Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
I think it is very easy this week to lose ourselves in the past. In melancholy memories or angry grief. This is, after all, nothing like the Palm Sundays we have celebrated in years past. In the past we began by gathering close together, shoulder to shoulder, out in the lounge. The youth passing out palm branches, bulletins and hymnals, the Sunday school kids and choir ready to lead our procession into the sanctuary. And the whole company of saints waving palm branches and singing and praising and parading through the sanctuary and up to the altar. And then, the children would sing for us all and they would remind us —if we had eyes to see and ears to hear -- that the true inspired and enduring praise of Palm Sunday comes from the mouths of infants and babies and children noisily celebrating the arrival of our long-awaited king!
See, it’s easy to get lost in the memories of what has been. It’s easy to lose ourselves in our love for the sacred rituals and traditions that have become synonymous with this holiest of seasons. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the past, and by doing so to push away the present and say things like: “It doesn’t feel like Holy Week or Easter to me!” or “I can’t believe this terrible virus ruined our Holy Week and Easter!” It is true, we have lost a lot this year. We are missing a lot this year.
And yet, when we peel away these rituals and traditions, and we set aside the-way-its-always-been we find that what remains is Jesus — the one who has come to save us; the one who is Immanuel, God with us; the one who is the Christ, come to be our Lord.
After all, that is why they shouted Hosanna! as he entered Jerusalem those many years ago. The prayer and praise of the people who cut branches and spread their cloaks before Jesus is nothing less than the Spirit-inspired witness and testimony to who Jesus is and what God is now publicly and opening doing in Jesus.
As Jesus rides along on the donkey, Jesus is finally going public to affirm what’s been whispered and rumored throughout his ministry: He is the promised-one! He is God’s salvation! This Palm Sunday parade is no spontaneous accident. It is Jesus' deliberate and intentional act — an event that is Word of God in action before our very eyes and in which we are now no longer spectators but full participants.
And this Word reveals for all with eyes to see and ears to hear, what has been hidden in plain sight in the life, teaching and mighty acts of Jesus. Though he rides on peacefully and humbly — on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of donkey — he comes to the temple with power and authority and drives out the money changers and profiteers, the revolutionaries and conspirators, the nationalists and imperialists, the zealots and the collaborators. He turns over their tables and chairs and opens their cages and sets all God’s creatures free, liberating both community life and religion to be what God has always intended it to be — the communion and fellowship between God and God’s people!
And here we stand today — one in the Spirit and full participants, but with our lives turned upside down — an act of power, authority and liberation that frees us to gathered from all over, in communion with God through Christ. Maybe more than any other year, we can clearly see Jesus' provocative and powerful Palm Sunday message. That old ways have come to an end and God’s new kingdom has come in Jesus. God has come to save and redeem us from the power of sin and death, empire and religion, by taking God’s rightful place as the sovereign of all creation — not with violence, fear and coercion, but with humility, mercy and steadfast love incarnate. He has come heal us and make us whole again. To believe this message, to put our trust in this Jesus … is to see God present in our present world as the one who in mercy and steadfast love frees us and gives us eternal life in Jesus.
It is easy, though, to get lost in the past — whether that past is last year or 2000 years ago. It is difficult to see that for years we have moved through this sanctuary like the children of Jerusalem shouting and singing Hosanna without really understanding the depth of truth and the power of the testimony on our lips.
But here we stand today — one in the Spirit, but scattered all over, and yet we abide together in communion with God and one another through Christ. And perhaps we are beginning to understand that essential core and content of our faith is simply Jesus. That long ago Jesus rode into Jerusalem to be crowned the king of kings and lord of lords … and that this very morning our prayer and praise join the prayers and praise of the thousands and thousands who gather around his throne, one in the Spirit — though to our eyes separated by space and time — to sing the glory of God and of the lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world.
That is the glorious end of the story that begins today. Ye today we mark the beginning. There are yet many trials to come, ups and downs, moments of unspeakable sorrow and unbelievable joy. In it all, focus on Jesus and give heed to God invitation for us to leave the past behind, to set aside the rituals and traditions, to embrace our current time in confidence and faith so that we too might more clearly see and hear Jesus.
So here we stand today — the first day of the week, a Holy Week. This week is set aside as holy for us to live the story how God has saved us in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of the whole creation. But this enduring memory is never the past of faith, but the memory of how we came to this point and why it is we cry Hosanna! To the Son of David! Blessed is the one who has come in the name of Lord! And it explains why, through God’s Spirit, we have been empowered to live and breathe in all we say and do that Jesus Christ is Lord, that the powers of sin and death have been defeated, and that God’s kingdom and new creation has been established … Jesus’ name Amen.
The latest news, sermons and commentary on our life in mission together.