftermath. First, a lot of anxiety as we heard the news and didn't know how serious it would turn out to be. The determination and energy of the people who were trying to move stuff up higher, and the crews who were working to drain the water. The sinking hearts when we saw the damage, and the struggle to make a dent in it. The relief as the professionals started to take over the cleanup. And the instinct to come together to think about what happened, and why, and what we need to do now.

I guess if you wanted to, you could find plenty of Bible verses that said something about that experience. “Save me, O God, for the waters have risen up to my neck” - well, thankfully, not quite. “The Lord sits enthroned upon the water flood” - I guess so, though it was much harder to remember that on Wednesday. “Many waters cannot quench love” - perhaps that's getting closer to the point. What I found harder to do, though, was to draw any kind of line from the story of the last week, to the events which we are celebrating and remembering this morning on Palm Sunday. The only water in the Bible readings today is the bowl Pilate washed his hands in!

And while there's trouble and sadness, and some fear while it was happening, I think we would happily say that what we're dealing with doesn't hold a candle to the story of an innocent man brought before Pontius Pilate to be unjustly executed. Especially when that man is God's Son, and his death the central  event of the whole story of God and humanity. That pretty much blows everything else away, to the point where you would wonder if there's anything you can bring from the events of your own life, to get any kind of bearing on what God was doing as Jesus claimed the lordship the crowds were thrusting on him, not by taking his seat on a throne but by dying on a cross.

But somehow I don't think we're meant to think of Calvary as all that remote from our real lives. If anything is supposed to make a difference where we live, this is it. And one thing that occurs to me is that at the time, what was happening to Jesus was all part of an ordinary day in the life of the world. No one in that moment recognized that something cosmic was happening. Other than Jesus himself – for him it was earth-shattering in the way one's own death is bound to be. But the crowds were swinging in the wind as crowds always have done from that day to this – not sure what they wanted, enjoying first the gratification of welcoming a king, and then the uglier indulgence of spitting on a criminal. The authorities, Jewish and Roman, were conducting business as usual, trying to keep a lid on whatever trouble would boil over next.

Even Jesus' own disciples, shocked and dismayed at the turn of events, didn't in the end feel that what was happening was worth staking their lives on, so off they ran. A few remained behind, maybe because their lives weren't at risk, to do what women did often enough in those days – caring for the bodies of those whose lives were counted cheap enough to be eaten up by the system. Shattering as that sounds to us, it's a fact of life in the lives of a lot of people alive today, never mind times past. Only at the very last minute, when it was done and there was no way to wind back the clock, did they realize that something had happened which was outside of the everyday. The curtain of the temple tore; the earth shook; graves were emptied. Only then does someone say, “Truly this man was God's Son!”

Every time we look back to that world-changing moment, this is what we're faced with. In the midst of life carrying on, with hardly anybody even noticing, the Son of God died. God made his appeal to us, not with thunderbolts from Mount Olympus, not even in cloud and fire and tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai, but on a little hill outside the city in one of three crucifixions that day. I suspect that's why we build churches even today with crosses up on the roofline – because when we really see the cross the way we need to, it's not from the inside of a sacred moment in a holy place, but catching a glimpse out of the corner of our eye when we're up to our knees or worse, in the muck and the drag and the struggle of life simply going on. That's where Jesus died, and that's why.

God's consuming desire to come and find us where we are, is what Jesus was willing to stake his life on. How we experience that depends on what's happening to us in the ordinariness of life right at the moment. Sometimes the presence of God simply walks with us as we walk, or sits with us as we rest or grieve. Sometimes it's more like a pull to bring us out of a place we don't belong, or a lift to raise us up and give us a moment's respite. A pain when our awareness of God disturbs us, or a comfort when life is already unsettled. A blanket to keep us warm, or a flame to set us on fire. A crown on the joy that genuinely creeps into our lives from time to time, or a trumpet call to overthrow the wrongness we keep butting our heads against as we try to live out our daily lives.

Your experience of where God meets our ordinary life might strike you as any of those things, and many more. What doesn't change, though, is God's willingness to pay any price, to overcome the inertia and habit and grind and routine of our lives, in order to make something more of you, by becoming part of who you are and everything you do. And the case that God makes, to ask you and me to let him in, isn't that God does eye-catching spectacular unique things, but that God loves us this much. That when we look up and catch a glimpse of the cross, we are seeing what God has done, and does, and will do, to be with us where we are. Wherever we are.

That's what you can carry with you into this week ahead, as we keep treading the road that we began when we walked around the church in our palm procession today. It's interesting how the tradition of Holy Week has worked out, so that today we get a kind of rehearsal for Good Friday. We know it's coming. We've been warned. The road we're on leads to the cross as surely as the days of the week follow each other. What are you going to bring with you to the foot of the cross? Now is the time to gather it up, to be ready.

In one sense, sure, there is nothing worth bringing with you. But if you are ready to bring your life – not the highlight reel, but every boring, embarrassing, troubled, uncertain, ordinary moment of your life – if you can bring all that to Jesus as you remember him nailed to the cross for you, then you will understand why. Why he loves you that much; and why what he did for you is bound to change your life. Not taking you away from all those ordinary experiences which make up your real life, but instead letting him into them – all of them. And you will never be the same again.