Sermons 2005
"The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66

Home | "The One who is coming after me", Advent 2B, 4 December 2005, Mark 1:1-8 | "Stay awake. Be alert" Advent 1B, 27 November 2005, Mark13:24-37 | "Black Hat vs White Hat" Proper 26A, 30 October 2005, Matthew 23:1-12 | "Sheep and Goats -- again!" Proper 29A, 20 November 2005, Matthew 25:31-46 | "The Greatest Commandment" Proper 25A, 23 October 2005 Matthew 22: 34-46 | God and Caesar, Proper 24A, 16 October 2005, Matthew 22:15-22 | The Wedding Banquet, Proper 23A, 9 October 2005, Matthew 22:1-14 | The Landlord and the Tenants, Proper 22A , 2 October 2005, Matthew 21:33-43 | "Who will go?" Proper 21A, 25 September 2005, Matthew 21:28-32 | "The Last shall be first", Proper 20A, 18 September 2005, Matthew 20:1-16 | "Forgiveness, grace, and mercy", Proper 19A, 11 September 2005, Matthew 18:21-35 | "But who do YOU say that I am?" Proper 16A, 21 August 2005, Matthew 16:13-20 | "O God, how can we sing to you...." Katrina Relief, 4 September 2005 | "The kingdom of heaven is like...." Proper 12A, 24 July 2005, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a | "The wheat and the tares", Proper 11A, 17 July 2005, Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 | "Ears to listen", Proper 10A, 10 July 2005, Matthew 15:1-9, 18-23 | "A cup of cold water", Proper 8A, 26 June 2005, Matthew 10:34-42 | "Heseth: lovingkindness, not sacrifice", Proper 5A , 5 June 2005, Matthew 9:9-13; Hosea 6:6 | Trinity: A Theological Exploration, 22 May 2005, Matthew 28:16-20 | The Baptism of Parker Benjamin Throckmorton, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005 | "Receive the Holy Spirit" Pentecost , 15 May 2005, John 20: 19-23 | "Unity or schism?" Easter 7A, 8 May 2005, John 17:1-11 | "Abide in me", Easter 6A, 1 May 2005, John 15:1-8 | "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", Easter 5A , 24 April 2005, John 14:1-14 | "Saint Thomas the Doubter", Easter 2A, 3 April 2005, John 20:19-31 | "The Lord is Risen Indeed!", Easter A , 27 March 2005, Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-18 | "The Shadow of the Cross", Passion Sunday A, 20 March 2005, Matthew 26:36-27:66 | Raising of Lazarus", Lent 5A, 13 March 2005, Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-44 | "Who are the blind?" Lent 4A, 6 March 2005, John 9:1-38 | "Water and Living Water", Lent 3A, 27 February 2005, John 4:5-42 | Baptized and Born Again", Lent 2A, 20 February 2005, John 3:1-17 | Temptation and the Kingdom of God, Lent 1A, 13 February 2005, Matthew 4:1-11 | "'Tis good to be here, " Epiphany Last A, 6 February 2005, Matthew 17:1-9 | "Follow me!" Epiphany 3A, 23 January 2005, Matthew 4:12-23 | "Come and See!" Epiphany 2A, 16 January 2005, John 1:29-41 | The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours, Epiphany 1A, 9 January 2005, Matthew 3:13-17 | Christmas 2A: The Tsunami, God, and our Neighbor", Matthew 2, 2 January 2005 | Next Sunday to be posted soon

Palm Sunday A 2005 Matthew 21:1-11; 26:36-27:66

Today is Palm Sunday. We began this day by standing with Jesus before the gates of Jerusalem. We rejoiced with him across the years as he rode into the city in what used to be call the Triumphal Entry. We danced in the streets; we stood with the crowds waving palm branches, the palm branches that were – and are -- used over the centuries as signs of victory, of rejoicing, of celebration. It was a glorious triumphant joyful day, and we were there. And we followed him into the gates of the Holy City singing “All glory, laud, and honor, to thee, Redeemer, King, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.

Suddenly the mood shifts. Gone are the glad sweet hosannas. Gone is the dancing in the streets. Suddenly we are saying things like:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer; by night as well, but I find no rest.

And singing things like, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and “When I survey the wondrous Cross.”

