The Rev’d Carlos de la Torre
Christ Church, New Haven, Conn.
April 9, 2017
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the year 132 of the Common Era, sixty-two years after the destruction of the Jewish Temple, a successful revolt briefly freed the people of Israel from Roman occupancy. This newly gained freedom marked a victory for all those who from the time of Jesus had tried to bring to a halt Roman rule in Jerusalem.
As an act of liberty and triumph over the empire, the newly freed people commissioned the minting of new coinage. Removing all references to the Roman Empire, these new coins replaced the face of Caesar with images of palm trees and branches. Accompanied with the phrase“ For the Freedom of Israel.”
The palms that adorned these newly minted coins were not merely the particular design choice of a coin marker. No, these palm images represented the Jewish fight for freedom. For first and second century Jews and Jewish-Christians, palms symbolized the fight for liberation. A true political symbol, palms represented the struggle and hope of a people. The very struggle and hope of one day achieving freedom from earthly foes and for the reign of God to be made manifest with the coming of the anointed one, the messiah.
And here we are, hundreds years after the death of Jesus and the end of Jewish Wars, holding on to our green palm blades, remembering Jesus’ final entrance into Jerusalem and recounting his abandonment, betrayal, capture, and death on a Roman cross.
While we may not grasp our palms as a sign of political revolution, like those who fought after the destruction of the temple. We do hold our palms as a sign that something extraordinary has taken place here on earth and in heaven. And our palms do point us to a revolution, however, it is not merely a political or earthly revolution but a cosmic and world altering event in creation.
Our palms point us to a revolution that begins with the “yes” of a teenage girl, Mary, most Holy, as she proclaimed to blessed Elizabeth -- “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”
Our palms point us to a revolution where the first shall be last, the last shall be first. Our palms points us to a revolution where humanity is not afraid to face the demons and ailments found in our society and the world. Our palms point us to a revolution that threatens structures rooted in death and sin. Our palms point us to a revolution that is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.
And today on Palm Sunday our palms point us to the Passion. Our gospel passages and the liturgies of Holy Week direct us to Calvary and to the bliss that lies behind the cross. We our first directed to our Lord’s Last Supper and his institution of the holy mysteries in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
And on that very day, using the words of blessed Bishop Frank Weston, we are commanded to “Go out and look for Jesus in the ragged, in the naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling to make good. [To] Look for Jesus. And when you see him, gird yourselves with his towel and try to wash their feet.”
We will remember our Lord’s abandonment, betrayal, capture, and death. And we will be invited to venerate the holy wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world. And finally, we will proclaim Christ’s victory over death in the peak hours of the night as we await the rising of the sun.
However, first, we like Jesus, will have to walk into a place of turmoil. As Matthew’s gospel indicates, as Jesus was preparing to enter into Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil. Jesus walks into Jerusalem knowing very well the evil and violence that can penetrate our cities and towns.
Yet, Jesus does not run away from the turmoil. And so during Holy Week we are invited to walk into the turmoil of Jerusalem. We are invited to remember, even experience, the passion of our Lord. And simultaneously we are invited to walk into the turmoil of our own lives, our homes, and our own cities and towns, knowing full well that Jesus will always be present pouring out himself for us and for the world, over and over again. Just as he gave himself up for his disciples and for all creation 2,000 years ago, Jesus continues to pour out himself for the life of the world -- here in New Haven, and on all the altars of the world, and in every alley and street corner where death lingers.
For being found in human form, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross. Amen.