“The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we are entering the epicenter. May we do so in Love.” ~ Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault
On April 17, 2013, as thousands of eager runners rushed past Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver BC for the annual Sun Run, inside listeners sat hushed and still as Cynthia Bourgeault delivered a riveting and powerful Palm Sunday sermon.
As Cynthia starts her sermon referring to the congregation having just heard the traditional, ceremonial reading of the passion gospel to mark the beginning of Holy Week, she asks “…what sort of a message are we actually projecting here?”
Please listen to this extraordinary invitation to re-vision the meaning and message of Holy Week, as Cynthia summons us to consider an alternative message – one that places the mystery of love at the center of the Easter story:
Here are some excerpts:
We are about to embark on Holy Week, the most sacred and mystical passage in the Christian year, when we ritually re-live and re-claim the very epicenter of Christianity, as Jesus reveals the depth of love and wagers his very life for the reality of the premise he has staked his whole ministry on: that love is stronger than death — love is the strongest power in the world — stronger than fear — stronger than hatred — stronger than division — stronger than violence. This is the moment, this week, when we again have the opportunity in a very special way to enter into this mystery of love with him, confront our own fears and shadows, and emerge as shareholders in his resurrection — not only through faith but through our own lived experience.
You would think then, in a time such as this, as we stand on the threshold to this week, that our texts might give us an overview of Jesus’ teachings on love, and a reassurance that his love will remain alive and well beneath the surface as we work our way toward cosmic fulfillment. And yet the word “love” does not occur once in this reading…
It’s hard in this maelstrom of hatred, abandonment, and violence to keep a living connection to the Master of Love, whose death is not to appease an angry God, but a voluntary consummation of the path he has walked through life — through death — and into resurrection life.
Yet curiously, hidden right in plain sight in all the gospel accounts, is the unanimous testimony that Mary Magdalene was present at every point in the drama: at the crucifixion — the entombment — the resurrection. Throughout the entire ordeal she was right there — a steadfast witness in love and living proof, of the fact that at least one got the message and could live it with her Being. Jesus did not die abandoned…
… Jesus did become the Messiah, “the anointed one”, but at the hands of this unsung and often vilified woman, who poignantly announced by her action that this kingdom — his true and revealed Messiah-ship — would take place not in the domain of power, but in the domain of love…
…this pilgrimage toward the recovery of Mary Magdalene’s rightful place in Holy Week is not about feminism, but is about love — the primacy of love… When Mary Magdalene is present there at the foot of the cross our understanding of the passion softens in the direction of universal compassion and forgiveness…
We need to hear the word “love” mentioned as we go into Holy Week. As we stand here in a world so abruptly and sometimes brutally awakening to discover ourselves as one — interconnected, fragile, radically dependent on our great spiritual traditions to reconnect at the point of the heart… As we stand at that place in our world today, we must come to see that despite the venerable input of tradition, that the exclusivistic, judgmental, punitive theologies we have promulgated are a luxury the world can no longer afford. The epicenter of Christianity is Love, and this week we enter the epicenter. May we do so in Love.
[Correction: The recording of this Palm Sunday sermon does not appear to be available any longer on the website for Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver BC]