Palm Sunday 6th Sunday in Lent Year A
April 5, 2020
St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Parish of Indooroopilly
The Rev’d Ann Edwards
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Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Matthew 21: 1-11
Psalm 31: 9-18
Matthew 26:14 -27:66
This Palm Sunday, we stand at the cusp of Lent and the Holy Week. The joyful acknowledgement of Christ’s arrival on a colt is held together with the knowledge of what is to come Good Friday. And here, in this in-between space, we find the institution of the Lord’s Supper, a sacrament we continue today.
And sacrament being what it is, we are invited to stop and reflect, to pray, to be changed and to recognise that in the Eucharist, we are pointed to an invisible and indescribable work of divine grace from an eternal God.
As we read scripture in English, we miss the depth of the Hebrew words for eternal. The Hebrew also speaks to place – the words evoke the place beyond the horizon, towards the front, or in the East from which the sun rises.
Elsewhere, when we read eternal, the Hebrew can evoke pattern – frequentative, repeating, recurrent.
A time and place concealed, unable to be seen or imagined, behaving in unfamiliar non linear ways.
When we participate in the Eucharist in our own time and place, where are we taken? Is there a Eucharistic time and place?
Where does the Eucharist happen?
This seems to me to be important today, as Sue and I stand here at St Andrew’s, at one with you, at home.
The Sacrament is an outward sign, an action, that effects an inward and divine grace. Where does that inward grace take place? To explore this, let’s consider that Jesus gave us a supper that springs from the deep history of the Passover and has been carefully handed on through the history of the church.
Do this in remembrance of me.
Memory connects past to present, and in Jesus opens up to the future. We have our individual memories. Individually we make sense of things. We bring together our experience of the real presence of Christ at this table, in recollection, through thinking and reason, reflection, prayer, our emotional response, and the transformation that occurs. We can anticipate what is next.
Likewise, we have a corporate memory as the church and Christ’s body. We remember that we were, and are, and will be the body of Christ. We remember and hand on the events. We continue the memory and participate in the Gospel story. This is anamnesis, bringing our past events to the present and handing them on to the future. In anamnesis we become inextricably interwoven with Christ.
Anamnesis – the work of our collective memory – is bringing our history to this table in our prayer, devotion, action, gathering, and remembering. A remembrance that holds together the paradox of pain and abandonment with a recognition of the joy and hope.
In doing so, we are transformed in the everyday action of eating and drinking by that deeper grace, and enter a space that has been prepared for us by Jesus, that enables the Eucharistic transformation.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus do not stand apart from the history of Israel or the life of the church afterwards. All are intricately and irrevocably interwoven. We are remembering the Wisdom at the beginning of Creation, from Proverbs 8 and the servant from Isaiah. We are following the apostles and Paul. We are joining the ancient stories, carefully handed down, in the same way we now carefully hand the bread and wine from person to person, and generation to generation. The sacrament of the Eucharist is much more than a mere recollection. The work of the Eucharist, and there is work, is to break open the word, the pray together, to bear peace to one another, in order to enter that anamnestic space where past, present and future exist together.
Do this in remembrance of me
What does it mean, to do as our Saviour commanded?
The Eucharist doesn’t stop when the communion is finished. It doesn’t end when we are sent out To go in peace, to love and serve the Lord. We also proclaim Jesus’s offering of himself, upon the cross, his resurrection, ascension, and look to his coming again. It lives in the love that springs from the interaction of memory, present experience, and anticipation. It continues into our lives afterwards, our hopes and expectations. It lives in the effect in the community we build.
Are we not the body of Christ?
Just as Jesus was and is and is to come, so Christ’s body reaches back in time to the ancients and forward to those that will follow. The past, present and future exist together in God.
And yet, Jesus says of this everyday thing, this real and ordinary and tangible bread – this IS Jesus’s body. This wine, that was on every table at the time, this everyday thing IS Jesus’s blood. Jesus identified not with the feast meal, the special occasion offering, but the everyday sustenance, the here and now. Jesus identifies as the bread – blessed, broken, and given. The Eucharist becomes a place in our individual and collective hearts, our memories, our imaginations, our stories, unbroken by physical distancing.
Entering the Eucharistic time, we step into the eternal, lifting out of our individual selves, into the corporate body of Christ – an inarguable interrelatedness to our brothers and sisters to our left and right, past, present, and future. In the anamnestic place of the Eucharist, everyday, ordinary, tangible people become the body of Christ, his spirit is with us – blessed, broken, and given. And we anticipate what is to come. What we are to become when we will encounter our Lord more fully.
This Palm Sunday, we welcome the long-awaited Christ, appearing on a Donkey’s colt, feted by those who could not understand, heading towards the unspeakable, who would emerge in love, remembered forever, and who took the time to invite us to supper.
In the name of the eternal Christ,
With thanks to the work of Julie Gittoes, David Ford, Catherine Pickstock, John Zizoulas, Andrea Bieler, Luise Schotroff, and Jürgen Moltmann