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Sunday of the Passion:Palm Sunday

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14-23:56 “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” We began our service this morning downstairs in the courtyard with the blessing and distribution of willow branches, flowers, and palm crosses, followed by our procession up into our beautiful church here on the second floor, thus reminding ourselves of the cavalcade of people following Jesus up into Jerusalem so many centuries ago. Along the way, we did our best to sing out in unison and in tune the verses of the well- loved hymn, All Glory, Laud, and Honour, de rigueur on Palm Sunday, again reminding ourselves of the cacophony of voices shouting out their Hosannahs and hailing Jesus’ entry into the Holy City, not on a fine steed, but on the back of a colt. The streets of Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday were surely as filled with the hubbub of routine commerce and everyday affairs as are the streets of Budapest outside this building this morning or any morning. Everything from shopping to gossip, to deals in the making, to lunch-breaks, and midday errands. People and children filled the streets of Jerusalem, each with his or her own agenda and plans for the day. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, there was Jesus in the midst of them; no doubt a mere distraction or curiousity for some, but a Messiah for others. For a moment in time at least, the people of Jerusalem were united in their involvement with Jesus. For most, that involvement was as far as it ever got. There was after all work to be done, mouths to feed, places to go, and people to see. The Passover was approaching, and there was no time to waste. No time for life-changing epiphanies. For the vast majority of people that day, perhaps including many of the disciples, the ascent into Jerusalem was to be no road to Damascus. Ho-sannah quickly enough became ho-hum. And by the time Good Friday rolled around, Jesus was on his own, abandoned even by his closest followers and friends. Commitment, it seems, is of a different order entirely than involvement. The Apostle Paul, while he almost certainly was not there that first Palm Sunday, knew something about commitment, his own and that of the Christ he followed. It was shortly after his conversion experience that he made his way to the town of Philippi in what is today northern Greece, preached the Gospel, and established there what was to become the very first Christian community in Europe, though by no means the last. And sometime later still, he wrote back to that community he had founded the beautiful words of his Letter to the Philippians, from which our second Reading this morning is taken. The Letter contains, according to the experts, an ancient hymn of praise to the Incarnate Christ. Not of course All Glory, Laud, and Honour, but rather an exaltation of Christ Jesus, who “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That, my friends, is commitment. That in other words is the loving commitment of God in Christ for humankind, for us. It is a level of commitment I suppose we can only ever aspire to, but a level of involvement and commitment to which we are challenged this Palm Sunday and indeed every day. For Christ is still there, suddenly, unexpectedly, in our midst; in the midst of the troubling times we find ourselves living through, times of pandemic and war and the disruption of lives which such events bring in their wake. It would be all too easy to lose our way amidst the chaos, all too easy to disappear among the throngs and forget about commitment; to wait for things to blow over, which of course they never do But there is Christ in our midst to challenge us. The story of our Lord’s Passion and death brings us back to reality, brings us back to the reality of suffering and death around us; brings us back to our Baptismal and Gospel commitment to others, and to Christ. And, that of course is what the Cross is about, God’s love at work in our world today. The Lord does not waver in his commitment. And while we and our world may find ourselves involved in many things and tugged in a thousand directions, the Lord has no such distractions to keep him from his purpose. No matter the faults of the ancient people of

Jerusalem, no matter our faults today, God’s covenant with us remains absolute. Palm Sunday and Holy Week remain our assurance of this reality. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Revd Dr Frank Hegedűs

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