St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church

3800 East Third Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47401

(812) 332-5252


Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday (April 17, 2011)

Liturgical Color: Purple

Reverend Doctor Lyle E. McKee


Cut Down and Lifted Up

Grace to you and peace from our loving God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Once upon a time, in the heart of a special kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. Of all the dwellers of the garden, the most beautiful and beloved to the keeper of the garden was a splendid and noble Bamboo. Year after year, Bamboo grew yet more beautiful and gracious. He was conscious of his keeper's love, yet he was modest and in all things gentle.

Often, when Wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would throw aside his dignity. He would dance and sway merrily, tossing and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon. He would lead the great dance of the garden which most delighted his keeper's heart.

One day, the keeper drew near to look at the Bamboo with eyes of curious interest. And Bamboo, in a passion of love, bowed his head to the ground in joyful greeting. The keeper spoke: "Bamboo, I would use you."

Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had been growing nearer hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and destiny! His voice came low: "Keeper, I am ready. Use me as you wish."

"Bamboo," (the keeper's voice was sad and serious), "I would be obliged to take you and cut you down."

A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. "Cut...me...down? Me whom you have made the most beautiful in all your garden? Cut me down? Ah, not that, not that. Use me for your joy, but cut me not down."

"Beloved Bamboo," the keeper's voice grew more serious still. "If I do not cut you down, I cannot use you."

The garden grew still. Wind held her breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. Then came a whisper. "Keeper, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut."

"Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also."

"Oh Keeper, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leaves and branches also?"

"Bamboo, alas! If I do not cut them away, I cannot use you."

The sun hid her face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. Bamboo shivered in terrible anticipation, whispering low. "Keeper, cut away."

"Bamboo, Bamboo. I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not cut so, I cannot use you."

"Well, Keeper, then cut and divide."

And so the keeper of the garden took Bamboo and cut him down and hacked off his branches and stripped his leaves and divided him in two and cut out his heart, and lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of the keeper's dry fields. Then, putting down one end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water-channel in his field, the keeper laid down gently his beloved Bamboo.

The spring sang welcome. The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo's torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by. The shoots grew. The harvest came. In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility.

For in his beauty, he was life abundant. But in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his keeper's world.

I share this parable for Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Passion—not about palm branches, but rather about bamboo—and even more about our Lord, Jesus Christ.

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

In Paradise Lost, Milton tells of an angel who seeks to be equal with God. For this, he is cast out of heaven to reign in the underworld. Here are the words Milton attributes to the fallen angel: "Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven."

That statement marks a great difference between Satan and Christ. Paul describes Christ as one who does not strive to be equal with God, but rather humbles himself to the point of becoming mortal. He even becomes one who serves, to the point that his self-giving service leads him to suffer and to die like a common thief.

Christ's humility is profound, and it is the act of an all-consuming love.

Consider again today this Jesus—who he is and what he does for us. We have already proclaimed our hosannas to his name.our appeals to save us. May we also then proclaim him daily as the Lord of our lives—through thought, word, and deed. For we too need to be prepared to be stripped of our leaves and to suffer with him, in this Holy Week and with our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord unto eternal life. Amen.

 

 

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