Sunday, March 20, 2016

Father Riley's sermon for Palm Sunday

Upcoming services and activities: 
..Everyone is welcome to join us March 25th at noon for our Good Friday service.  Father Riley will be officiating for Good Friday and in our joyful Easter Sunday service at 10am March 27th.  Please bring fresh flowers to add to our Easter Cross Easter Sunday.  Fellowship will follow in the Parish Hall following the Easter service.
..Father Riley will start back up our informational classes Sunday April 10th at 9am in the Parish Hall.  The classes are open to all interested in the history and teachings of the Episcopal Church.
PALM SUNDAY - C - 16               THE PASSION  OF LUKE



 The Palm Sunday liturgy is the only one that has two gospel readings; the one containing the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that is associated with the liturgy of the palms and the reading of the Passion within the Eucharistic liturgy.
The two readings cover a matter of days in the life of Jesus, but for us a matter of minutes. Because our time is short in reflecting on these two readings that taken together represent the beginning and the ending of Holy Week, we often miss the depth of their meaning.
Traditionally we participate in the liturgy of the palms by processing and singing “All Glory Laud and Honor,” this being the closest thing to our being there as He entered the Holy City and laying our coats on the road for Him to ride on. In this we take our place in the crowd that welcomed him to Jerusalem by singing Alleluias and waving palm branches in their hands.
At the reading of the Passion we remain seated listening as the all too familiar drama is played out: the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the trials before the Jews and finally Pilate, until He is crucified, and then we stand, as those stood who watched him die on the cross; those who stood close to him and ridiculed him, as well as his friends who stood at a distance and wept. Christ has finally met his destiny.
Jesus does not die alone. Luke tells us that there were two thieves crucified alongside him, one on his right and one on his left. The leaders scoffed at him saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers joined in as well  ridiculing him, even one of the thieves dying next to him mocked him, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other did not. The other thief was the only one who stood up for Jesus that day. Not only did he defend Jesus as an innocent man, but he believed that Jesus was who he said he was and asked that Christ remember him when he came into his kingdom.
The faith Christ had been looking for so long within Israel throughout his earthly ministry manifests itself in a dying thief crucified next to him; “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus then gives one last earthly promise: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Isn’t that what we all want? When this earthly life has ended to be remembered by God?
With each Lent the image of the dying Jesus on the cross is impressed on the eyes of the world, even on those eyes that see only TV or some aspect of social media. How do people react? Better yet, how do we react?
There are those who possess the same unbelieving demands, who in times of despair and pain, or simply out of ignorance wag their heads and say “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Others look at the dying Jesus and acknowledge their own failures and admit responsibility, even going so far as to rebuke the unbelievers, “Do you not fear God? We are receiving the due rewards of our deeds.” But those, alas, are far and few between.
Some concede that he was merely a good man who came to a terrible end who got caught between politics and religion because his words and actions threatened the status quo. “This man has done nothing wrong.” And there are some who look to Jesus on the cross and simply cry for help.” Jesus remember me.”
What do you see when you look at the cross? I can only answer for myself. I look at the cross with body of the dying Jesus nailed to it and my problems and my pain are pale compared to His suffering. When I look at the cross I see myself next to him, in the thief who asked to be remembered, and who acknowledged his own sins and believed in Jesus. I too want to, as we all want, to be remembered by Him.
That’s why I have a crucifix in every room of my house, to remind me of what is really important.
The thief who asked to be remembered  lived with the hope of paradise; of being in the presence of God not really knowing what that might mean. He was on the other side of the cross. You and I live with the hope of the resurrection. We are post-Easter Christians. We live on this side of the cross.
What a difference it makes in our day to day living to live with faith in the promises of God as seen through the Resurrection.
The central act of Christian worship is the Holy Eucharist. In it we take our place in the upper room as the drama of that mystical event is reenacted. In it we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus as we participate in the Last Supper. It is the closest we can get to actually having been there. What a difference the words “Take eat; take and drink” mean when viewed through the Resurrection.
In receiving the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood we remember Him, as He commanded us to do and the price He paid for our sins and the sins of the world in the Hope that one day, like the thief  on the cross, we too will be remembered by Him. AMEN+


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