Sensing Lent: Sound
PALM SUNDAY – April 10, 2022 – Rev. Drew Stockstill
Luke 23:1-5, 13-24
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.)
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.
Pilate Presenting Jesus, Antonio Cesari, 1871
Today, on this Palm Sunday, we’re going to talk about noise. We are concluding our Lenten sermon series on the senses with the sense of hearing. As with each of the senses, hearing is a way we may experience the holy.
A young boy named Samuel heard a voice calling out his name one night. It was the voice of God calling him to become a messenger of God’s word. Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears. And God said, “Listen, I am about to do a new thing in the world and the ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” Listen, church, God is calling you, and reminding us that he is, right now, doing a new thing in the world, and in your life. That’s the good news, music to that makes our ears tingle.
The heavens and the earth are alive with the power of God’s presence. As Jesus made his way into Jerusalem, and all you could hear was the crowd singing his glory, Jesus said, if they were quiet, then the stones would be the ones making the noise. The world is full of the voice of the Lord. Just this morning I was noticing how many more birds are chirping outside, declaring the glory of God in the return of spring. Just this morning, my ears were filled with the glory of the Lord as I heard your voices singing. Just this morning, I noticed the voice of the Lord when our youngest asked if we were having motemeal for breakfast and the sound of her voice made my heard glad. All around, if we give ourselves the space to notice, if we have, “the ears to hear,” in the words of the Bible, there are opportunities to give thanks to God that come to us in what we hear.
I only watched a few minutes of the Oscars. I didn’t see that moment everyone was talking about: a moment “full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” as Shakespeare’s Macbeth said. What I did see was a moment that was full of quiet and joy and signified something special. It was the
moment Troy Kotsur won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the movie, C ODA. Troy is the second deaf actor to win an Oscar. Troy’s parents discovered he was deaf when he was young, but encouraged him in sports and theatre. They learned sign language to communicate with him. Troy began his acceptance speech using sign language. Off screen someone interpreted Troy’s signed speech into spoken word.
It was a great speech. He quoted Spielberg, he thanked the academy, he addressed the importance of bridging the deaf world and the hearing world and then he said, “My dad, he was the best signer in our family, but he was in a car accident, and he became paralyzed from the neck down, and he no longer was able to sign. Dad, I learned so much from you. I’ll always love you. You are my hero.” Troy dedicated his award to the deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community and then signed, “This is our moment. To my mom, my dad, and my brother, Mark…look at me now. I did it. I love you. Thank you.”
One who is deaf heard the love of his father loud and clear. One who is blind sees the world simply differently than one who is sighted. We experience the world with our senses, but such is the power of God that God finds a way to make sure we see and feel and taste and touch and hear love, not matter what.
Watching Troy’s speech reminded me of Psalm 19:
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”
It is the paradox of the holy, that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Even for a father who relied on his hands to communicate with his deaf son, how powerfully loud and clear did that son know the love of his father. He was pouring forth speck without words, without voice. And Troy broadcast that love through all the earth.
At all times, in so many ways, through the Word, by the Spirit, by the lives of others, and creation itself God is in communication with us, reminding us that God is in the world, at work in our lives, and we are not alone. Yet, there is plenty in the world that conspires to drown out the voice of the Lord. We call that sin. Sin is anything that seeks to stand between us and God. Maybe it’s our own actions, not living up to who we know God made us to be. Maybe it’s some hardship that is wearing you down, causing you to worry and doubt God’s presence. God is always near us, nearer than our breath. We are never alone but sometimes noise breaks in, some internal chatter that makes us wonder. Maybe there is somebody here who doesn’t think they are deserving of love and forgiveness. But God’s word of forgiveness declare that shame a lie. What noise is filling your ear with those lies? Maybe there is someone listening online that is feeling like there is no clear future for them?
Is there anyone who has had to make a tough choice and you just want to hear from God? “God just let me hear your voice. Tell me what to do?” In Psalm 50, God says, “Hear, O my people, and I will speak.” But there is a missed connection. We didn’t hear the call. Noise drowns it out.
There was a prophet named Elijah. His job was to hear the voice of God and help others hear it too. But what happens when a prophet can’t hear God? One day, Elijah did what people do sometimes when they want to hear from God; something Jesus use to do, and Moses before him. He went out into nature, climbed up on a mountain to try to hear God. He had his ears tuned for something loud and clear. “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord
was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him… Elijah” (1Kings 19:11-3). Maybe it’s all the noise in our lives, the voices shouting from TV’s that fill our homes, the crowds shouting on the internet that fill us with anger, the noise of war, the noise of gun fire on our streets and in our home. The cries of anguish. God told Moses, “I have heard the cries of my people,” but the noise of self-doubt, the noise of ambition, drowns out God’s reply. Maybe some are looking from God in the shaking mountains, the whirlwinds and the fires, that rage around us, but it’s when we quiet all the noise that finally, in the sound of sheer silence, you may finally hear God speaking your name. Elijah wrapped his face in his cloak because he suddenly realized he was in the presence of God all along.
I am so grateful today that no matter the circumstances of my life, no matter what I am going through, no matter the noise in my own head or all around may make me think otherwise, God is still always there, always present, always speaking my name, just to remind me he is here. He is near.
Palm Sunday reminds us of this character of God we see in his son Jesus Christ. When the crow ds get it, they know God is near as Jesus rides triumphantly into Jerusalem. The sounds of the praise of their king overwhelm. Things are good. They have no doubt, their savior is here, and when things are good, well that’s when it’s easy to feel God near. But things change fast and before you know it, the songs of praise turn to the noise of violence, rage. The crowd that followed Jesus when they felt their savior was near, turned to a mob of noise calling for the murder of Jesus. They no longer trusted him as their savior and their noise filled the earth. But whether the crowd was praising or beating him with their fists and the voices, Jesus did not change. He was still communicating his love, even when the world refused to hear. He was still communicating his love, even when his hands were tied to the cross. He was still communicating his truth, praying, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing,” even when those who craved that grace were too far away hiding to hear it.
Whether you’re on a spiritual high and you know without a doubt how good and amazing and present God is that you hear him singing all around, God is near you, loving you, calling you, forgiving you, saving you.
And whether you are too lost in the noise of whatever is going on in your life to hear him, God is near you, loving you, calling you, forgiving you, saving you.
And whether you are furious, raging, joining the noise denying Jesus is the savior, crying crucify him, God is near you, loving you, calling you, forgiving you, saving you.
This is the power of God in Christ Jesus, that even though in this life there are times the voices of destruction prevail, they do not prevail forever. “After the sounds of earthquakes, destruction, fire of rage… a sound of sheer silence, and then…and then…and then…