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Bishop Russell's Sermon for Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020


I will be honest. I wanted to preach another sermon than this one. I wanted to use some ideas I’ve used before, or maybe follow the practice of others who don’t preach on Palm Sunday. I am weary. I have written more, reflected more and videoed more in the last three weeks than I have in my nearly five years as your Bishop. I confess that to you not for pity, but to hopefully let you know it's okay if you are weary, too. Maybe you are weary of listening and reading and watching all that’s out there. Why do we even need to keep Holy Week? My God we have been living in the throws of loss and lament and death and despair for the last month. Lets just skip this. Let me just pull out an old sermon for Palm Sunday and be done with it. I wanted to do that. But today’s psalm would not let me. Psalm 31:9-16 I was putting together the resources to share with the diocese. I pasted this psalm into the document. Then I read it. And I read it again. And I found myself in it. Maybe you will find yourself in it, too. If a sermon is meant to tie everything up in a nice gift and offer a platitude of all shall be well, then this is not a sermon. And to do so on Palm Sunday misses the entire journey that is before us in Holy Week. This service ends before we know the end. I love the psalms. I just did a Bible Study on the word lament and used the psalms. I wish I had used this one. “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; * my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly. For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing; * my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones are consumed.” Has there ever been a time for a reading to be so in sync w/ the world…grief…trouble…despair. This is our reality. But that is not all our reality. You would not be watching this video if not for the glimmer and yearning in your soul for a greater reality. A reality that lies just beneath. “But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. *I have said, "You are my God. Make your face to shine upon your servant, * and in your loving-kindness save me." Listen to another translation called The Message: “Desperate, I throw myself on you: you are my God! Hour by hour I place my days in your hand, safe from the hands out to get me. Warm me, your servant, with a smile; save me because you love me.” “Save me because you love me.” Here is why we need to lean into this Holy Week, because maybe this year when the world is so much in sync with the week ahead, maybe this year we will discover more clearly and deeply the ways of this strange God that we call “my God.” This God who Paul describes, ”who though he was in the form of God... emptied himself, taking the form of a slave...being born in human likeness and being found in human form…he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death...even death on a cross. Paul urges us into that greater reality. In Christ Jesus, God chose to get so close to us that God took on our very nature. In Christ Jesus, God gets so close and becomes intimately involved with this world: the injustice and cruelty of our world, the suffering and trouble in our hearts. But God does so to not just be WITH us in this reality, but to offer us a greater reality. His offering will come at great cost, but that is the only way to draw us thru the valley of death---to draw us, to lift us, to save us---and to do so with a way & truth antithetical to this world. This is Holy Week when the worst of human nature intersects with the very best of God’s nature. This is Holy Week, and underneath all of the darkness, despair and hell of it all, there is to be found the saving work of God. See, even now I go too far. This is not a sermon, for a sermon has an ending and today is just the beginning. So let us simply hold on and walk this way praying, “You are my God. Save me because you love me.”

+Russell

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