SERMON FOR YEAR A, PALM SUNDAY
BY THE REV. TOREY LIGHTCAP
SAINT THOMAS EPISCOPAL CHURCH
APRIL 17, 2011
Think of violence like a spiral: broad and general at the bottom, where all the low-lying discontent is … but the higher up you go, the faster and more intense it gets, until finally someone must take the blame, and the hit, and then the cycle slows down and it starts all over again. The man Jesus is a scapegoat, and the spilling of his blood brings an odd sensation of release to the crowds and the authorities who placate the crowds by piercing innocent flesh. Tomorrow, we’ll dig more graves: but for today we have reached our quota, and we’re feeling better about ourselves.
We all do this: we all make scapegoats, even, sometimes especially, out of the ones we love, and then, after the deed is done, we deny ever having known them as we warm ourselves beside the fire.
It is not just or fair that Jesus should die – it is not just or fair that we do this. After all, if he is truly the Messiah, the Chosen One, then he of all people should live in order to teach us all the more how to live. His reign should extend into all times and places, and he should be its head – the righteous King on his throne – not only head of those of many years before us, to the people he loved and knew, but to us, too – and to all people, in his flesh – why not? King for all time. Isn’t that what gods do, after all: show us how they’re more powerful than we are?
But that’s not what happens. And again, it isn’t just, and it isn’t fair; but it is sound logic. We need to put our blame on something; and we need to watch as that something is expelled and made to pay the price.
“The … scapegoat,” Jean Chevalier wrote, “stands for the deep-seated human tendency to project one’s own guilt upon someone else, thus appeasing one’s own conscience which always requires some victim to bear responsibility and punishment.”
We need not make anything more or less of it than that at this point. No time. For from here we go running through the thorns: the briars of Thursday, when Jesus is betrayed; the thistles of Friday, when he dies; and the prickles and quills of Saturday, when the grave makes a bed.
Be assured: there is no way to next Sunday without picking our way over these terrible brambles. This is but the first station, and our feet are already bloody because of how hard this teaching is.
I wish with every ounce of energy I possess that I had a shortcut around the thorns, but there’s just no way that can be accounted as faithful.
The first station is done: we all make scapegoats. Let us acknowledge that with Christ as our reigning head, it need not be this way. At least, not among us, his followers.