January 26, 2021

Holy Week: Preaching as Good as It Gets

Entry into Jerusalem (detail), Giotto

Entry into Jerusalem (detail), Giotto

Nothing could have stopped this Pascal mystery of God and humanity. No amount of super-good discipleship or wisdom or hindsight would make a lick of difference to God’s determination to draw all people to God’s self through Jesus lifted high and on a cross.

See, we are no different than the shouting crowds – those that do the right thing for the wrong reason or those who do the wrong thing for the right reason.  There is no better class of improved people.  There are just people.

And as soon as we think the good news is that we know better than those caught up in into the tragic events of that first Holy Week, we are mistaken. As soon as we think the good news is that we now know how to do the right things and for the right reasons we are mistaken.

Because it had to happen like this.   When the Pharisees told Jesus to stop his disciples from such an embarrassing display, he said that were they to stop even the stones would cry out. So there had to be crowds who shout praise  and friends who betrayed and followers who denied and women who wept and soldiers who mocked and thieves who believed. It would have happened like this even if the Jesus event were happening now instead of then.  Even if we knew everything in advance – were we the ones on the street we too would shout Hosanna and a few days later shout crucify him.  And that’s the good news when it comes down to it. Because these people of the Holy Week story are we people.  And we people are the likes of which God came to save. God did not become human and dwell among us as Jesus to save only an improved, doesn’t make the wrong choices kind of people. There is no improved version of humanity that could have done any differently.

So go ahead. Don’t wait until you think your motivations are correct.  Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does).  Don’t worry about coming to church this week for the right reasons. Just wave branches. Shout praise for the wrong reason. Eat a meal. Have your feet washed. Grab at coins. Shout Crucify him. Walk away when the cock crows.  Because we, as we are and not as some improved version of ourselves…we are who God came to save. And nothing can stop what’s going to happen.

Palm Sunday Sermon about Morbid Reflection,
Home Perms, and Fickle Crowds

Nadia Bolz-Weber


  1. Thanks, Chaplain Mke. I clicked on the link you provided and read all of Nadia’s sermon. Good stuff!

    I did read somewhere, though, that perhaps the people cheering for Jesus were NOT the same people asking for him to be crucified. The writer said the Jewish leaders may have “recruited” some people to call for the death of Jesus. That makes some sense to me because if these cheering people knew about his raising Lazarus, knew about him increasing the loaves and fishes, knew about all the healing he had done, in spite of knowing how turn-coat we all can be, I just can’t see them calling for him to be killed in a few days. Maybe a few of them were in that “crucify him” crowd, but I like to think that most of them were not. Jesus was very popular among the populace and that was one of the reasons the religious authorities wanted him gone.

    • I did just read in Matthew and Mark that the chief priests had “stirred up the crowd” to ask that Jesus be killed.

  2. Science fiction aficionado/as are respectfully directed to Garry Kilworth’s short story “Let’s Go To Golgotha”

    “In the future period where the story takes place, time travel has been invented and made commercially available. Among other historical events, tourists can book a time-traveling “Crucifixion Tour.” Before setting out, the tourists are strictly warned that they must not do anything to disrupt history. Specifically, when the crowd is asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared, they must all join the call “Give us Barabbas!”. (A priest absolves them from any guilt for so doing). However, when the moment comes, the protagonist suddenly realizes that the crowd condemning Jesus to the cross is composed entirely of tourists from the future, and that no actual Jewish Jerusalemites of 33 AD are present at all.”

    The most spiritual religion of the day conspired with the most just government yet ideveloped to murder the Son of Man.

  3. He set his face to go to Jerusalem for us, He who knew no sin but was made to be sin for us. What comes to immediately to my mind is the artwork that a Wheaton professor is working on. A life-size sculpture of Jesus is covered in 11 vacuum bags of dirt, skin cells, human hair and carpet crud. It is a visual pause of reflection on what his sacrifice means.
    Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world. Have mercy on us.


  4. I have really enjoyed these magnificent pictures, and I thank you for them, Chaplain Mike. It’s interesting and enlightening to see that, although the Catholic Church at the time of Giotto and his contemporaries very strictly controlled the people and symbols that were allowed in religious pictures, yet each artist definitely made his own interpretation. Comparing Duccio’s treatment of the same scene to Giotto’s, it seems to me that Duccio’s crowd is somehow warmer and more human, and his depiction of Christ is too.

    I like Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermon, and I really appreciate her sort-of-throw-away line: “Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed (no one does).”

    I have to “blank out” on some of the lines in that Creed (which we say every week in my Episcopal Church), but I still say in my heart: “I believe; help my unbelief.”

  5. Also, when Ichabod mentions “A life-size sculpture of Jesus is covered in 11 vacuum bags of dirt, skin cells, human hair and carpet crud. It is a visual pause of reflection on what his sacrifice means.” — I can only say that people surely come to God by different paths. I don’t want to argue with either the Wheaton professor of Ichabod — I respect their sincerity and faith — but for me, either God is a loving father to His human children, or else He isn’t. A loving father doesn’t regard his children as garbage, no matter what. According to the Prodigal Son story, we children should not regard ourselves as garbage either, but as true sons and daughters of our Father, though the whole world may sentence us to sit with the swine.

  6. Don’t wait till you are sure you believe every single line of the Nicene creed

    Sure. All you need to believe are the words of institution. Christ’s body was broken and his blood poured out FOR YOU.

    (no one does)

    Excuse me? Perhaps she means that nobody believes every line perfectly without doubting. Perhaps she means nobody has perfect doctrine before they believe in Christ.

Speak Your Mind