"You will see the Son of Man"-A sermon for Palm Sunday, Matthew 26:14-27:66
There are mirrors of all sorts and types that we encounter in life…there are those we use each morning to be sure we are fully put together…hair quaffed and cloths straightened…making sure that the sleep is out of our eyes and we didn’t leave any toothpaste on the sides of our mouths. Those are of course the mirrors in our bathrooms and entry ways…that reflect back to us an image of ourselves. These mirrors are useful in a myriad sort of ways from the practical to the more introspective. For surely there have been tough moments in life, hard moments, difficult decisions, moments of truth, if you will, when we might take a look at ourselves in the mirror and then we see more than just our physical appearance…but something of who we are…as we peer deeply into our eyes…hoping to discover something of what we are made of…what we are made for…seeking within ourselves strength or hope to face some challenge in the life we live.
And there are other mirrors in life as well. I think in particular of my wife and children. Their faces…in which I so often clearly see myself…the good, bad and, at times, ugly. For I see there, most of the time, the love I have for them so wonderfully reflected back at me…and surely see there their own love as well. It looks like smiles and openness and joy. It is hard to describe in words what this image reflected back at me really looks like…but I know it when I see it…just as surely as I know my own image reflected in a conventional mirror. And I also, perhaps less frequently, but no less importantly, have seen something of myself reflected in their faces, that is a harder gift to receive…that is a reflection of disappointment, of hurt, of a profound lack of consideration. These faces look sad, tight…eyes full of confusion, sadness, fear, even, at times, they include tears. These reflections are also hard to describe in words…but surely I know and recognize myself in them…again just as I know my own reflection in a conventional mirror. And again, I would say these moments of reflection, the good and bad ones, these moments of peering into the mirror, are a profound gift…for they show me something of who I am…more truthfully than any piece of glass could ever provide. For they say to me things like stop what you are doing…you are acting like a monster…you are not being the person that God has made you to be. Or stop what you are doing…you are hurting someone you love. Or stop wat you are doing…you are so consumed with yourself that you are not paying attention to the impact you are having on the people around you. Or just the opposite…often the reflection is saying thank you for loving me…you are a sight to behold…lovely, gracious and generous. Your love makes my life more rich and meaningful and altogether wonderful. These moments of peering into the most important mirrors in our lives are such a gift, sometimes hard and sometimes affirming, but always a gift.
For self-reflection is how God has set us humans a part in God’s creation. They allow is to know who we are, what we are made of, and how we might want and need to change. For we do not live life in a vacuum…we are hard wired for relationship…love is the air we breathe and ocean in which we swim. Our lives are all tangled up together…and our meaning and our purpose in life is found ultimately in the lives we share and the love we share with others. Thus, how we are doing in this thing called life is so often reflected in the lives and the faces of those with whom we are blessed to travel alongside…most especially those closest to us. And so we do well to pay attention…to pay close, intentional attention…to the mirrors that surround us…that show us who we are and what we are made of…that then allow us to reflect on who we want to be…who God has called and made us to be.
And I would suggest that there are other mirrors in life, perhaps too many to count, if we will but only pay attention. And I believe with all of my heart that Jesus’ own passion that we read and enter into today is one such mirror. Scripture is so much more than words on a page…it is a living story that invites us in…like a mirror…to find our own reflection within the story it tells. And this becomes so clear to me on this Sunday of all Sundays because we all participate in the divine drama as it unfolds…we share in the story…we see ourselves reflected powerfully in the story it tells. So what might we see there? What image of ourselves do we find reflected back at us as we enter into the living and active drama that is Jesus’ own passion? I suppose the answer is complex and personal. For over the years, I have seen myself reflected in the face of so many in this story…in Jesus’ passion…in Jesus’ time of need…even in his death. I have seen my reflection in the face of Judas…the betrayer…and Judas the repentant…the one who returns his ill-gotten gains in profound sorrow for betraying the one he loves, for if honest I have found myself in both moments over a life-time. And I have seen myself reflected in the face of Peter, who refuses to deny Jesus and follows him even into difficult places, like the chief priest’s courtyard, only to fail in the end…to lose courage…and fail to stand up for what he believes in and the one he loves…I know that story in my own life as well. And I have seen myself in the face of the one who drew the sword and cut off the ear of the enemy…that is striking out violently with words and deeds against those who threaten my livelihood or even just my comfort. And I have seen myself in the face of those disciples who Jesus asked to stay awake and pray with him in his time of deep discernment and anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane, wanting to be with the one we love in a time of great need, only to find that though the spirit is willing the flesh is indeed weak…succumbing to tiredness and my own needs, wishes and desires. And I have seen myself in the faces of the religious leaders who judge and convict Jesus…accusing him of being a false God…questioning his power and presence in my own life. And I have seen myself reflected in the face of the crowds crying out for Jesus death, desiring instead to maintain the status quo, getting lost in group think, in mob mentality, in maintaining the current order of things and my own place of privilege within them. And as I look ever deeper into this mirror so graciously provided for me…that is if I look ever deeper…rather than stepping back and looking away, which is often what I really want to do, but if I look deeply, I see there the depths of my own brokenness. I see there the sin in my own life, for which Jesus indeed dies.
