Joy and Sorrow

Palm Sunday: Luke 19:28-40, Phil 2:5-11


My mom stood at the window, looking out toward the airplane on tarmack.

Our Swedish exchange student, Karl, was boarding the plane, heading home.

There was no way he could see us, and we couldn’t see him through the tiny airplane windows,

Nonetheless, my mom was still waving.


Karl had come to live with us ten months before.

Karl was 17 old, 6 foot 4, fun loving with a great sense of humor.

We shared family life, went to sporting events and band concerts together, and

We traveled to Niagara Falls and Washington DC.


But Karl came from a family where right and wrong were blurry.

His father routinely fudged his taxes—after all, taxes are high in Sweden!

Karl was taught that bending the rules was OK as long as you didn’t get caught.

So as an exchange student, he did was he knew—he bent the rules.

He drank with the cross country team, even though he signed agency papers that he wouldn’t.

He stayed out beyond curfew.

Of course my parents were paying attention, and so he did get caught.

They explained to him that the rules mattered, that he was here on certain conditions.

The promises he made were important to keep, they said.

And for a while, Karl listened.


But near the end of his stay, Karl got into trouble again.

He got caught parking with his girlfriend in the mall parking lot,

and then was banned from returning there after he mouthed off to the security guard.

And then he was caught helping his buddies steal a muffler off an old junked car.

This time he was hauled down to the police station, and my parents had to come pick him up.

The police gave him the warning that if he was apprehended again, they would put him in jail.


Now my parents were in a true dilemma.

Prior to this point, they parented Karl as they parented their own children,

Explaining things, listening, setting limits and enforcing consequences.

But now Karl had taken things far enough that the next step would be out of my parents’ hands.

Karl was one week away from being 18 years old.

He would be tried as an adult for anything that did from that point on.

On top of that, the agency had very clear rules about infractions on the law—

Students were immediately sent home.


So after a long night of deliberation and prayer, my parents called the agency.

Karl was on the plane back to Sweden within days.

And my mother stood at the window, waving goodbye.


To me, my mom is one of many unsung heroes who willingly choose to suffer for another.

Many parents endure sleepless nights

Health care professionals and teachers who show up for others day in and day out

Twelve step sponsors who take calls no matter the hour to keep their buddy sober

Most of these people would not call their actions sacrificial

They act out of a selfless love, accepting the cost

Because along with the sorrow there is also the joy of being in relationship with another

And the satisfaction of seeing another person grow or heal.


Joy and sorrow: That is what Holy Week is about.

We begin the old story today on Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was the capital city, the religious and cultural center of the Jews.

It was a holiday season, and the air filled with hope —

Jesus was welcomed as the long awaited king.

He accepted the welcome and shared the joy of the Passover with his beloved friends,

The disciples.


But mingled with this joy was the serious mission Jesus was to carry out.

The cost of Jesus’ love for his friends and for God

was betrayal and arrest.

It would mean separation, pain, and death.

Jesus was not unaware of the danger that lay ahead –

He called Jerusalem “the city that kills prophets”

Jesus nonetheless chose faithfulness to God’s mission,

He chose relationship with his friends

He chose to serve the people he had met in his ministry

The consequence of these decisions was both joy and sorrow.


It’s something I read about in The Cup of Our Lives,

The devotional many Epiphany members have been praying with this Lent.

Author Joyce Rupp writes:

Each of our life choices, decisions, and actions involves some consequences…

These consequences may bring gladness, but they may also bring sadness.

If we choose to love someone deeply,

we must be willing to accept that our heart’s investment may cost us loneliness and heartache.

Rupp goes on to give examples of how people invest themselves in their callings at personal expense

Long hours of work, separation from family, the pain of vulnerability.



In Holy Week, we see most vividly how Jesus made this investment in the people of his day

And in us

St Paul in his letter to the Philippians describes Jesus’ willing choice:

[Jesus] 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.

Jesus chose relationship and connection to humanity,

He chose to be one of us and to love us with God’s love.

The consequence of his decision to love with God’s love

Was to embrace the sorrow and joy of the whole world.

In walking the way of the cross, Jesus chose to be in solidarity with those who suffer

In bursting from the tomb, Jesus chose to share the joy of recovery and new life with the world

Jesus provides the example par excellence of embracing his choices –

choices made out of faithfulness to God.

He freely accepted all that came with his choices- the sorrows and the joys.


That goodbye at the airport was not the last time my family saw Karl.

In fact, it was the beginning of a new relationship with Karl.

Karl apologized to my parents for the trouble he had caused

He reevaluated what was important in life and saw with new eyes the values of honesty and integrity.

He thanked my parents for all they had done for him, and returned the next Christmas to visit.

For years afterward, Karl remembered my mom’s birthday with a phone call

Despite the long distance toll.

In the end, the joy won.


That too is where we are headed as we walk through Holy Week with Jesus.

Joy wins.

Life wins.

Love wins.

But getting there requires us to own our decisions and responsibilities.

Loving requires investment

Faithfulness requires courage to do hard things

There will be pain and loss and betrayal

But it is nothing compared to the power of God to raise up our suffering and the pain of the world

And to make all things new

Leave a Reply