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What a Loser. Huge!

Passion Sunday C-16

Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago

What a loser. Huge! While the parade of Jesus followers shout hosanna, the powerful people in Jerusalem shake their heads.

As Jesus marched from the Mount of Olives and entered the city from the east, that same day another procession clogged the streets, drew large crowds and entered the gates of Jerusalem from the west. From the road that leads toward Rome, Pontius Pilate rode into Jerusalem followed by brigades of well-armed soldiers in brightly colored uniforms and Centurions mounted on horseback reminding everyone who was really in control leading up to the celebration of the Passover.

The way of the world understands greed, status, ruthlessness, economic or military might. The way embodied by Jesus is animated by service, compassion, non-violence, solidarity with the most vulnerable and trust in God. Christ was not the strong, powerful, military Messiah the people had prayed centuries for. This was Jesus’ great revelation, and it is still a surprise and a scandal that we have not fully comprehended. (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Vulnerability–Even in God! 3/17/16)

But we should have seen this coming. Throughout scriptures God consistently chooses the weak to confound the strong (1 Corinthians 1:17-31). We see this in the barren wives of the patriarchs, the boy David forgotten in the fields, the rejected prophets, and now Jesus on the cross. Jesus forever redefined what success and winning mean, and it is not what any of us wanted or expected. On the cross, God’s power is revealed as vulnerability itself.

This is Christ’s revolutionary understanding of wisdom and it is still offensive and even disgusting to many in the world and sadly, often even among those in the church. Only vulnerability allows change, growth, and transformation to happen. Only with open arms, open minds, open hands, and open hearts can we be healed and become healers ourselves. Who would have imagined this?

It takes all of us a long time to move from power to weakness, from glib certitude to vulnerability, from meritocracy to the ocean of grace. As we read in Philippians and throughout Paul’s letters, he consistently idealizes not power but powerlessness, not strength but weakness, not success but the cross. It’s as if he’s saying, “I glory when I fail and suffer because now I get to be like Jesus–the naked loser–who turned any notion of God on its head.” Now the losers can win, which is a good thing, because that’s just about everybody.

Jesus entered the city determined that the “no” of the people will be answered by God’s “yes”. God used the cross to say decisively for all time, ‘Go ahead. Do your very worst. There’s nothing you can do to stop my love.’ The cross and empty tomb show us the way to our best life and our truest selves leads through and beyond the cross. In baptism we have died to the life run by the Pilates and Herods of this world. Yes! Look, we are being born again, members of a new humanity, children of the living God.

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