Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This year Palm Sunday has been tricky, hasn’t it? If it hasn’t been tricky – at the very least – it sure feels different – very – very different.
After all – for most of us Palm Sunday usually means gathering with our church family in the fellowship hall where it feels a bit like a party. For so many of us Palm Sunday usually means palm crosses pinned carefully to our lapels by someone who loves us. Palm Sunday means waving red and purple ribbon wands in the air and flapping palm fronds. For some of us – it might even mean poking a sibling with a palm frond – over and over and over again – (but maybe that was just me.)
Palm Sunday means being just a little bit boisterous and laughing out loud before worship. Because – hey it’s not like we are in the sanctuary!
Palm Sunday usually means unruly Lutherans having a wonderful time – gleefully ignoring Pastor Kerri (and I am not just talking about the under 18 set. Those Lutherans are often the best behaved ones!)
Palm Sunday means singing all of the verses to “Jesus Loves Me” as we process together into the sanctuary holding our own parade to celebrate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
And in more recent years – Palm Sunday at Saint Stephen has meant a huge ice cream social during coffee hour. Filled with delicious ice cream, almost every topping you can think of, and lots and lots of laughter, friendship, and fun as we give God thanks for the gift and blessing of Christian community.
But this year is different. Well – that is a huge understatement isn’t it? This year is shockingly different. The ribbon wands are still in their vase on the bookshelf in my office. The palm crosses are in the sacristy. And we didn’t even order any palm fronds this year . . . I am here with Jack, Jason, and Will and you are in your homes with your families.
We can’t gather together for worship in the way that is so familiar to most of us. Life is colossally different these days.
We are being asked to do things we hadn’t even heard of a few months ago like social distancing. We are staying home to keep ourselves and others safe. All but the most essential businesses and stores are closed for the greater good!
It feels like EVERYTHING in the entire world has changed.
And honestly – some things have changed. Our world does look really different these days. We can’t deny that. But not everything is different. Some things won’t change no matter what life brings our way. And our Gospel reading for this week reminds us of this.
Think with me about that first bit of Gospel that we shared together today. The part of the Gospel I would like for us to think about is the one that my worship professors at Luther seminary called our “processional Gospel.” It is the part of the Gospels that we all tend to think of when we think of Palm Sunday.
In it Jesus is on his way into Jerusalem for the last time and huge crowds of people gather together to welcome him. But they don’t just give Jesus a warm welcome. They have a great – big – wonderful celebration! They have a party right there in the road. They hold an impromptu parade and spread freshly cut palm branches and their own coats on the road to make Jesus feel extra special and welcome. They cheer and shout and cry out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Now I don’t know about you – but my Ancient Greek – gets a bit rusty from lack of use. (Actually – let’s be honest – we all know the only McFarland who knows any Ancient Greek anymore is Jason!) But I did confirm with our resident Ancient Greek expert this week that Hosanna comes from a Greek word that comes from a Hebrew word that means “Save! Please!”
These folks were begging Jesus to save them. And each week we too ask Jesus to save us – because these words are a part of our lives too. They are a part of our Communion liturgy. Can you remember saying them together – just a few weeks ago? We sing or say those words as a part of our Communion liturgy almost every Sunday that we gather together for worship.
When we call out “Hosanna in the highest” – we are saying words with a powerful history. Words that changed the world forever.
The Gospels tell us people cried out – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” – on the very 1st Palm Sunday as Jesus made his way into Jerusalem one last time.
These people were calling out to Jesus – begging him to save them. They were crying out for help.
Their words are also a powerful proclamation of faith. They were declaring that they believed Jesus could save them. They believed Jesus was their Savior.
Jesus heard them and he responded. Jesus did save them.
Today – we call out to Jesus to save us too. We beg Jesus to save us from our sins. Today – we declare ourselves helpless and hopeless without him.
And Jesus has responded to our pleas for help. He hears our cries. And he answers us. Jesus did save us from ourselves and from our sins.
But in order to do this – Jesus had to make a long – difficult and painful journey from the outskirts of Jerusalem all the way to the cross.
Jesus chose this path for you. Jesus chose the trial and the beating and the humiliation – the pain and suffering and agony and fear – to answer your cries for help.
You begged Jesus to save you and Jesus did. And so – as you continue your journey through Holy Week – remember this – all of this was and is and will always be – for you. Because Jesus loves you. Amen.