Have you ever come to the Easter story with a sense that we can take out whatever seems unhelpful, unbelievable, incomprehensible, or strange? And then enrich it with the meanings we think we need? I almost certainly will again before I finish this sermon. All I know to do is to come clean and ask you to agree with me that what we hope to do this Easter morning is to take our lives as they actually are to the Good News as it actually is and trust that what we are most in need of God has already knit deep within it.
This Easter season I find myself most identifying with Jesus’s male disciples. Their first experience of the resurrection did not happen through the magnificent appearance of an angel or by falling at the feet of the risen Jesus himself. Instead, resurrection came to them as they were locked away in their homes, just as you are tonight.
In the Good Friday service in the Book of Common Prayer, after the reading of the Passion Gospel, a rubric states flatly: “The Sermon follows.” Rubric comes from the Latin word for red, the color that these directions used to be printed in to make sure they weren’t overlooked, or spoken aloud, I suppose. A liturgical planner will develop a keen eye for the little word may since it makes the instruction optional. There is no may in the rubric about a Good Friday sermon.
Maundy Thursday begins our Easter Triduum, the three holiest days of ritual in the Christian calendar. Let me start by saying to you, gathered at home: You are not missing out on the essence of Maundy Thursday. I don’t mean this to sweep under the rug your feelings of loss and displacement, as maybe for the first time in your life you find yourself in a place other than the church on this Holy Thursday. I have those feelings in spades with you, and most all the comfort I’ve heard about it has fallen coldly on my unwilling ears. Things are not okay, you’re not here.
“Hosanna!” the people cry. This is not another word of praise like Hallelujah; they had a word for that, and it was Hallelujah. Hosanna literally means Save — a cry for help. Save us! the people cry. There’s a sense of frantic joy mixed in, like the shipwrecked crew who spot a rescue helicopter — if only the helicopter would spot them. Hosanna. In April 2020, my Hosanna feels closer to true than it ever has, particularly when I am thinking of my family full of essential workers, and my many friends in the medical community, and the vulnerable and the elderly and alone. That’s where my Hosanna has become true.