Liturgists and preachers often struggle with how to hold together the Palm/Passion texts for this week, and congregations often experience a kind of scriptural "whiplash" as we move from the celebratory opening of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem to the concluding words of the passion story. Yet, among the things that hold these texts together is a question of identity. Paul Bieber draws attention to this in his comments this week:
"Here is the One who emptied himself, who humbled himself, who became obedient. In letting others do what they would to him, this is what Jesus did: He chose the identity he would have as others did their worst. He emptied himself to take the form of a slave, when by all rights he could assume full equality with God. He impoverished himself for the sake of his fellow human beings. He offered himself.
And we, too, are called to offer ourselves, to 'let the same mind be in us' as we choose our personal identity in this world, to think as he did when others would do their worst to us. But we don't want to do that--to set ourselves off from any sort of exercise of power in the world, to become a servant, to strengthen others after we have ourselves been sifted like wheat, to dine with those who will deny us, betray us.
Jesus' passion tells us who he is, and invites us to take on a whole new identity of our own. We enter into this week by hearing the story of Jesus' passion--his suffering and death. In holy baptism this story has become our own story; in Holy Week we make our way through it again, because it brings us (and has brought us, and brings us again and again) to life with Christ."
Confronted by, immersed in, these narratives yet again, who will we choose to be? Where and how will this identity become our own not only this week but in the weeks ahead?
From Paul Bieber, "Healing Word," Homily Service 40.5 (April 2007): 11. Paul Bieber is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church in San Diego, California