Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on Palm Sunday, 4/5/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available as a recording. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Palm Sunday Bulletin
I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
Those words came from the late Professor Stephen Hawking, who, if you don’t know him, was probably the world’s most famed astrophysicist. He wasn’t really concerned with why people looked before crossing the road, of course. But he was concerned with practically everything else. To quote him just one more time, he explained his life’s work this way:
My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
That’s fair enough. And what’s more is that it is honest. He wanted to know what you all want to know, and I’m not sure anyone could fault him for that. What he was always looking for was summarized as the “Theory of Everything.”
Wouldn’t you like that, too? Wouldn’t you like to be able to explain it all? Wouldn’t you like to be able to tell everyone everything – cleanly and convincingly?
Wouldn’t that solve all your problems? Wouldn’t that make life easier, or at least a bit more comfortable? Wouldn’t that make the pain of disease and isolation easier to bear? Wouldn’t that free you from all that’s been plaguing you this Lent?
Imagine for a moment how confident you could be in life and in death – if you could really know the answer, if you could really know the Truth… That is something you’d never look away from.
The Good News on Palm Sunday is that there is an answer. The bad news is that it is not clean, nor is it convincing in the popular way. But real answers rarely are.
Ideas are easy enough as long as they remain just ideas. That’s why the equations that govern Hawking’s theory are both simple and elegant. But once applied, they give rise to incredible complexity.
Hawking’s answers, written by his students, were scribbled in chalk, erased, corrected, erased again, and wrapped around a room on a blackboard. They weren’t clean at all, and, despite his fame, not convincing to everyone. That’s why even his best works remain theories and not something else.
Palm Sunday is something like that. It’s confusing, and complicated, and uncomfortable, and very long, maybe even tedious.
It’s light and darkness, it’s joy and grief, it’s palm branches and pandemics, it’s the Father forsaking the Son. It’s shouts of “Hosanna,” followed by shouts to “Crucify Him.”
Palm Sunday shows us the answer to everything. But that answer is a bloody mess; and it’s going to take all of Holy Week to sort it out.
As you do that this week, the messiness of it all can get the better of you. In the confusion of Palm Sunday, you might take your eyes off of Jesus. That’s how you end up distracted, unfocused, or even fearful. But that’s why we read through the whole passion.
It’s very important that you know the whole answer. That’s why Jesus told His disciples again and again how this was going to happen. And yet, even that did not save some people from confusion and fear.
Judas was confused, and so he sold out his very best Friend. Peter was afraid, and so he betrayed his God. The others would have done the same, but they were busy running away, and leaving Him for dead.
With many signs and miracles, and God’s own Son among them, the people, too, had been given God’s final answer for their rebellion. But Jesus as God’s answer to everything was so unconvincing, that they tried to erase Him and start over – to give it another try with a cleaner, simpler, and more elegant equation.
It doesn’t happen to everyone like that. Despite confusion and even fear, some people actually keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.
First there’s the woman who anoints Jesus with everything she has, not just the costly oil, but with her tears – she holds absolutely nothing back. That’s the kind of thing you do when the answer to everything is right in front of you.
Add to that woman the two Marys plus Salome, and the penitent thief on Jesus’ right. They didn’t look away either. They couldn’t. They couldn’t look away, because Jesus is not merely the answer to everything; He is, in fact, everything. That’s why, in many and various ways, we’re here today; and that’s why we’ll be paying such close attention this week.
In the Triduum Sacrum, the great three days that approach, the entire world is called to attention, especially the Church. Everything that is and ever was and ever will be, the macro and the micro, the big and the little, the planets without number, and the people beyond notice – everyone and everything is entangled with the days that approach.
This is the axis mundi, this is the center upon which the cosmos turns. The Derelict who cries from the cross is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
It’s not a theory of everything. It’s not a theory at all.
Jesus Christ Crucified for everyone everywhere is the answer. He is the only answer for your sin, your grief, your shame, and your death. Christ Crucified for you is the answer to which nothing can be added. Thus, He Himself says, “It is accomplished.”
Everything that needed to be done for your salvation has been done on the cross. It is final, complete, and beyond question. This alone is why Jesus Christ Crucified for you, is the answer, even if He is a bloody mess.
And yet, no answer worth believing comes without what the mathematicians call a “proof.” You remember “proofs” as those grueling notes you wrote in the margin to show that things really worked out the way your equations say they did.
That’s what the resurrection is. The resurrection is God’s very public, very flamboyant proof that His answer is true, and final, and trustworthy. The foolishness of it He calls wisdom. The bloody mess of it He calls beauty.
This week is a beautiful mess, for now Christ enters into His despicable, horrifying glory. And He will wait no longer.
It’s time now. So let’s go. No looking elsewhere, no distractions, no reservations, no fear; Christ alone. The lone Reality. There is nothing else.