The Passion Reading

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Palm Sunday

March 25, 2018 – Year B

Mark 14:1 – 15:47

The Passion Reading

I come to you in the name of one holy and living God

         Among the various spiritual practices developed to help us draw nearer to God is one developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a priest and theologian.  Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the conviction that God is active, personal, and—above all—present to us. St. Ignatius’ method of engaging the scripture allows us to connect with scripture personally. The idea is to place ourselves in the biblical story by becoming a person in the reading…possibly someone in the crowd, or a disciple, or one of the chief priest, or whomever you choose.  Imagine the sights, sounds, smells, feels, and tastes of this ancient world or of what was happening in the reading.  We step into the story and let it enter your minds - not just as a series of facts - but as if it were actually happening around us.  With this method of reading scripture, we are no longer just reading a book or hearing words read, we are living a story. 

         The Ignatian method, when done with a proper emphasis upon what the text actually says, can be very powerful in helping us grow closer to God.  The Holy Spirit works in amazing ways when we humble ourselves and come to scripture ready to learn and be changed. The Ignatian method asks us, in some ways, to be like children by awakening our imaginations and spending some time there.  In doing so, we are engaged with God’s Word by stepping into the story in hopes of meeting God there.

         Today we will read the great Passion Narrative.  It is the story of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and his pain-filled journey to the cross.  We will do it as a dramatic reading by having different members of the congregation read certain parts.  Like Ignatius suggested – we will step into the story as if we were there during those days. 

         But before we do that – before we embark on the retelling of our

past – we need to acknowledge another story…a story unfolding as we speak.  Yesterday, thousands upon thousands gathered not just in our nation’s capital but in cities all over our country and the world.  People came together to say a change must happen –  that change is past due. 

         It wasn’t the voices of politicians or adults calling out to us but the voices of our young people.  Their words and their passion were beautifully expressed in their speeches – their call out to us – the adults -  for action.  Sam Fuentes, a Parkland student who was shot just 5 weeks ago stood before a huge crowd and poignantly called for reform – called for compromise.  Her emotions ran so strong that she stopped to vomit in the middle of her speech, took a deep breath and then continued speaking.  Naomi Wadler –stood in front of hundreds to say that, “[She] represent[s] the African American women who are victims of gun violence [and] who are simply statistics instead of vibrant beautiful girls full of potential.”  Naomi too spoke clearly and thoughtfully.  Naomi is 11 years old.[1]

         Young person after young person spoke yesterday. They told us that their voices will not stop – that enough is enough.  They asked if we were listening and would we act?  They are our children, and they want to feel safe again. 

         It may seem ridiculous to compare these two stories.  Some may say that it is offensive to compare the story of Jesus’s death to any other story in history, but hear me out for a second.  Both of these stories are about standing up and saying – Life can be different!  Both of these stories have love at their core – Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die.  Our young people loved their friends so much that they are willing to speak out no matter what the cost and demand #nomore.  

         Both are stories about power – about the seats of power and the way things have always been done - now being challenged.   Both are stories where the opportunity for change is before us and we get to choose whether to hang back and remain silent or to step forward and act with love.  And both are stories about courage and hope – the courage to stand up and insist on a new way of living, a new way of treating one another…more than 2,000 years ago and here today.  It is also about the hope of a people that Jesus’ teachings of love and equality would become a way of life in the world… and the hope of our children and youth that their voices will be heard and the gun violence will stop!

         They are both very powerful stories!  They are both stories in which God calls to us and invites us take part.  We cannot truly hear and say the words of the Passion Story today and ignore what is happening in our world right now.  We cannot walk with Jesus through the gates of Jerusalem into the hands of the chief priests and Pilate and watch as he dies for our sins and ignore our children and youth calling out to the adults in this world to make a change so that everyone is safer.  

         In a few minutes we will read the Passion Story.  As humans, our stories are important to us.  They define who we are.  Through today’s reading, we will remember those last days of Jesus’s life on Earth.  We will hear voices from our congregation as we all partake in this Gospel reading.  As Saint Ignatias encouraged, we are invited to move into the story in the hope of drawing nearer to God and opening ourselves up to God’s love and grace.     

         As we begin this Holy Week,  I encourage each of us to step into the Passion Reading today – who would you have been?  What did you see?  What do you hear and smell?   Where do you see God? 

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/24/us/naomi-wadler-march-for-our-lives-black...

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