And so we come to the deep sadness that is at the heart of humanity. Today we are faced with our human propensity to victimize the innocent, to resort to violence when we are threatened. Today, dozens of Christians were killed worshipping in church in Egypt. Today, children are dying of starvation in the Sudan and Somalia while as much as half of all the food produced in this country is thrown away. Today, Syria is a desolation.
We can hear this story of Christ being betrayed, mocked and crucified as something that happened in the past, an event which only touches us through our imaginations, or we can hear it as a portrayal of the darkness that is even now at the center of human society. Fed by fear and the desire for power we gang up on others. We, the privileged, are so intent on keeping what we have and so afraid that it will be taken away from us that we see danger in every corner. We get confused and see our victims as our perpetrators.
We believe that immigrants are taking away our jobs, even though the research shows they add to the economy. We start to believe that they are dangerous and so we build walls and we arrest those who we think might be committing a crime, we separate parents and children, crucifying families on the cross of our fear. We refuse to give people of color the same advantages as those of us with white skins so African Americans are more often stopped by police and 5.1 times more likely to be incarcerated.
Sin is not just a personal thing, to be eased away by a quick absolution. Sin is the deep darkness that permeates humanity. I call it the sin matrix because it is no single person’s fault. It cannot be resolved by my personal repentance.
Yet it is changed by my personal repentance as I choose, whenever and wherever I notice my complicity, to turn to God and to endeavor to make amends. This is why as Christians we must be actively involved in the public square. Because we are all caught up in the sin matrix and it will continue to grow, feeding on fear and the desire for power, unless we challenge it. We challenge it every time we refuse to judge, every time we speak up for the victimized, every time we challenge the ways that society oppresses those who are different.
That is what Jesus did, in obvious and in subtle ways. He challenged the religious system that exalted some people at the expense of others. His message of non-violent resistance challenged not only the religious authorities and the occupying powers but the very basis of human society. He had to be killed. The manifestation of divine Love had to be killed.
This is not something we can blame on the Jewish leaders, or on Pilate’s weakness. It was the result of the darkness at the heart of humanity, that group think which leads us to fear and to mob violence. It was the result of the sin matrix.
Fortunately, we know the end of the story. We know that God’s love is great and so unconditional that even though humanity did it’s very worst, Jesus the Christ came back and continues to love us day in and day out.
But, difficult as it is, this is the week when we remember that for a while it seemed as though the darkness had overcome the light. It seemed as though the sin matrix had triumphed. We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to know that hundreds of people, in church just like us, celebrating Palm Sunday were violently killed or injured. We don’t want to see the devastation in Syria, the children gassed, the people with nowhere to hide from the next bombing raid. We don’t want to acknowledge the wealth this country gets from supplying weapons that are used to kill.
We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to see the darkness and so we either turn away or become habituated to it. As citizens of the two worlds – children of light who live in the world of darkness – our calling is to be witnesses to both realities.
This morning, the anthem is a setting by John Taverner of a poem by William Blake, an eighteenth century poet, craftsman and mystic. In this poem “The Lamb” Blake underlines the innocence of the lamb, created by God with its wooly coat and able to run in the meadows. Taverner wrote the piece for a small child. But we the listeners are not small children, we know that most lambs are sent to slaughter. Jesus Christ is called the lamb of God because he was the innocent victim, the one who was slaughtered because we could not bear his innocence. What starts as a simple melody line quickly becomes complex, even jarring.
But there is resolution. There will be a day when all of creation is brought into its intended blessing and the darkness is swallowed up by light.