The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
This Is What We Humans Do Sermon by the Rev. DWHinkle Preached in the context of Palm/Passion Sunday Liturgy 3/20/16, 4/14/2019
Scripture: St. Luke's Passion Gospel 22:39-23:56
Sermon: The disciples fell asleep while he was praying in the garden.
Judas betrayed him.
All but Peter left him when he was arrested, and even he denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
Men mocked him, beat him, blindfolded him, heaped insults upon him.
The elders of the people, the chief priests and scribes falsely accused him and heaped insult upon insult upon insult upon him.
Even Pilate and Herod, enemies before, now both agreed that Jesus was innocent, but they did nothing to protect him.
The very same people who had welcomed him into Jerusalem with branches and cries of "Hosanna!", now cried out for the guilty murderer and insurrectionist, Barabas, to be released and the innocent Jesus to be crucified.
Pilate, knowing him to be innocent, nevertheless gave in to the crowd's demands and handed Jesus over to be murdered, all for the expediency Even the women stood at a distance.
Everyone had turned against Jesus. All were against one. An innocent man was victimized on the cruel cross for the sake of the Jewish elites’ notion of national preservation and Roman order. He was scapegoated in order to preserve the peace.
This is what we humans do to the innocent. We point our finger at the Mexicans, the Muslims, the women, those who are LGBTQ, those of a different colour, the poor, the less educated,.. in a word, we single out those who are different from us and blame them for our problems.
The Passion Gospel makes it clear that this is not God's doing. God does not require an innocent man's blood. God is not a prostitute who demands payment before giving love. God does not desire sacrifice. We do! We demand blood payment all the time. Our culture is built on the blood of innocent victims. Think of our shameful history of African slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, and the exploitation of underpaid workers, for a start. We build walls, we imprison them, we deport them, we enslave them, we oppress them, and we send them to war to die for us. Surely, we will be great again if we just get rid of them!
But Jesus (spread my arms out) stretched out his arms upon the cross and offered himself, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. (Eucharistic Prayer A, BCP, p. 362) And in doing so, he exposed our violence for what it is. And even... as the hammer blows... reverberated... while they drove... the nails... into the flesh... of our Lord's wrists... and feet..., he was praying... over... and over... again.., "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Repeat as I pound in hammer rhythm on the pulpit. Fade out.)