March 24, 2013
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49

One of the most inadequate phrases in the English language is “next of kin.” It is part of the language of bereavement and death. Obituaries list these people and they sit in the front row of the funeral home and the church. They are the ones to whom we express our sympathy but they may not include those who most feel the loss of the one who has died.

The Gospel of today is the story of Jesus’ passion and death. It is in stark contrast to the Gospel read at the Procession with Palms. Instead, it is the tale of those who kept the “death watch” during the Lord’s suffering. It is the kind of narrative enacted again and again at the death-beds of the very young and the very old. It is the story of how people react when those they love or should have loved are wrenched from them. Their grief is set in the context of the unique relationship they have with the one who suffers.

Consider Peter. He is ready to go to prison and death with the Lord at one moment, retreats to a distance at another, denies the relationship altogether and final weeps bitterly.

We know this story very well. The chord it strikes within our hearts is not just the result of having heard the tale again and again. It comes from an ever-growing and ever-changing relationship that we have with the central character, the Lord we have allowed to change us.

Faith in the resurrection does not totally fill the empty spot in our lives when those we love are physically taken from us. It does not help us when we remember past moments of triumph. Belief in Easter Sunday does not erase the pain of knowing our part in Jesus’ suffering.

When we are the “next of kin” and lose someone we love, we are like those first disciples. Our first instinct might be to hide away in a remote room. Instead, we spend this mourning time telling stories of the Lord we love and telling one another he is in our midst. I suspect this is our greatest opportunity to be the Church, our best chance to be present to one another in the empty spaces which are in the lives of one another.

At this Eucharist, we know the presence of the Lord in our midst as we tell this story of faith. The message of Holy Week is the challenge to be willing to pour ourselves out for others as Christ has poured himself out for others.