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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Season of the Soul: Palm Sunday - Holy Week begins

Palm Sunday
1 April 2007
April Fool's Day
Anglican Church of St Thomas
Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia

Was Christ A Fool For Us?

God of Power,

May the boldenss of your Spirit transform us,

May the gentleness of your Spirit equip us,

May the gifts of your spirit worship you

Now and always.


Readings - Palm Sunday - Year C

Isaiah 50.4-9A ;Psalm 31:9-18 ;Philippians 2.5-11; Luke 22.14-23.56


Sermon delivered by Rev Susanne Chambers, Vicar of St Thom's,

Palm Sunday, 2007

When we began our Lenten time together on Ash Wednesday, I spoke about the recent fires out at Mansfield, Jamieson and Merrijig. From there, a giant cross carved from wood - burnt in the fires - was taken to the cathedral.

The vicar of Mansfield said “I can see the direct parallels with the Easter story. The high country has been crucified by the fires. There has been devastation for the people and the environment. The cross made from suffering wood stands in the middle of this and it speaks to me of Jesus being in the midst of our community.”
I guess for a non- Christian; this may sound strange! Even foolish!
Jesus, a piece of burnt tree in the middle of the country, in the middle of the city?

Today is April Fool’s day.

Many people around the world will be processing, waving palms, re-enacting the story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem, praising him! It is often seen as a children’s thing…but on reflection, the opposite is true.

Here is a man heading to his execution: his death. We have just heard the Passion Story. Jesus is dead – this Jesus, hailed king of the Jews! A fool?

I would say I am a fool because I have faith in this man who gave his life for many…for all, that we all may have life!! Not just be the ‘living dead’ but really know about living!!
And living wholeheartedly/giving our all, can be such a foolish thing to do.

Throughout Lent we have had various fools for Christ’s sake come and share with us some of their story.
Lent One was us really. Ross Ingram got up and spoke about our Parish Vision Morning and what we are visioning for the future here as a Christian community in Upper Gully:
Lent Two, we had Jonathan Chambers who spoke about prison ministry and particularly about caring for lepers - I mean sex offenders when they are released from prison.
Lent Three, David Spitteler shared how he gave up his work with Telstra to run the Asylum Seeker Centre in Dandenong for no pay.
Lent Four, we heard from Marlene McGrath, a spiritual director who encouraged us to look at our spiritual life and reflected on the forgiving father/prodigal son.
Lent Five, Andrew McGowan spoke to us about the foolishness of Paul who said ‘yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.’ and the outrageous anointing of Mary and, in the end, the ultimate foolishness of God…the ultimate outpouring of love.

And here I am standing in front of you…another fool for Christ’s sake.
Twenty years ago, last Thursday, the 29th March in 1987 I was ordained in the church of God. Let me tell you a little of my past. I realise many of you will have heard some of this before.

I grew up in Sydney with my parents, twin sister and older brother. I entered Nursing when I was 17 and did General, Midwifery and Paediatric Certificates. My Nursing allowed me to travel and to train in different states and also to nurse for a short time in Switzerland!

I loved Nursing, and saw it as a vocation and yet there was a tug from God to explore, be adventurous! [to be a fool?] Thus, I was challenged about going into the church as a Priest.
After a wrestle with God the load was lifted - when I said ‘yes’ to God.

The journey has not been easy, far from it! As one of the pioneer women ordained in Australia, we have had much flack from those who opposed the ordination of women. There continues to be obstacles and sometimes I just occasionally wonder if Nursing looks greener? But no.

There is a deep, strong conviction that this is where I can ‘sing my song’ where I can learn more about God known in and through the life of Jesus and to help others grow in their faith. To live fully.
So for twenty years thus far, I am a fool for Christ’s sake. Yes, I could have been a fool for Christ’s sake and still be a nurse, but I couldn’t ignore the tug of God.

There is a saying that I have thought about for some time, because it reminds me of the times when I have been afraid to try something different, or to take up being ‘fully alive’ - I guess, in the sense of using my God-given gifts and been held back by a lack of confidence in my abilities.
This is the saying changed to the singular:
Go to the edge, the voice said.
No! I said. I will fall.
Go to the edge, the voice said.
No! I said. I will be pushed over.
Go to the edge, the voice said.
So I went
And I was pushed
And I flew……

It is a wonderful picture of trust and faith, of being fully alive!

We are entering together Holy Week as we journey towards the Cross and beyond. Do we stop at the Cross? Stop with a dead man?
Or are you willing with me, to step off the edge and take up the challenge of Jesus?
What’s the challenge? He wants us to fly!!
Jesus wants us to fly with him.

To soar above the things that hold us back from loving, being compassionate.

He wants us to embrace life so that others may see beauty, peace, justice.

Not just see but experience it..live it themselves.

The crowd may have been small, it may have been big, as Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey..the people there appeared to recognise in him something that they wanted…yet they were not prepared to risk as he did - his very life.

Yes, it’s April Fool’s day.
The root of the word ‘fool’ is from the Latin follies, which means ‘bag of wind’ or that which contains air or breath.
Maybe I am just a bag of wind??? But I would rather be seen with others who contain breath than those that have no breath.
And the breath may be the breath of the Holy Spirit.

A Franciscan Blessing
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those
who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and want,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them,
and to turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah,
and of Jesus, born of our sister Mary,
and of the Holy Spirit,
who broods over the world as a mother over her children,
be upon you and remain with you always.
From Montreal Anglican Lay paper

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