Sermon – 9 April 2017 (Palm Sunday)
SORROW (New Church Logo sermon series: III)
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew: chapter 26:14 – end of chapter 27
So, in our series introducing our new, open church logo, and offering one way of thinking about it, we have thought about love on Mothering Sunday, deep green, the source of all good things; and about work, mid-green, everyday but special and different work for each one of us; today, Palm Sunday, there is some grey in this green, and we think about sorrow.
Sorrow which comes if we take the risk of giving our selves in love, and working at it. But if we don’t then – as Paul Simon sang – I am a rock, I am an island, that feels no pain, that never cries, but also misses out on God’s greatest gift.
In coming to terms with the horrors of two world wars, the English way has been to carry sorrow quietly with dignity. That seemed to change with the great outpouring around the death of Diana in 1997, and now with the incessant emotional openness in the floodgates opened by some social media. Still, whatever your personality, it is better to acknowledge your sorrows, at least to yourself, so they don’t go underground and toxic.
Even our village of Limpsfield, with all its privileges and joys, is of course not without its sorrows; and I hope that our church can continue to be a place where people can bring their sorrows and be met with the kindness of others and not with the denial which is the way of the noisy gospel that comes at us each day of personal choice, personal fulfilment and relentless positivity. Let’s be there for people in the hard journey through the valley as well as the joy of the mountain-top.
For God is with us in our sorrows too. I could not be a Christian without – as Handel memorably set the words from Isaiah in the beautiful counter-tenor aria in the Messiah – the one who is a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. We hear the story of Jesus’ passion today, and re-member it step by step through this Holy Week. If we look, we can find ourselves at different times in each of the different characters in it.
On Friday evening I walked across Westminster Bridge and saw the floral tributes to those recently killed and injured there. A large sticker caught my eye: you can see it today on our new poster-case at the lychgate. It said: ‘#hope not hate.’ In sorrow, we cannot keep cruising on the surface of life as in the good times; but we can find in sharing sorrow not only the kindness of others, but the comfort and compassion of God.
We are invited to share in the new life and glory of the risen Christ not only on Easter Sunday but week by week. There is no way to it but through Good Friday and the cross.
Love, work, and sorrow are the way to it. Amen.
James Percival, Team Rector