Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon

O Lord, in our weakness, be our strength; in our troubles, be our peace; in our danger, be our shelter; in our fears, be our hope; and be with us evermore. Amen.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?"

Each of us must answer that same question – who is this Jesus?

The crowds on that first Palm Sunday answered it by laying their cloaks on the road, and others cut palm branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of Jesus and those that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

This is the King (son of David), the Messiah, the one was going to change everything. So many had hopes and dreams of new and better lives. But he was a king who rode in on a humble donkey... Bishop Laura last week reminded us to consider the movement we hear about in the biblical stories; we are invited to walk with the crowd, shouting Hosanna! Laying down our clothes, our palms…

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?"

But as the movement enters Jerusalem, even as there is much excitement & hope, there are those opposed to Jesus in fear and power and the other crowds who would not be so welcoming…

Pilate said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

For many he was a failure. He didn’t defeat Rome. He was captured. He didn’t bring new life, all they could see was death. Hopes and dreams dashed along the rocks, palms trampled underfoot, the movement would not be triumphant, but a journey to suffering and death.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?"
But before Pilate and another crowd, they answered about Jesus, “Let him be crucified.”

Today we witness the crowds welcoming Jesus with waving palm branches and laying their cloaks & palms as he rides by on a simple donkey. But by the end of the week Jesus will be hanging on a tree, alone and abandoned.

The question today's Palm Sunday liturgy asks each one of us as we journey in his movement: Who is this Jesus? Do we walk away from Jesus? At what point do we and Jesus part company?

We welcome Jesus into our own Jerusalems today. We have hope in him. He speaks of a "kingdom of God" in which we are forgiven, we are healed, we are loved & renewed. So when does that hope die and we drop the palm branches, pick up our cloaks, and walk away…

· When Jesus asks us to take up our own crosses?

· When he insists that we sell all we have and give to the poor?

When he spends too much of his time with the pitiful, the incorrigible, the nobodies - and holds up the least among us as the "model" of God's kingdom?

When he tries to drag us out of the safe little "tombs" we have dug for ourselves where we feel safe and in control and isolated from the evil of the world and the challenges of today?

When he makes us embrace a faith that is centered on selfless and humble works of charity & forgiveness then on mere words?

Or do we make ourselves scarce when the heat is on:

· Do we try and diminish our knowing Jesus when someone starts to ask too many questions? Or do we fail to live the faith is in us when others are condemning the least among us?

· Do we finally walk away at that last moment on the cross, admiring Jesus but disappointed in him and sorry for ourselves?

One more nice guy finishing last. One more deluded Savior who fails. One more martyr for a cause we don't quite get.

Who is this Jesus? What do our lives say?

To this day, Jesus disappoints many who would be his followers. He is not the political icon that some try to use to condemn beliefs, attitudes and lifestyles that conflict with the conventional, the accepted, the norm; he is not the scourge of an angry God sent to comfort the self-righteous and destroy the heathen; Jesus enters human history neither to revolutionize politics nor topple temples.

Jesus comes to transform our human hearts away from the hardened stones we let them too often become, to re-ignite our spirits in the love of the God who yearns for all of creation to realize his original dream for a world of peace and justice. May these palms help us understand what our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus demands of us. As we welcome the Christ of victory on Easter, may we be just as welcoming of the Christ of suffering; as we embrace the Gospel of the Jesus of love, may we also embrace the Jesus of justice, of humility, of selflessness; as we try to imitate Jesus' compassion, may we be willing to imitate his limitless reconciliation, unconditional love & forgiveness for all.

The story will not end on the cross at the end of his passion, for we will continue that story in our journey of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter, but for now we must be willing to continue to be in the Jesus movement, to continue to walk with him. As a wonderful little prayer for children put it:

I will walk with Jesus.
- But you may be betrayed.

I will walk with Jesus.
- But you may be abandoned.

I will walk with Jesus.
- But you may be given a cross too heavy to bear.

I will walk with Jesus.
- But you cannot know where that may lead.

I will walk with Jesus.
-Then may Jesus walk with you through life & through death. (by Lois Rock)

May it be so for all of us. “I will walk with Jesus” as we bear our palm branches along the way to the cross (and beyond). Amen.

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