The Sermon that follows was preached on Palm Sunday, 2017, at St. John's Episcopal Church in Franklin, Massachusetts by the Rev. Deborah M. Woodward.
The Title of this Sermon is “Long Walk to Freedom”
In some ways it is a homage to Nelson Mandela, and all who have sacrificed for the love of their people in the face of tyrannical suffering. The title came to mind because it was going to be a Long Walk to Freedom for Jesus.
He has begun, with this Palm Procession, “His Long Walk to Freedom”
This procession, which we just walked…
This Way to the Cross
A ride, actually, that begins on a Donkey.
Seemingly asinine, even comical.
This is no accident.
This is the first day of the last week of what has been, and will continue to be,a long walk…
It is a Walk on behalf of the God’s Kingdom of Justice, Mercy and Peace.
It is important to understand that this is not an unexpected collision with the powers of Empire and Oppression.
This is a calculated event.
The donkey and all…
How do we know this?
We know this by realizing that he people who were there knew this to be true.
We read Zechariah already this morning…
“Your king shall come, riding on a donkey.”
We may not read Zechariah daily but they knew this scripture promise.
So,the crowd was not accidental either.
Nor was the Hosanna commotion of that procession.
The Glory, Laud, and Honor was a procession of civil disobedience, non-violent, yet powerful, against that OTHER march., happening on the other side of Jerusalem.Yes…
There was AN OTHER march.
You see, the Hosanna people knew that the storm troopers of the regime were processing into the city as well.
The “jack booted” troops, were massed,
Were also marching in.
To reinforce the garrison,
Lest the Passover crowds get out of hand.
Lest the “hoi poloi” realized the power of their numbers.
Proclaiming, “The Empire is Here”, to maintain control over the masses and over the Vichy priests and their privileged powers and families.
To ensure that the combined powers of religion and the body politic remain intact.
To this end they, the body religious, the body politic will tear asunder whatever threatens.
From the East, into Jerusalem, the donkey.
From the West, into Jerusalem, the troops of the tyrant.The kind of tyranny that rules through violence and terror. By the obscenity of the cross. By the cruel death of poisonous gas.
The work of the cross will indeed secure our eternal salvation, but that I will save for Easter Sunday.
Today we consider this world.
Besides our eternal salvation, there is another Passion driving this long walk to the cross and to the tomb.
It is an immediate - passionate- fierce love for the people NOW.
God’s desire, Jesus’ passion, that this world be His Kingdom, of justice, freedom and peace. My people will NOT be treated thus.
That the Triumphal Entry was an intentional act of civil disobedience is true.
There is import for us.
For us, as Christians living in times when tyranny and slaughter by terror still claim millions of innocent lives, chained in slave ships, now by starvation now in Africa, by gas in Syria. Our list could be very long.
Note the contemporary stations of the cross that line our aisle this morning. Note thatit is the contemporary stations that challenged our youth as they were creating them. It was today’s terror that made them stop and pause and even shy from the horror. These stations demand that we should not be accepting our world as it is. God’s people…endure evil even today. These truths assault us.
So, of course…
How could I not consider the others who had walked the long walk on behalf of God’s people.
I thought, among many, obviously of Nelson Mandela. I considered the endlessness of his tomb that was Robben Island. I wondered at his endurance driven, like Jesus, by his passion for his people.A Long Walk.
Jesus too would go condemned to his Robben Island Tomb. He too would emerge.
Here is today’s question…
To what does the sacrifice of the “long walkers to freedom”call us?
You may, or may not, be comfortable with the civil disobedience of Jesus, of the people who cheered him on.
Yet so it was. This is the powerful savior, his face set like flint, who will go to the cross. This is not surrender. This is a pro-active choice of defiance.
Youmay not be comfortable with the fact that Jesus was profoundly political. Yet it was, after all, the politics of his world that made life a misery for so many.
It was the politicians and their religious cronies. He was in their face and he meant it and he intended to do the work and he understood the outcome.
How can we look at his life and even begin to imagine him as a-political.
I have a little cross stitched gift, “Do the work, its worth it.” It was given to me long ago when I feared a commitment to my task, at a time when I was suddenly alarmed by the long walk.
It could as well have been given to anyone, called to the work of justice and peace.
Have I taken the risks of the walk?
Personally, I don’t think so. And on this day, this troubles me. Often it troubles me.
So, if this sermons closes with a suggestion, for you and for me,
it might be simply to take time today and during Holy Week, to look at the walk, consider the stations of the cross that we have here in this place, and meditate upon those who have walked the long walk to freedom,.
Then, consider your own determination walk in the light of their sacrifices.