A darkness has fallen across the land. It is the shadow of the Cross, awaking our darkest, deepest fears of death and dying. A wise man once wrote that: “The terror of dying has to do with leaving everything we have known and everyone we love. We have no idea what awaits us. This is true of no other human reality. Jesus was “greatly distressed and troubled” at Gethsemane. Love leads us to want the other to be, and here we are not. It seems to cancel everything that we sense in a primordial way should be.

“Instead of reconciling us to this, Christianity agrees with that primordial sense. The world should not be a place of suffering and death; yet it is…. We can distract ourselves from the tragedy of our condition, which is the agenda of our entire culture; or we can try to detach ourselves from it philosophically.

“But instead of detaching us from the suffering that contradicts our sense of the way the world should be, Christianity shows us that the love which calls us into being was shown most completely as flesh nailed to wood. (1)

But before we can understand that love we must walk in the shadow of the Cross until we climb to Golgotha and stand at the foot of that Cross. This climb, this new procession of Holy Week, is a story of death by a state-sponsored execution -- what we call today "capital punishment." This story demands among other things, that we as a Christian people stop along the way to the Cross and consider just what it is we do think about such things as capital punishment.

Our way in the streets of Holy Week Jerusalem in the shadow of the Cross lead us through a story that includes cruel mockery and torture before the execution itself.

This shadow of the Cross stretches far beyond the Jerusalem of this Holy Week. It darkens the entire world. God’s people everywhere are mocked, denied, tortured, and even killed for being who they are or for believing what they believe. People are being sold into slavery in the Sudan simply because they are Christians, their villages burned, their families killed or in flight. Young women are sold as sex-slaves in Ghana and Thailand. Innocent infants and children dying with the AIDS contracted from their parents. Protestants and Roman Catholics watch an uneasy peace with one another in Northern Ireland. Israelis and Palestinians caught in an even more uneasy truce punctuated by senseless terrorist violence. Suicide and car bombs threatening the fragile freedom just born in Iraq.

Here in our own Jerusalem, gay and lesbian people discriminated against even in Christ’s own churches, crack babies being born in our core cities, homeless people dying on the streets of our nation's capital, the poor at our doorsteps and the heads of our lanes leading to our great houses on the water. And we have our own lives darkened thereby by the shadow of the Cross.

Then, of course, there are those whose lives are darkened by the shadow of the Cross from such benign sounding entities as "the economy," "free markets," "globalization," and the like: those who lose jobs, those who work as sweatshop labor for pennies a day – the list is endless. There are too many people who live their entire lives in the shadow of the Cross.

So this story of the shadow of the Cross remains the story of our world and our lives in it. Last Sunday we left off with Lazarus coming out of the tomb, and Jesus telling the crowd, "Unbind him and let him go!" Today it is Jesus who is bound and led away to his execution at the hands of Pilate, as the crowd jeers at, delights in, his plight.

And how strange it is that one of the most notorious and cold-blooded of all Roman functionaries, Pilate, is pictured as washing his hands of the whole thing. A man who routinely, even daily, ordered people to death without a second thought is hesitant and subject to pressure from people who were not even Roman citizens.

Imagine being a Roman centurion on that wall keeping guard over the city during this festival weekend when pilgrims from all over the ancient world are in town. Your job is to see to it that these people do not cause trouble, let alone get a taste of freedom. You know it is time for the daily executions outside the city on the hill. And you do your job. Routine. How surprising, then, to hear that it is a centurion who cries out in a loud voice, filled with awe, "Truly this was the Son of God!" Or is it so surprising?

Near the end Jesus cries out with the opening verse, of Psalm 22: Eli, Eli, la'ma sabachtha'ni? My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (2) In our Lenten study of Jesus’ resurrection, one of the panelists raised the question of what good is a God who is so weak and helpless, who allowed himself to be mistreated and killed this way. To answer, Tom Wright quoted from a poem by Edmund Shillitoe written in response to the suffering of the wounded soldiers during World War One:

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn marks upon Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the scars.…

...The other gods were strong [the gods of war, that is]:
The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne,
But to our wounds, only God's wounds can speak
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone. (3)


1. John Garvey in America, (Feb. 28, 1997), as quoted in Synthesis for March 2005.
2. Adapted from a sermon by The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek, Rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, at Worship that Works, Selected Sermons 2001-2002 for Palm Sunday, at
3. Quoted by NT Wright in Session 5 of Jesus’ Resurrection, Then and Now, THABGA Foundation Productions, distributed by ECUFILM.

Wicomico Parish Church, Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579