Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon 2017

“… in tender love for all our human race you sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take our flesh and suffer death upon a cruel cross.” Today, we recall, not only his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but the events recalled during this Holy Week, that we may, “follow the example of his great humility, and share in the glory of his resurrection.”

Palm Sunday
Pontus Pilate, with great fanfare, road into town on a war horse, flanked by strong and imposing soldiers. The might of the Roman Empire on display for everyone to see, and to fear.

By stark contrast, and in accordance with well-known verses of scripture, Jesus, the son of a carpenter, rides into town on a donkey, a half-breed, about as different from a war horse as possible.

The people, the Jews anyway, get it. They know the scripture and know the symbolism and so they sing,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Their hopes are raised. This is a national holiday after all. Perhaps the most nationalistic of them all. A time to celebrate freedom, freedom from the oppressor.

The significance of the Passover was not lost on Pilate. He probably didn’t want to be in Jerusalem at this time, but he had to be, his position required it. He had to “keep the peace.”

the Greatest Commandment
Many people conspired against Jesus, as he taught a message of love, forgiveness, mercy and justice. Even some of his own people wanted to trick him. He was, after all, seemingly out of control.

A lawyer, asked him a question, a trick question, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Which of all the (over 600) commandments, ordinances, rules and regulations found in the Jewish Bible is the greatest?

Jesus answered with the simplest and best known answer.
An answer everyone listening would have known.

You shall love God with your whole being… and your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Everything you know to be true is based on these two commandments. These commandments are about developing a sense of compassion for everyone… your enemies too.

That’s what Jesus taught and as unbelievable as it seems now, it’s this kind of thing that landed him in so much trouble with both religious and political forces.

the Plot to Kill Jesus
Jesus taught that we are to love one another. We are to treat them as we ourselves wish to be treated.
We are not to rip them off, because we don’t want to be ripped off.

Oh, it is one thing to preach peace and love.
It is one thing to heal people.
It is one thing to have your followers begin thinking of you as the Messiah.

But, it is quite another to threaten the financial stability of… of… of the way things are. Turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple was a bold move. It doesn’t matter now what good you’ve done, Jesus has gone too far and he must be stopped. A plot is hatched to kill him.

the Washing of the Disciples Feet
Before he is arrested, Jesus has time to teach his disciples a few more things. He washes their feet to illustrate what true leadership looks like. To show the depth of love he expects from his followers.

Peter protests, not I.
Jesus tells him, yes you.

To wash one another’s feet… to have this depth of love for one another, nothing less is expected.

the Lord’s Supper
After the Passover, Jesus takes bread and wine and tells those gathered around him that this bread is his body and this wine is his blood.
That it is through this action that we are to remember him.
It is through this action that we become the people we are meant to be.
It is through this action that we reach our telos, our perfection, as God’s own people.

We enter into communion with one another, this is an act of the community.
We enter into communion with God, our creator, and the one who first loved us.
We enter into communion so that we can be the Body of Christ in the world, the Church, beaten, broken, whipped, crucified, buried and resurrected – alive, active, animated in the world today.

Christ has no feet, but our feet, no hands but our hands,
no body but us… the Church.

the Passion
Today’s worship will end with the reading of the Passion. It’s not easy to listen to, and some of us may cry.

Some of those who sang, “Hosanna,” will shout, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

We typically think of the Passion of Jesus Christ as those events, near the end of his life, leading to the crucifixion.

But really, everything about his life shows his passion, the things he cares about, that everyone has an opportunity to love God with their whole being and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Jesus has passion for each and every one of us.

Some people wonder; what’s so good about Good Friday?

One answer is that Jesus, and us, have to pass through the gate of death to get to the goodness and glory of the resurrection. In other words, Easter Day makes Good Friday good.

Another answer, so very human – we just can wait to get to Easter. Even amidst the gruesome details of the Lord’s Passion we say it’s “good” to remind ourselves that the resurrection is just around the corner. In fact, the glory of the resurrection is a constant and present reality of every day, even the day set aside to recall the Passion of the Lord, so why not call it good too?

At the cross of Jesus, bad men did bad things – and although there are still bad things happening in the world – at the cross of Jesus good wins. Goodness, love and life win. And that’s good.

the Glory of the Resurrection
Today, on Palm Sunday, and every day in Holy Week, no matter what life might give us to deal with, we remember that next Sunday we will gather here – and Christians will gather around the world because Jesus, the incarnation of God, though wounded, bruised and killed for our iniquities broke the bonds of death to free us from all that separates us from God. We can glory in the fact that we have been saved, forgiven and redeemed.

We rejoice that Jesus gave us a new commandment:
This is my commandment
that you love one another,
that your joy may be full. Amen.

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