a sermon on bridges for Palm Sunday

The Gospel According to Mark 15:1-47


      For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of bridges.  My father is afraid of bridges, so somehow this fear has been transmitted through generations of my family.  Growing up near the Mackinaw Bridge, a five mile long bridge connecting the upper peninsula to lower Michigan I came into contact with bridges a bit more often than I would have liked.  Though my fear started early, when I try to pinpoint a moment when it became crystallized, it was in 1989, when a woman driving a small car lost control in wind and rain on that long bridge and her entire car went over the side into the waters of Lake Michigan below.  When we had to make a journey across that 5 mile long bridge as a family, I would cover my head with a blanket and ask only to be told when our car was finally on the other side. I just held my breath and hoped we would make it over.

      I’m not exactly sure what it is in my body that is so afraid of bridges, but the reaction is always the same.  I’m afraid. I’m afraid we are going over the edge. I’m afraid the car will be blown off. I’m afraid the bridge will crack in half and we’ll fall into the water.

      And here we find ourselves standing precariously on the bridge between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his death on a cross on Good Friday.  Maybe this is a place where one might consider covering their head with a blanket and just asking when we might get to Easter. We read all these texts today in order to fill in what surrounds this bridge- many people will only hear the story of Palm Sunday before they hear the story of Easter morning.  The dark stuff gets lost for many who won’t make it here for worship during Holy Week.

      We stand on a bridge between these two Holy days, and it is a bridge built on hope.  Not hope that is based on nothing, but hope that is integral to what it means for us to live as faithful people in this world.  Hope, for us as Christians, is what sustains us on this side of the kin-dom. We hope for those things that we cannot see. We live in the hope of a kin-dom that is to come.  We hope in eternal life. Hope is the ground on which we walk.

      But a bridge built on hope isn’t always steady.  We began our worship service together by remembering Jesus mounting a donkey, riding into Jerusalem as a different kind of Ruler.  We heard the cries of the people- Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna they cried, God save us. Jesus save us. Their hope was laid out in palm branches before Jesus, spread with their cloaks on the ground in front of him.  Their hope was that this was the man they had been waiting for, a man riding on a donkey. Their hope was in the one who could heal, who wasn’t afraid to touch the sick and the scared, who welcomed the children and loved the unlovable.  Their hope was right there, and with it, all their vulnerability.

      The sister of hope is vulnerability, and that is where hope gets a little tricky. Daring to believe, risking enough to hope means that your heart is out there.  On that day of palms, I think a lot of hearts were spread out in front of Jesus, hearts that were bursting with promise. Bursting with the dreams of a people that hadn’t had anything to hope for in for a long time, living under the thumb of the Romans, forced into subsistence farming and poverty.

      We know the story of this bridge.  Jesus wasn’t everything they were waiting for.   Jesus wasn’t the person they hoped he would be. The risk of hope turned into disappointment, a reaction when we let ourselves be vulnerable and we are left with everything we dreamed would not be.

      The bridge between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and Jesus’ walk to the cross is pretty scary.  It is scary because I can feel myself in those people gathering on that dusty road. I’ve hoped before and been left disappointed.  I know I can put my hope and my heart right out in front of this man, Jesus, and then when it doesn’t turn out like I expected I want to walk away.  Perhaps even shout, crucify him! But the grace of this story is even bigger than my hopes and my dreams for who God is, grace is even bigger than any of us could ever imagine, and even when we think we are living in a world built on our vision of hope, this week reminds us that it is following a path of grace that we did not determine.  We are following a story into Jerusalem, down dusty roads and up to a cross, and even when we think all hope is lost, grace starts pouring out, so much grace that even a Roman soldier has to cry, “This Man was God’s Son!”

      Be of good courage.  Build bridges of hope remembering that when they crack, when things don’t turn out how you imagined, when it seems as if God is one big disappointment, it is there that grace springs up, a dream we imagined, a vision we hoped for, might turn out a little differently than we first thought. But in this season, even in this Holy Week, hope spring eternal.  Grace abounds, in the mystery of this bridge, in the mystery of this story, in the mystery of our God. Amen, and thanks be to God.


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