Sermons That Work

And There He Stands, Tuesday in Holy Week – 1999

March 30, 1999

And there he stands, right there in the temple, Jesus Christ, the light and salvation of the whole world. Bosnia, Ireland, Rwanda, the near and far east, north and south. Everywhere and for everyone. This is what held the people spellbound. This is what made the chief priest afraid. The narrow way was being made broad, The traditions were being breached by this spellbinder who could wither fig trees with a word. And with a word could heal the sick.

Today we stand midway between the spellbound crowds shouting hosannas, and the action of the chief priest and a new crowd. The palms are being swept off the streets and the catered affair on Thursday is being prepared. During this week in our liturgical devotions we will be brought before the angry mob. A bogus trial will be held. The hateful results will be announced. In the Good Friday Liturgy: we will walk the words of scripture in the Way of the Cross.

We who live on this side of the cross know the consequences of our Lords’ perfect YES to his father. We know that the cross was our Lord’s perfect and total YES.

The Yes of the Christ of God is a signpost for all people who would seek to know God and do his will. For our Lord it was the suffering on the cross. For us it is the acceptance of the shame of the cross. The shame becomes glory for us in the words of today’s collect: “…Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ.” We can experience joy right in the midst of our deepest suffering and pain.

There is the story of a woman who in the prime of her life was diagnosed as having cancer. After going through the agony of surgery, convalescence and remission, she wanted to go to her own church. For some months she had been away from the parish church where she was active and well loved. Now she wanted to go back, she wanted to worship with her friends and, with them, to give thanks for all the blessings of God. Then the thought struck her. She would have to go in front of the whole church in this awful new wig. She knew she didn’t have the nerve to show her bald head in public.

On Saturday, her husband drove her to a nearby mall to buy a new hat. Not just any hat would do. She had to find the perfect hat, an outrageous hat that would cover her head so she wouldn’t have to wear that ridiculous wig. What would people think? Would they think her vain or foolish? Like almost all the women in her church, she hardly ever had worn a hat to church. In her friendly congregation the style of dress was fairly casual. So on Sunday she entered the church just as the service was to begin wearing her big, outrageous new hat. As she walked nervously down the aisle with her husband following the usher, the congregation stood up. And Glory to God, she saw that every woman that morning was wearing a hat! Each more outrageous than the next.

In accepting the way of the cross and suffering with the Christ, we know the greatest joy. We are not foolish. The reading from the Epistle today shouts out: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The joy of being spellbound by the teaching of Christ is knowing the power of his salvation. This week on our way to Easter and the announcement of the resurrection it is a good time to check. Are we among the spellbound?

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Christopher Sikkema


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