This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It is traditional that we read the Passion as part of the morning service. In parishes with which I am familiar, parishioners take the roles of Jesus, Judas, the narrator, Pilate and so on. However, certain parts of the reading are given to the congregation as a whole. This year in my parish the parts assigned to the congregation are accusers, bystanders, and people.
It is not by accident that we are asked to take the roles of those who turned on Jesus and saw him put to death, even mocking him as he died on the cross. It is important that we own these roles. It may feel uncomfortable. It may be confusing. After all, we go to church every week, we say our prayers daily, we read the Bible. We love Jesus. We revere him as our Lord and Savior. We testify that he is the Son of God. Yet that is exactly what his closest friends, his disciples, said, and then they abandoned him, denied him, and, except for a few women, hid themselves during Jesus’ execution.
Are we better than them? I think not. We need to own the roles of accuser, bystander and the crowd. We need to realize that it was people just like us that had a hand in Jesus’ crucifixion. We may have praised him when in entered Jerusalem on a donkey, but less than a week later we were shouting “Give us Barabbas” and “Crucify him!” at the top of our lungs.
In the Episcopal Church during Lent we use a verse from First Letter of John directly before we offer our confession. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) I believe it is important for us to recognize that we are not perfect, and that we fail, sometimes miserably. It is not that we are evil so much as we are vulnerable and make mistakes. When we boldly say the words of the accusers, bystanders, and crowds we are owning our frailty. We are owning the times we ignored someone in need, looked askance upon a poor person, screamed at a driver who cut us offer, denied comfort to a friend with whom we were put out, or any of a thousand ways that we withhold love and thereby deny Jesus every single day.
Once we own our sins, mistakes, and failures we can ask forgiveness for them. We know that if we repent and ask for forgiveness we will be forgiven. As Jesus said from the cross. “”Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) They did not mean to kill an innocent man any more than we would, but it happens because we really don’t know what we are doing. So we repent.
Join us 10:30 Sunday morning for Palm & Passion Sunday (https://livestream.com/eec) and live into the Passion of our Lord. Allow yourself to be a part of the accusers, bystanders and crowds. Experience the Passion again for the first time. Without the crucifixion there can be no resurrection. We need to proceed to the foot of the cross and tomb to come to Easter. Let us do that together.
The Lord bless you and keep you.