Kathryn Z. Johnston Searching for Palm Sunday Luke 19:28-40 April 14, 2019 Psalm 118:19-29

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1 Kathryn Z. Johnston Searching for Palm Sunday Luke 19:28-40 April 14, 2019 Psalm 118:19-29 Psalm 118:19-29 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Prayer for Illumination In your mercy Lord forgive us for what we have done we stand and shout your praises at one end of the week, saying the words, humming the hymns but the weights of the earthly kingdom become too much for us to bear. We don t trust. We get tired of waiting. We fall back into bad habits and by the end of the week we are shouting for a different kind of power and turning our backs on you. Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be a blessing unto you In your mercy, Lord Amen. Luke 19:28-40 (Jesus) went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, Why are you untying it? just say this, The Lord needs it. So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, Why are you untying the colt? They said, The Lord needs it. Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven! Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, order your disciples to stop. He answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out. This is the Word of the Lord A Well over a decade ago, I sat with two friends on the outside porch of one of their homes, music was pounding through the house and out into the yard, people were going back and forth A Valley 1 Searching for Palm Sunday April 14, 2019

2 past us in a blur beverages outside, food inside seemingly more kids in the yard than there possibly could be adults enough to take them home. It was a great party. And my friend said, We ve done all we can. I can t do it anymore. I can t believe it, but we re going to get a divorce. If it had been a movie, that s when the record would have scratched to a halt and everyone would have stopped and looked. But it wasn t a movie, it was real life so the party kept going on in in this surreal fashion all around us. My friend sighed and then continued, It s an odd feeling to know you re on the edge of the valley, and the only way out, is to go through it to the other side. I wonder for Jesus if that is what Palm Sunday felt like? The big party and celebration going on around him all while he knew the colt was taking him right on down into the valley. And the only way out, was to go through it, to the other side. The last few years we have focused both on palms and passion on the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus coming into Jerusalem during the third year of his ministry, during the Passover Feast. Passion is the term we use to describe what happens next: the meal with his friends, the Lord s Supper, the betrayal by Judas for 30 pieces of silver, the arrest in the Garden of Gesthemane, the denial of Peter, the interrogation by Pilate and Herod, the torture by the soldiers, and the eventual crucifixion and death on the cross. This year, we planned to focus on the palms today and leave the Passion narrative for the services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (both at 7:30pm). But much like my friend looking over into the valley, I can see what s coming. I can t pretend I don t know what happens next. We all know that the hosannas we sing today will quickly turn into cries of Crucify Him! by Friday. The palm branches we victoriously and joyfully wave today will become the sound of hammer and nails into wood, the sound of groans and gasps of suffering by the end of the week. The cross looms around the corner, with its smell of death that overpowers the smell of spring and its sound of silence that swallows our songs of praise. We cannot jump from the parade into Jerusalem to the discovery of the empty tomb, because it s the parade itself that took the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities to the next level the parade isn t looking out over the valley. The parade is the beginning of the valley itself. B There s a theory with substantial historical evidence behind it that there were two parades on that Sunday. Historical records show that Rome staged an imperial parade in Jerusalem at the same time as the Passover. The Jewish festival of Passover celebrates Moses liberating the people from the slavery and oppression in Egypt a thousand years before. Rome wanted to make sure no one entertained the notion that liberation was worth going for again so the B Jesus and colt 2 Searching for Palm Sunday April 14, 2019

3 authorities had the Roman governor Pontius Pilate lead Roman soldiers into the city, dripping with symbols of raw strength and military power. That s the parade coming in from the west. And looking on the other side of the city, there is Jesus on a colt or a donkey and cloaks and children waving plants. We appear to have a mismatch. On the one side: Helmets, weapons and drums, a sturdy and victorious leader vs. On the other side: Clothes thrown on the road, disciples dancing, palms waving well, except in the Gospel of Luke there are no palms But Jesus is pretty formidable anyway, right? Except according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is weeping. I don t know about all of you, but I ve got my 30 pieces of silver on the guy coming in with the battalion. C But here s the thing. For Jesus, it s all pre-planned to send a message. It s a procession deliberately schemed to show who reigns over the kingdom. It is a parade with a purpose and it is the opening round in a week s worth of confrontation between the kingdom of Caesar which is marked by power, violence and man-made glory and the kingdom of God which is marked by love, peace and eternal glory. Yes, the meaning of the parade for Jesus is clear, straight from the Old Testament prophesies of Zechariah who said: 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. You see, the means of transportation was part of the plan. Let s continue for another verse in Zechariah: 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 Jesus rides in on the colt on one side of the city while at the same time the chariot and warhorse and the weapons march in on the other side. This is not just lucky coincidence for the carpenter s son. It is a well thought out plan by the Son of God. To be clear, this is not Jesus against Judaism. Jesus was a part of Judaism, not set apart from it. This is also not about sacrifice. We have to be very careful with our language around the Holy Week texts. History has too often laid the blame at the feet of the people of Jewish faith, and they have suffered for it. C Power and Love 3 Searching for Palm Sunday April 14, 2019

4 Regardless of the name of the faith or religion, the denomination or church - the entry into Jerusalem was and is a protest against the use of the name of God as a means for dominating others. The powers that be, then and now, don t want the truth getting out that God is not about fear and control, God is bigger than that. The disciples are yelling the TRUTH, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven! And the authorities push back because peace doesn t keep people afraid of their neighbor. Peace doesn t keep immigrants out of our nation. Peace doesn t sustain systemic racism that keeps people in their place. And so Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, order your disciples to stop. (Jesus) answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out. Two processions entered Jerusalem on that day. Did the people cower at the one led by Pilate or rejoice at the one led by Jesus? The same question faces those who would be faithful to Jesus today. Which parade will we join? Are we lined up behind the kingdom of greed, Of violence, Of hoarding and scarcity? The kingdom that locks children in cages? The kingdom that puts the life of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in danger from white supremacists? The kingdom where CEOs of companies makes millions of dollars while their employees can t afford their medication? Or are we gathered in the kingdom of grace, The kingdom of peace, The kingdom of generous abundance? Honestly? I think most of us are stuck in the middle, trying to participate in both parades groping through Holy Week, stunned and burdened by our own love of power and our own role in Christ s death, but refusing to move on through the valley; because in the end it is a lot easier to keep Christ crucified and silent than to proclaim with our words and our actions the Good News of his resurrection. Yes the passion of Christ is the suffering and death of God s son. D But the passion of Christ also was and is justice. The passion of Christ was and is mercy. The passion of Christ was and is love. D Mercy love justice 4 Searching for Palm Sunday April 14, 2019

5 And so as we line up with our palms, and go out into a world that will largely ignore this holy week - will we march to the drum of judgment and condemnation? Or will we sing with the trumpet of new life? Will we be defeated by the valley while the world keeps moving all around us? Or are we ready to proclaim the Good News? Because we know, our King Jesus Christ, has already made it to the other side. In the name of the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. A B C D 5 Searching for Palm Sunday April 14, 2019

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