Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journey with Jesus: A Triumphant Entry

A sermon for Palm Sunday
Matthew 21.1-11

I don’t know about you, but I do love a good parade. There is something interesting about people from all walks of life, strangers to one another, gathering along the sides of streets – all waiting for the parade. I love watching the faces of children, waiting with growing excitement for what is to come. Parades are filled with wonder, excitement, happiness – it is almost like a time set apart from the harshness & hardness of the rest of the world. It is a space where cares seem to dissipate, worries evaporate, & the power of wonder overcomes us. I’ve not seen too many upset people at a parade, outside of the occasional over-tired child.

In our continued journey with Jesus, we come to the point in the narrative where Jesus comes into Jerusalem, atop a donkey, riding in a different sort of parade. There are people who have traveled from throughout the countryside, lined the streets with great anticipation, & when he arrives, throw cloths & palm branches onto the ground before him, all the while shouting, “Hosanna!”. What a scene it must have been! Scores of people, from all walks of life & all ages, children smiling up in wonder, adults filled with excitement for the coming of the King, the Messiah they’ve come to know through healings & teachings, the elderly – coming out to see this man who has healed many, wondering if they too could be healed. It was a triumphant entry of a King for sure – filled with power, excitement, hope & wonder for the people. However, for Jesus, this was a different kind of parade.

He already knew what was ahead of him on the journey - he was indeed heading towards the end of his life on earth. He knew these people wouldn’t be shouting “Hosanna!” very much longer. He knew it would become painful in the coming days & there was much to still share with his disciples. And, he needed to share the message that he was indeed the Messiah, the king – the one whom God sent to save the world from the mess they were in. He rode into town that fateful day upon a donkey-colt, which was to fulfill what the prophet Zechariah said, “Tell the daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming to you, humble, & mounted on a donkey & on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem marks the beginning of Holy Week & the beginning of his last days here on earth. Within a few short days, the cries of hosanna will fade into cries of “crucify him!” Oh, how quickly things change! How quickly we can lose sight of it all! And, it begs the question of what were the crowds seeking that day in Jerusalem. Why did they herald his entrance then turn & participate in his violent departure? Maybe it was the allure of this “celebrity” figure coming into town that drew them to the streets that day. Maybe they wanted something to happen right then & there – that they would be saved from the rule of the Empire. Or maybe, they never really understood Jesus’ message in the first place. My guess – a little of all the above.

We can be like the people, the crowd who lined the streets of Jerusalem. We love the idea of worshipping the One who came to save us with our palms waving & shouts of hosanna. We love being in the presence of someone great & powerful. But, at the end of the parade, we simply go back to normal life. The pomp & circumstance is over. The allure is gone. Normal sets in. We go back to work, back to school, back to the stresses of everyday life. And, even though it is Holy Week, we don’t continue to walk with Jesus. We walk our own paths instead. And, then suddenly, we find the crowds again – this time at scene of Pilate interrogating Christ Jesus & when asked what he should do with this man – we shout “crucify him!” Wow, how quickly things can change. It is like we have forgotten the celebration of Jesus’ riding into town, surrounded by palm waving & shouts of hosanna. We simply go along with the crowd.

This happens to us all the time. And, often it is easier to go along with the crowd then to stand out. But, that is what we are called to do. We are called to worship Jesus Christ as our Lord, the Messiah who came to live among us, who taught us how we should live our lives. We are called to wave our palms high & shout hosanna, not just for a moment on Palm Sunday, but every moment of every day! We are called to resist the temptation of simply going back to normal life after we worship on Sunday mornings in this place. And, we are called to continue to walk this journey with Jesus during this Holy Week. The story is not over yet.

This is the great gift of Holy Week – a time set apart to walk with Christ. We are to walk these final steps with him. I urge you strongly not to miss out on this week. Don’t miss out on this walk with Christ. Come Thursday night, where we will sit at table, just as his disciples did for the final time. We will hear the accounts of his final days, through word & song. Come Friday night, to touch the cross & feel the pain of Christ’s crucifixion. Spend time on Saturday reflecting on the events of the week, but also praying for what will come next. For, on Sunday, we will celebrate the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, with our bright colored flowers & loud shouts of “Alleluia! He is risen!” But, we are not there yet. The procession continues. Be here on Thursday. Be with the community on Friday. Be a part of the abundance of the community gathered. Come to meet Jesus. Stay with this procession as it heads towards the cross.

The triumphant entry of Jesus is a powerful time in this journey. But, the journey continues this week. May you resist the temptation to simply go about this week as normal. May you feel the power of this Holy Week, as each of these days are indeed holy time to be with Christ. May you meet Jesus along the way. May you stay with the procession, stay with the community - touch the cross, & let it carry you into the promise of new life. Let us walk together this week, as a community who follows Christ & proclaims him as our Lord & Savior. Amen.

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