Rev. Molly Scherm
I saw a piece on television last week that has lain heavily on my heart throughout this week, particularly as I have been anticipating the remembrance of J’ Passion that we will take part in throughout this Holy Week, beginning today.
The piece that moved me was a 60 Minutes segment with reporter Sharyn Alfonsi interviewing the group of student leaders from Stoneman Douglas High School who organized the March for Our Lives that took place yesterday.
We all know the story, by now, of how on February 14 a former student of the high school in Parkland, Florida entered the school with an AR 15 assault weapon and shot students and teachers, killing 17, including 14 students.
Something was different about this mass shooting, as compared to so many others we have endured in recent decades. The student leaders who survived the incident and began articulating their grief and outrage with passion have ignited what seems to be a new moment of momentum in the debate over gun violence. In particular, they have activated a movement of youth activism like nothing we have seen in a long time.
That movement and the demonstrations that took place yesterday are apowerful and important story, but not what is on my mind this morning. What tore at my heart in last week’s 60 Minutes interview was glimpsing the cost, to those young people, of the cause they have taken on.
In what might have been a time focused on college acceptance letters and the school play, they are grieving for their classmates - both those who were killed and others who have been wounded in ways that will change their lives.
Having caught the nations’ attention with their passionate words and having taken on responsibility for a movement they neither planned nor intended, they have been buried in national attention – both positive and negative. They have been overwhelmed with financial support for
their cause and are they are dealing with both offers of unconditional assistance AND offers from those who would exploit them, and they are having to distinguish which is which.
They have had donated a space from which to organize their efforts, but have had to keep the location secret, because of the death threats they have received.
Emma Gonzalez is the young woman with the buzz cut who has frequently served as the face of the students’ movement. She admits to worrying about having a bomb come through the window.
When Reporter Sharyn Alfonsi asked her “Did you ever think, "I don't wanna get into this. This is a nasty fight that I don't wanna be in the middle of"?
Gonzalez answered: “I have no choice because there were-- there were CNN cameras there. My speech was broadcast all over the country in, like, four seconds, and I had no idea they were going to be there. I'm not upset at that. I'm just never going to be the same person again.”
It is these words of this young woman who, along with her classmates, is taking on the nation – it is this young woman’s story that has been on my mind as I contemplate Jesus, riding a donkey into the streets of Jerusalem, facing both those who welcomed what they thought he would bring them and those who wanted - and would - silence his voice.
Those who have a vision of a different world and dare to challenge the status quo of those who hold power are always going to be at risk. So often they speak for those of us who lead quieter lives, who long for the better world but are too busy with our own day-to-day to invest ourselves fully in the work for change.
The story of Jesus triumphant entry and of his arrest, trial and tragic death provide the stark contrast and juxtaposition that characterize Holy Week – enthusiastic celebration followed by heart-wrenching sorrow. In our liturgy, this contrast is reflected in two hymns traditionally associated with Palm Sunday, both of which we sing this morning.
As we held our palms at the beginning of our service, re-enacting the entry into Jerusalem, we sang “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.” It’s is a hymn of exaltation, of praise, for the kingship of Jesus that was declared by the citizens of Jerusalem as Jesus made his way into the city.
Our recessional hymn, which we will sing as we conclude our service this morning and move toward the events of Holy Week, is “Ride on, Ride On in Majesty.” I encourage you to note the very different tone and content of this second Palm Sunday hymn. While the first sings of gloryand praise, the second recognizes the painful irony of Jesus’ ride, and the desolation that he must have felt, knowing in essence, if not in particular, how his journey must end. The hymn acknowledges the true meaning of Jesus’ ride: “Ride on, ride on in majesty…In lowly pomp ride on to die…. Bow thy meek head to mortal pain…The last and fiercest strife is nigh.”
In the moments that you have in your busy week to pray and meditate on the events of Holy Week, I encourage you to lift up in your remembrance the generous and courageous commitment of Jesus in surrendering to the world’s evil in order that we might be free. He faced confrontation with the self-serving impulses of the human being who plotted against him, who rejected his message of justice, service, compassion, inclusion and forgiveness. He faced up to their scape-goating violence to demonstrate for us the triumphant power of love. He chose, and in so doing, demonstrated for us acceptance, trust, and letting go, rather than domination and power-over. He did it painfully and alone. He did it that we might have life, and have it in abundance, by following in his way.
The world and we humans who inhabit it are still driven by our fears and by the impulse to control not only our own lives but, often enough, to control one another in order to ensure our own safety and self-interest. God’s dream, by way of contrast, is that of a world of of mutual acceptance, of compassion, of respect for human dignity, of generosity, of peace.
As we look around us at the struggles playing out in today’s world, let us take note of the work being done by those who put themselves on the line for our benefit, who by their words and witness are working to change the world, and let us pledge ourselves to standing with them in whatever ways we can.
As we enter into this Holy Week and remember the courage and love that saved us, let us pray that our own courage and love can be part of the healing of the world.