2016 03 20 Palm Sunday Sermon

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

Luke 19: 28-40


December, January and February are USUALLY referred to as winter here in Vermont. Yet, most of the people whose paths I’ve crossed have commented that spring’s arrival (in the wee hours this morning, March 20th, with the vernal equinox), feels like spring’s coming without a winter. Winter…but without it really being winter.

Today’s story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is one that we always refer to as Palm Sunday. But, darn it, in Luke’s gospel there aren’t even any palms! Palm Sunday without palms? Wait a minute! Instead of waving palm branches as a symbol and sign of the coming of a king into Jerusalem, the disciples placed the same cloaks on the road that they had used for a makeshift saddle for our donkey-riding Jesus. In Luke, Jesus’ entry wasn’t some BIG thing, actually! We’re waving palms anyway! (Sorry, Luke!)

But maybe it’s just as well that it was not some HUGE event because, after all, Jesus comes not on an elegant mount, but humble and riding on a donkey…(which could be a bit of an embarrassment to the Parade Planning Committee!)

Maybe that’s the speed that Jesus would have preferred anyway because more than a grand entry, the coming to Jerusalem was, in some ways, more like a funeral procession. Remember from last week’s Bible passage (the one that, in the Bible, occurs immediately before today’s), the clear message and prediction is that JESUS IS GOING TO BE PUT TO DEATH FOR NOT PLAYING BY THE RULES OF THE LEADERS OF THE TIME, THE RULERS OF THE DAY. Don’t play by our rules and look for your extinction!

Especially in Luke’s gospel, Jesus IS bringing about a profound change in the expectations of the people. They’re looking for a king…WHICH JESUS IS!…but he’s a different sort of king whose kingdom is not of this world and who will bring peace…but not by strong-arming, name-calling, not by building up a big peace-protecting fence between the “us and the them,” but by holding fast to his holy calling of embodying the very change that he wanted to see in the world.

“Give me a donkey for the processional,” Jesus said. “I don’t need a big crowd, either…just my small band of disciples will suffice. Give me cloaks on the road and we’ll have a JUST FINE PROCESSIONAL that, actually, can change the world, just wait and see.”

For Jesus’ kingdom, as we’ll hear, is not of this world…but a kingdom of God’s…that’s coming whether we’re ready of not. Jesus’ kingdom is one not of an immediate change in worldly structures but of a developing peace…and one that won’t stop, regardless of how compellingly the Pharisees urge the disciples to be quiet…because, “Even if they were quiet, the stones would cry out!” So connected is the web of God’s love and peace to creation that even the inanimate is in sync! (I like that promise!)

So fulfilling is his coming that these prophecies resound in our ears, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Such is Jesus’ entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, marginally popular but probably NOT getting the best television ratings on CNN or Fox News.

Yet still…yet still..it IS a thing for us now!

Remember, those Coat-laying disciples echoed Psalm 118 with their cry, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven,” they cry!

Christ’s entrance into OUR world is a promise of a calming peace amidst the drumbeat of violence.

His coming is an assurance of a NEW way in an old wilderness of fear, spooking on our society from the top down:

Fear of THEM.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of not having as much power or influence as we might otherwise want.

Fear of the different.

Fear of the future… People capitalize on it…

Into THAT fear Jesus comes at Prince Peace, riding a donkey.

And if we listen, we hear the steady angels’ whisper, “Don’t be afraid!”

It’s not a promise, “Make Jerusalem Great Again,” but instead a promise of being faithful and mining a peace that will endure by holding fast to what is right and true and good…to steadfast love and righteousness…

It might be winter without winter. It might be Palm Sunday without palms…but a promise of peace abides with this Christ King is coming our way, this day, this week, just now…

I will close with these words from Frederick Buechner, “Peace in heaven…(and on earth) is what the (procession) and the shouting are all about. That is what all our singing and worshiping and preaching and praying are all about if they are about anything that matters. The hope that finally by the grace of God the impossible will happen. The hope that Pilate will take him by one hand and Caiaphas by the other, and the Roman soldiers will throw down their spears and the Sanhedrin will bow their heads. The hope that by the power of the Holy Spirit, by the love of Christ, who is Lord of the impossible, the leaders of the enemy nations will draw back, while there is still time for drawing back, from a vision too terrible to name. The hope that you and I also, each in our own puny but crucial way, will work and witness and pray for the things that make for peace, true peace, both in our own lives and in the life of this land.

“Despair and hope. They travel the road to Jerusalem together, as together they travel every road we take – despair at what in our madness we are bringing down on our own heads and hope in him who travels the road with us and for us and who is the only one of us all who is not mad. Hope in the King who approaches every human heart like a city. And it is a very great hope as hopes go and well worth all our singing and dancing and sad little palms because not even death can prevail against this King and not even the end of the world, when end it does, will be the end of him and of the mystery and majesty of his love. Blessed be he.”[1] Amen.


[1] Buechner, Frederick. Things that Make for Peace. 2016.03.14.

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