A sermon for Palm Sunday, Sunday April 10, 2022
We enter into this week shouting “Hosanna!”
We enter into this week shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
We enter into this week in great celebration and joy that the conquering King, Jesus Christ, has finally arrived at the holy city and will forever change the world by overthrowing the earthly powers and authorities, saving us from their tyrannical reign, liberating us and moving us into a new life in this creation.
Of course, Jesus will accomplish all of this, but not in the way that the people thought it would work.
Jesus accomplishes all of this, but does it in such a subversive and unexpected manner that the creation will literally rebel against him.
The creation will rise up against him, betray him, reject him, crucify him (as we will say together at the end of this service).
All because Jesus enters today the conquering hero.
The people are so filled with joy that they rush out to greet him.
They have heard the stories of his work in the outlying regions.
They have heard the rumors of miraculous healing, of feeding, of raising the dead back to life.
They have heard the prophetic words of Jesus that precede him, spreading like wildfire among the people.
So, they come out in droves when word reaches them that Jesus has finally arrived, is finally here to take on the religious and political authorities and establish a new kingdom.
The Pharisees are clearly unhappy about this blatant challenge against their authority and place in society.
They see how the people see Jesus, their hopes for Jesus, their hopes for change, and call on Jesus to quell the mob, to temper expectations, to fall in line.
Jesus, knowing that his kingdom work is not going to meet expectation, does not temper the crowd.
Jesus encourages the crowd.
Jesus tells the Pharisees, “”I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
The person of Jesus, his teaching, his model, his call to ministry, his example of prayer, of worship, of relationship with God, knows that the joy of the people today, while perhaps misplaced, is still real, is based in a deep hope that change is coming to them through him.
While that change may not end up being what they expect, Jesus knows that this moment of joy is important for the followers to understand the bigger picture of the story.
To understand how tightly we cling to the systems and structures we have built up without God, even when God is standing directly in front of us, offering us a different way, a different expression of being the creation, a different understanding of what it means to love God and love our neighbor as ourself.
It is truly a human trait that we have to struggle with.
We love to cling to our systems and structures that we feel protect us.
We love to cling to our systems and structures that we’ve learned to navigate, that we’ve learned to take advantage of, that we’ve learned give us unfair advantages over others simply because of our gender identity, the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, our faith practice (or lack thereof), to name just a few.
We cling to these systems because we’ve learned our place within them and if we’re anything, we are creatures of habit and comfort.
Even when these systems work against us, we find ways to accept them and take on the identity of either the perennially oppressed or the righteous yet downtrodden fighter.
When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem today, the great joy is that he has come to tear down the systems that creation has propped up and establish something new.
And when we reach the end of today’s service we will reject Jesus, because his way of tearing down systems runs so counter to our understanding of what it means to hold and have power, of what it means to show love for our neighbor, of what it means to be in relationship with God, that we simply couldn’t comprehend it. We reject Jesus today, because in this moment, the creation felt that they had been rejected by their conquering hero.
We were ready, with swords drawn, to change the world.
And Jesus simply gives up?
Obviously, being here together today, we know that Jesus subverts these expectations because a new covenant between God and creation is established in his sacrifice and his defeat of death that we will celebrate in one week’s time.
But, on this day way back when, the people did not know that.
And yet, their joy and hope and expectation can still leave us with something important, something palpable for our own learning.
What would it look like today to welcome Jesus with such unfettered joy that even if we were silenced, that the very stones would sing out because our joy is so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that it permeates into the very bedrock of this creation?
How can we live this into this creation altering joy in our faith today, knowing the true purpose, the call that we receive, from Christ in his sacrifice, death, and resurrection?
What strength can we draw from this joy modeled today?
What knowledge can we draw from this joy?
How can we take this joy today and spread the Good News of what comes next with the world? Or not the world, but our neighbor, our friend, our family member, our next door stranger, our coworker?
If we allow the joy of Jesus’ arrival to fill us so wholly and fully that even the stones shout out because our joy is radiating out from us, whose life could we change by sharing the Good News of Christ with them today?
Whose life could we change by inviting them into Holy Week this week?
Whose life could we change by inviting them to Easter Sunday?
How would your life change if you took your joy and the knowledge that Jesus does establish his kingdom in such an unexpected manner, and shared that with another?
Maybe this is the day, the week, to find out.