“Love Poured Out” PALM SUNDAY Phil. 2: 5-11 3.25.2018
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to lay aside his crown for my soul, for my soul, to lay aside his crown for my soul!”
These words from an early 19th American hymn form the framework for Palm Sunday, because this day is about “wondrous love,” and this day introduces a week that is about wondrous love. Palm Sunday’s focus is about God’s love poured out freely and completely for humanity, and its Scripture and worship embody this story and reality.
A great deal of Scripture is heard in most churches on this day. In many congregations the Passion Story, covering all of this week’s events of Jesus from his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, through his anointing at Bethany, the Last Supper, Garden of Gethsemane, arrest, trial, Peter’s denial, crucifixion, death and burial is read in its entirety.
Today our focus is on the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. This story is amazing, it is powerful, and it is wondrous – both the entrance and the week to follow.
The paradox of this entrance story and the events of the coming week are visible and apparent. What begins with exaltation, victory, and triumphant song ends in betrayal, brutality and death.
One Palm Sunday several years ago, I heard a young child ask a powerful question after listening patiently & reverently to the long story of this week ending with Christ’s crucifixion. “But Mommy, why, why did Jesus have to die?”
That child voiced the question that has confronted and challenged people of faith for a very long time.
- Why did an innocent man come to such a horrible end?
- Why did someone who proclaimed love, and lived the very compassion of God suffer and die as a common criminal?
- Why the pain, why the cross, why the death?
- “But Mommy, why did Jesus have to die?”
These questions of “why” connect to other deep questions of “why” that face us in our daily lives.
- Why is there sickness and suffering?
- Why is there such violence in the human soul?
- Why wars, pestilence, earthquakes, famine and death?
- Why, oh why, oh why?
Scripted and pious answers to these questions simply do not suffice. Indeed, the only thing that offers a real response to the questions of “why” is the cross itself; not that Jesus’ crucifixion gives a simple answer. No, the answers and responses are as deep as the heart of God, as deep as the compassion of God, and as deep as the wondrous love of God.
Love was and is the meaning of the cross of Christ.
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! That caused the Lord of bliss to lay aside his crown for my soul?”
- The cross of Jesus does not promise that we will understand every “why” of our living.
- The cross of Jesus does not promise that we will understand the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death in a direct and logical way.
- The cross of Jesus does not promise that we will be able to make sense of the evil and sorrow of this world.
What the cross of Jesus does promise is this: Love; God’s love surrounding us and giving us strength; God’s love never failing us nor abandoning us.
The cross is the sign of solidarity; of God’s solidarity with us no matter what happens in this life and in this world.
One of the most powerful reflections on the meaning of Christ’s crucifixion is offered today by Paul in his letter to the ancient church in the city of Philippi.
Paul writes: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
Jesus emptied himself, he poured himself out. The Greek verb used here is the same verb used in pouring out a liquid from a pitcher — emptying, pouring, flowing — and thus was the love of God shown on the cross itself, emptying, pouring, flowing completely and abundantly.
Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, hope, life — all shared, all poured out, and all flowing. And it simply never stops. It flows even to this day, even to our hearts, our souls, and our lives. It is a love that sustains; a love that transforms; and a love that encourages us even in the face of the troubles, anxieties and questions of our being & living.
Paul introduced his description of Jesus pouring himself out with a request “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Some translations use the word attitude instead of mind. Somehow the same “mind,” or “attitude”, the same spirit, the same soul of compassion, love and service that Jesus showed on the cross is to penetrate our minds, our spirits, and our souls as well.
I believe that this means two things for us.
First, it means that we do know in a deep way that God does indeed love us. The first and foundational reality of Christian faith and life is that we are loved, that God poured out and pours out love to us.
Having this mind, this attitude, this awareness in us changes our lives. It gives us even deeper joy when we experience human love in our families, in our friendships and in our daily living; and it gives us courage and strength when we experience suffering, pain and loss.
But there’s also a second meaning to Paul’s invitation to “have the mind of Christ, the attitude of Christ in us.” It is the invitation and the call to demonstrate the same pouring out, the same compassion, and the same love in the actions of our lives and our living.
On Palm Sunday we hear the ultimate story of Jesus Christ’s mission, his call, and his purpose – all of which was to show the reconciling love of God. Jesus did it over and over and over again in his mission and ministry, proclaiming good news of that love, inviting everybody into that love (even outcasts, and the despised folks), healing the sick, casting out demons, breaking down walls of separation, and raising the dead.
But now, now, was the culmination of this mission of love poured out; to enter Jerusalem and offer everything that he was; to offer every fiber of his heart, soul, and being; to make a complete and supreme sacrifice; to empty himself and pour out that love. This was the moment of complete and clear mission, call, and purpose for Jesus.
And when we hear the stories and contemplate the actions described in Mark’s Gospel, we come to our own mission; our own call; and our own purpose as well.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Paul puts it.
In other words:
- Let the mission of Jesus become your mission too.
- Let the call of Jesus become your call too.
- Let the purpose of Jesus become your action too.
A concise articulation of the mission of God’s people is found in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer. The question is asked, “What is the mission of the Church?” And the answer given is, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ.”
To restore, to reconcile, to renew.
That is the mission, the purpose, the call of God’s people. It is the mission of showing the serving love and compassion that Jesus showed on the cross.
This mission is to be at the center of communities of Christian faith — congregations, churches, denominations — and this mission is at the center of the individual Christian’s journey and life as well.
- How do we as a church & individually show serving love?
- How do we as a church & individually care for other human beings?
- How do we as a church & individually give something of ourselves?
These are questions of community and individual mission that come to us this day.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” exhorts Paul. In other words, “Have the same mind of the one who emptied himself, who poured himself out, who showed love so clearly and completely.”
Palm Sunday is a day for us to let our mind and attitude be the same as that of Jesus. It is a day to hear the most central and crucial story of the Christian faith and to let it sink in; sink in down deep into our consciousness, our hearts, and our souls.
“Let the same mind of Christ enter you.”
It is the invitation to hear as a message for the world and for each one of us God’s declaration of love. It is the invitation to understand that first and foremost we are loved by God. And then it is a day to say, “I will have this same mind in me. I will act on this in some real way, through some action of compassion for others.”
So I invite you today to enter that love; experience that love; and show forth that love. Amen.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, 3/2018
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 3-25-18” name of the sermon.