These words—the words by which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the mass—are so familiar to us that we tend to think of them almost as if they were scripted for him. Just as the celebrant will do here tonight, reciting words off a written page, at some unrecognized level we fall into thinking that Jesus too was playing a role, as if he were repeating lines like an actor on a stage.
Feeling abandoned and alone is likely a part of each Christian’s walk. In my own life I have had seasons of silence. Saint Ignatius called those experiences of silence “desolation”, a time when the “soul finds itself apathetic, tepid, sad, and separated as it were from its Creator and Lord.”
Christians tell the truth. Except when they don’t, because it’s not always an easy to do. But the liturgy of Palm Sunday is compels us to tell the truth. The truth about ourselves. The truth about who we think God is.
This past week marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Perhaps you have seen photos of the notorious entry gate to that concentration camp, yawning like a medieval image of the gates of hell, with an opening large enough for the train carriages to pass through, carrying countless men, women and children toward their death.
Now from this conviction that we are made in the image of God, there flows another, which is that human beings are not just created equal in terms of rights and responsibilities—we are also endowed with an equal dignity. As Heschel put it, “each and every person must be treated with the honor due to a likeness representing [nothing less than] the king of kings.”
I can think of no other time of the year in which the liturgical calendar is more out of sync with the cultural calendar than Advent. While the church has already stepped into the next year—and into a penitential season at that—, the rest of the world is busily shopping, buying, consuming, making merry, and going to ugly sweater parties. While we inside these walls sing the slow, almost dirge-like hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, outside these walls we relish the ineffable joys of singing Christmas trees, inundating us with Frank Sinatra-esque jazzed up versions of Jingle Bells and Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.
As some of you know, I grew up in a fundamentalist church in small town Texas. For the first twelve years of my life, my family were members of the Pruett and Lobit Street Church of Christ. Churches of Christ often name themselves after the street they are on, that being about the plainest and least liturgical way they can conceive of naming themselves. South Main Church of Christ; Missouri Street Church of Christ.