The First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland
Rev. Amy Morgan
March 21, 2021
Observe the month of Abib by keeping the passover for the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night.
2 You shall offer the passover sacrifice for the LORD your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his name.
3 You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it-- the bread of affliction-- because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.
"The Bread of Affliction, we call it. To remind us of our affliction when we were slaves in Egypt. Slaves in Egypt. The scriptures pound that phrase into our heads like the Romans pounding nails into crosses. Into bodies. We were slaves in Egypt. But now, now we’re free. Yeah, right. Free to do exactly as we’re told. Free to be taxed into poverty. Free to ripped off by our own people in the temple and sold out by our religious leaders.
And yet, I put on my traveling cloak, and head for Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, to eat that Bread of Affliction once again. Because I want to remember. That once, God did hear our cries. And to hope, that even in our present affliction, God will come to free us again."
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples
2 and said to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.
3 If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'"
4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,
5 some of the bystanders said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"
6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.
7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.
8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.
9 Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
11 Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
"We don’t have much these days. Bread to keep us alive and the clothes on our backs. So long as you keep your head down and don’t make trouble, you’ll get by. Sometimes that’s all right. Sometimes, I just don’t think about it. But then there’s days when I just want, I don’t know, some space. I want to feel like I can breathe. The tension in this town is like a weight on your chest. We wear our worries like a cloak around our shoulders, never knowing what will set off the next uprising, and the next round of punishment. And right now, with the Passover coming, things are as bad as they’ve ever been. Everybody worried about rioting and zealots.
But then he arrived. I’d heard about him around town. Crazy stories. About healing and feeding people – miracles and strange new teachings. Even raising people from the dead. Crazy stuff. But also, hopeful. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
And then, he comes riding into town on a colt. Just like the prophet Zechariah said: Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war-horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
When I saw him, that weight around my shoulders lifted. Taking off my cloak, I laid it on the ground before him and ran with the crowd, ripping palms from the trees and waving them wildly in the air. The Romans didn’t worry me. The zealots didn’t concern me. Our king had arrived. We have all we need. God has sent our king at last to drive out the oppressor and protect us from harm."
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him;
2 for they said, "Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people."
3 While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.
4 But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way?
5 For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor." And they scolded her.
6 But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.
7 For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.
9 Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her."
“In remembrance of her,” he said. I don’t know that anyone should remember me. What did I do? I didn’t save him. Not that I could have. But I knew what was coming. I heard the rumors and whisperings among my husband and his friends – the chief priests and the scribes. They wanted him gone. He was stirring up trouble. Causing excitement. They were making plans. I couldn’t save him. But I could prepare him. He had helped so many. Given us hope. It was an extravagant gesture of gratitude, I suppose. I don’t know that people will remember it.
But I will remember him. Every time I smell the scent of nard that clings to this cloak, I remember. I will remember the stories they told about him. After. How he took off his cloak to wash his disciples’ feet – a gesture much more extravagant and memorable than mine. How he begged his friends to stay with him through the night, but they slumbered, wrapped snugly in their cloaks in that garden of gnarled olive trees. How they dropped their cloaks and fled at his arrest. How the one called Peter hid his face behind his cloak to avoid being associated with him after his arrest. How they covered him in a purple cloak and mocked him. It is a powerful sense – smell. It helps us to remember.
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.
24 So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots."
"I never seem to win anything. I’ve got no luck at all. Stuck with the worst detail in the regiment – crucifixion duty. Sit there till they die. Takes days sometimes. Dull as anything. And this one they wanted watched extra close. Don’t know what they thought he was going to do. Go flying down from the cross or something. Loony. But we sat there as always. Some of his friends and family crying away at a distance. They never like to get too close. Kind of ashamed, I guess. Having a man you know do something rotten enough to get himself put up on a cross. This was a strange one, I’ll say. Pretty quiet. No crying or begging. Just hung there for hours. Not very interesting.
But there’s always a little something extra in it for us. That’s the good part of this assignment. My family’s always well-clothed. This fellow wasn’t too well-off, but he did have one nice piece, a seamless tunic. Don’t know where he got it, but none of us were willing to let it go, and no one wanted to tear it up. Rufus had the idea of casting lots. I thought we should have a test of strength. As I said, I’ve no luck at all, but I figure I’m the strongest of our group. But the others said lots was the way to go.
And wouldn’t you know it – I won! The gods must have been smiling on me for once. A nice tunic it is. Should fit my eldest just right, I thought.
But when I gave it to him, he asked where I got it. He’s never asked that before. He knows what I do – more or less. We don’t really talk about it. But I guess he’s getting older. More curious. That’s all right. I told him I got it at work.
Then, he asked if it was the Galilean Jew, the one they call Jesus. I told him I supposed it was, but what does it matter? “He’s innocent,” my son said. “Of course he’s not innocent,” I said. “They sentenced him to death, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” he said. “But they were wrong. He was innocent. He didn’t do anything.” And he turned and walked out of the room.
I just stood there, holding that tunic. I didn’t know what else to say. It’s not my job to decide innocent and guilty. Just to carry out the sentence. And take care of my family.
Rufus has a son about the same age as my eldest. I’ll give the tunic to him. Maybe he asks fewer questions."