Sunday April 14, 2019
11:00 am - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Turner
Let the same mind be in you as in Christ Jesus; entering into the mystery of Holy Week.
In one of her sermons preached on Good Friday at the Three Hours Devotion last year, Fleming Rutledge said this: “The crucifixion is not just an unfortunate thing that happened to Jesus on his way to the resurrection. It is not a momentary blip on the arc of his ascent to the Father. John tells us otherwise. It is precisely on the cross that the work of Jesus is carried through to its completion.” 1.
When those first disciples entered into Jerusalem with Jesus, they must have been on a high! I remember when the Sistine Chapel Choir was asked to sing as a surprise at the Met Gala last year and Mgr. Pallombella, the Pope’s Director of Music, telephoned me out of the blue and invited my wife and I to attend. I said to some parishioners that I didn’t think we would go but they said we would be mad not to, so we did. Being so close to all those celebrities as they arrived in more and more outlandish costumes was quite overwhelming, yet exhilarating – there was so much fame I think we could have bottled it and sold it on to Armani or Dolce et Gabanna! Of course, we didn’t belong there – it was all fantasy. I suspect that is exactly how the disciples felt; perhaps pinching each other as, most of them being working-class Northerners, they couldn’t quite believe that they were so close to the center of attention. But, oh how that feeling soon dissipated as the plot to kill Jesus thickened and those who were more powerful, who had real status, and who thought themselves to be the true center of attention began to exercise their influence in the great city of Jerusalem.
As we begin our Holy Week we are given the opportunity to enter more deeply into the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Next Sunday, our Church will be pretty much full several times over but many of those who will be here then are not here today; nor will they be here on Good Friday.
The Church, in her wisdom, does not allow us to stay with the joyful entry of Palm Sunday but immediately, and urgently, directs our gaze to Golgotha – the place of the skull. To arrive at Easter without walking first the way of the Cross is to entirely miss the point: As Fleming so rightly said, “on the cross the work of Jesus is carried through to its completion.”
In our epistle reading today, Paul explains to us in a most beautiful and almost hymnodic way, the power of what we will celebrate in Holy Week:
He “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.”
How do we fully comprehend this self-emptying of God into creation? How do we enter into that mystery by which we, miserable sinners, are redeemed and justified? Paul tells us – plainly: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”
We enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection not simply by telling a story but by allowing ourselves be like Christ: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” To become like him – to walk the way of the cross. As the late Ken Leech said, “The cross is not a problem to be understood but a mystery into which we enter.” 2.
And having the same mind of Christ is seen as foolishness to the world just as it was two thousand years ago. We are called to be fools for Christ; to put on Christ, literally, as our baptismal garment. The Baptismal Covenant sets us apart from the world with all its lure of cheap wealth and fame and easy answers and which, at the end of the day, are so unsatisfying. But for many of the folk who will pass this Church this week, and those who will parade up and down Fifth Avenue on Easter Day with their extraordinary headwear, the cross is, at the very least, a nuisance. To others, it is an irrelevance to a human race that can split the atom, dissect DNA, and photograph black holes in space.
Speaking to those about to be ordained as priests in the Church about the seeming irrelevance of the Cross of Christ to the world, Archbishop Michael Ramsey said this: “In the death and resurrection [Jesus] shows not only the way for human beings, but the true image of God himself. Is there, within or beyond our suffering and frustrated universe, any purpose, way, meaning, sovereignty? We answer, yes, and the death and resurrection of Jesus portray this purpose, way, and meaning, and sovereignty as living through dying, as losing self to find self, as the power of sacrificial love.” 3.
Living through dying; a contradiction to the world but at the heart of our faith and what we profess – what Paul encouraged us to do in our Epistle reading today. My dear friends, let the same mind be in us as we enter into Holy Week together – a week that we shall share with Bishop Richard Chartres, who will help us enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ crucified so that our Easter joy truly makes sense. Let us see this week through, which also means living our lives in ways that are contrary to the values of the world today. Listen to the encouragement of Paul writing to the Galatians: “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
Entering into the mystery of the Cross helps us experience the power of the Resurrection; thus, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter become a continuum of God’s salvific work of redemption and justification. As Michael Ramsey used to like to say, ‘Less of self – more of Christ; that is the proof of what we believe,’ and it will change us and, therefore, has the power to change a broken world.
This union of the Christian with the sufferings of Christ is most beautifully expressed in a verse from one of John Donne’s poems:
“We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross, and Adam's tree, stood in one place;
Look, Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam's sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam's blood my soul embrace.” 4.
Let us pray the Collect of the day again:
Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1. Fleming Rutledge: ‘Three Hours: Sermons for Good Friday’ p. 67
2. Michael Ramsey: ‘The Christian Priest Today’ p. 32
3. Ken Leech : ‘True Prayer’ p.151
4. John Donne: ‘Hymn to God, My God in my Sickness’