Monday, April 14, 2014

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday
April 13, 2014
Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Palm Sunday is a rather odd feast day in the life of the church. We come to church ready to celebrate. We get to wave palms and celebrate with Jesus as he enters the city of Jerusalem in triumph. We get to join with the people who gathered that day for the festal parade and hail Jesus as king of kings and son of David.

We sing hymns like “All Glory, Laud and Honor” and “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty.” And true to Berks County…The Palms!  We wave palm branches as the choir and clergy process into the sanctuary.  We join the crowds of old in shouting Hosanna to the King of Kings.  It’s a grand and glorious parade, it’s just missing a giant pumpkin balloon and some fire trucks, nope wrong parade….and yet this grand and glorious hour quickly fades into something else much less triumphant.  

Is it little wonder that the city folk of Jerusalem are confused? There is nothing about Jesus -- his entry into the city, his confrontation with authority, his brutal and lonely death -- that would inspire anyone to devotion.  Think even about his mode of transportation, he’s not riding a stallion…or a camel for that matter…but a donkey.  He comes not in power but in weakness, not in might but vulnerability, not in judgment but in mercy, not in vengeance but in love. Nothing about him conforms to the expectations of a world that has come to believe above all things that might makes right or, at the very least, that might wins. (Lose)

Yet he rides in…like a king…just not the kind of king they were expecting.

Those of us who shout hosanna today know the end of the story.  We know Jesus is not the king the people were expecting.  We know the passion story that unfolds from this day, one that had been hinted about throughout Jesus’ life and ministry.  We know about the last supper, the death on the cross and being placed in the tomb and how that is not the end of the story. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we, too, lift our palms and shout as they did for Jesus’ entry?

Perhaps one of the reasons we do, is because we, too, still seek a king.  As sinful beings, we still cry out for help, healing, wholeness, for justice and peace in our community, nation and world today.  We want someone here and now to flip this world upside down and change it for us….to meet our needs and desires here and now. 

We want our lives to be all resurrection and no cross.  (Jung)

We want that superhero savior…to swoop in and take away the hurting, the pain, the suffering, the unjust and scary violence in our communities, the struggles we have in our relationships, life threatening illnesses….take it all away.  Please, save us! 

And we have a God who does save us…but in a way that we least expect it. 

During my second year at seminary, tragedy hit. 

On a sunny afternoon, the cries of a wailing mother echoed through the campus as her 3 year old son, Bjorn, fell from a tree and died.  He was the son of one of my professors and he had always been seen around campus tramping behind his two older brothers. 

The community united in tears and prayers and hugs and sighs of grief that day and in the weeks that followed. 

As we gathered together for the funeral service, the sobbing and grieving continued. 

And even though Bjorn was not there….God was.

At the end of the service we all exited the sanctuary by the baptismal font. 

As many of us dipped our fingers in the water, clinging to the symbol of the cross we traced on our foreheads, a toddler saw this happening.  So as he reached for the water, my friend made the sign of the cross on his forehead.  Then he dipped his hand in and made the sign of the cross on her.…and from that point forward, no one passed the font without receiving the sign of the cross from this child.  

That, my friends, is where God was present that day. 

That, my friends, is the God who saves us. 

And that is the God we remember as we shout hosanna this day. 

God doesn’t swoop in and pull us out of the trials and tribulations of this life, but joins right alongside of us for the journey.  Sitting next to us as we mourn, sitting with us as we cry, being present for the hugs of joy and the laughter that we share.

Let’s not miss God’s presence in these unexpected places….

As we shout Hosanna, wave our palm branches in the air and join with the crowd as they gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, let us see God in all of this.

Let us see that this is just the beginning, that by joining in today, we are a part of a larger passion play. 

We know that next comes remembering the last supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples.

We know that that night will be followed by Jesus’ death on a cross…

And we know, ultimately, that this week…this Holy Week, will end in the joy and wonder at an empty tomb.  And while it’s so tempting to jump from the  hosannas of today to the alleluias next week, today is an invitation to journey through this week together: to remember the events of Jesus’ last week. 

It may sound like I’m trying to get you to come to church more this week, or should I say inviting you to come to church more this week. 

No matter how you say it, that is what I’m doing, inviting you to come back to church this week again, and again. 

Because within this community of faith, we are all facing struggles and hardships, joys and celebrations….and how the heck could we get through all of that without God’s love and grace in our lives seen in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?    

Are you with me?  We live in a world where we fear the diagnosis of cancer, where violence in our schools seems to be in the news every week, where we are more and more busy every day that face to face communication is less and less….the list could (and does) go on and on. 

So, I’m dead serious….how could we get through all of that *stuff* without God’s love and grace in our lives that we see in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?

What happens in this place, week after week is an expression of hope for change….just like Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: an expression of hope for change. 

It’s what we celebrate here week after week. 

That’s the baptismal call we live out in our day to day lives as we love and serve our neighbors. 

That’s what being the church is really all about.  Living out lives that express our hope for change…

Knowing that life is more than what we face every day…that life in Christ is everlasting, eternal…and goes beyond what we know here and now. 

So join us, as the journey continues…Eat at this table, kneel at the foot of the cross, splash in that font, and just be here…be an expression of hope for change…because of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus. 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.