And what seems to be at the center of it all…is a profound desire to keep myself, first and foremost, safe, secure, comfortable…life squarely within my own control…and dictated by my own concerns and desires. And this profound self-interest…what we might even call selfishness…is so often its own sort of self-crucifixion…cutting us off from a life that is really living…a life of standing with those who are in need, standing up for what we believe, standing alongside those who are suffering, standing with and for the ones we love…even the one we love most of all…Jesus. And herein we find the gift of daring to courageously look deeply into the mirror provided for us today…the mirror that is Jesus’ passion…Jesus’ own suffering…that really happened…for it allows us the opportunity to name the life we live and own the choices we make…so that moving forward we can choose, if need be, an entirely different sort of life. We can look into the mirror again the next day, the next week, the next year, the next moment and see something entirely different reflected back at us. This is the gift of grace.
We call the day that Jesus died…good…Good Friday…which though it is a few days ahead of us…we are now surely, fully in the story…and it is indeed good. First and foremost, it is good for the victory that Jesus’ death won…the victory over sin and death for all time and all people…even you, even me. But, also, it is good in a harder way…it is good in that if offers us the gift to look into the mirror to see who we really are…to reflect on the life we live…and make the changes that we want to make…and then to live an entirely different sort of life…a life that once reflected back at us through all the different sorts of mirrors we encounter…shows us something altogether lovely, altogether holy, altogether wonderful…even what we might describe and beautiful.
And I know this is entirely true for I have also seen myself reflected in the face of Simon of Cyrene, who is blessed to share Jesus’ burden…for I and we have shouldered burdens of all sorts, our own and others, with dignity and grace…making life lighter and better for those we love, for the one we love. And I have seen myself reflected in the face of the women who don’t run and hide to protect their own necks, but who stay with Jesus such that he does not suffer and die alone. For I and we have held the hand of those in pain and suffering, even dying, reminding them that they are not alone…but they are loved and belong to us and to the God who made them and loves them. And I have seen myself reflected in the centurion, who boldly and publically claimed that Jesus is indeed God’s son, God with us, in time, out of time, and for all times, as we have together built this church that is the very embodiment of Jesus alive and active in the world even now. And I have seen myself reflected in Joseph, the disciple from Arimathea, who gave his own tomb that Jesus’ body might be buried with respect and honor, as I am we have given of our own resources, our own time and gifts, financial and otherwise, to be sure those who need a hand up, to live with respect and honor, have life’s most basic needs met…surely not all of them…but some of them…and that matters and makes a difference. Like the shoes gathering at our entrance, Laces of Love indeed, a vision that came from our own youth group, reminding us that we are never too young to share our love, share ourselves, in ways that make a difference.
This time each year we are offered the gift of looking into a profound mirror, Jesus’ own passion, and it is a tremendous gift. And I hope we will peer in, take a long hard look, at what we might see within. It takes courage. For some of what we see is indeed hard to look at, hard to face…hard to peer upon that which is reflected back at us, but much of what we see is also lovely, even breathtakingly beautiful. For what we see is an authentic reflection of ourselves. So, in taking a look, we see something of who we are and what we are made of…what we are made for. We see both what we would like and need to change…and are also affirmed in so many wonderful ways. The work is indeed complex and personal…but always a gift beyond measure. So perhaps together, in this Holy Week that lies before us, we will take a look…peer into the mirror…and discover there the life of courage and love that we are uniquely called to live, to continue, to enter into ever more deeply. Amen.