Call to Worship
Open the gates of justice that we may enter and praise God within them!
Here, at the gate of the Holy One, we bring our thanks and praise.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
Blessed are you, who come to worship the one who calls us and leads us into life.
We bring our thanks and praise to God,
For if we were silent, the very stones we tread would shout out!
Gracious, sustaining source of all our days, you invite us to follow Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, to wave our palm branches in joyous greeting, and to shout out our blessings and thanks as he rides triumphantly through the streets. You invite us to join him at supper as he breaks bread and calls it his body, and as he pours wine and calls it his blood. As we wait with the disciples for a new dawn, give us the strength to walk with Jesus, who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Amen.
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Luke 19: 28-40
UMH # 278 – Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
TFWS #2111 – We Sang Our Glad Hosannas, verses 1,2,3
UMH # 280 – All Glory, Laud, and Honor, 1,3,5
We celebrate Palm Sunday every year, which means I have at least 7 previous written sermons. I read then over this year to see if any might be usable. Would you remember what I have preached before? As I read them, and remembered why I wrote them I realized that none was just right for today. All of them are meaningful; all focus on the different perspectives and meaning of Palm Sunday.
This year as I read the very familiar scripture several times, one phrase really jumped out at me. It was about the stones and how if all the people were quieted they would shout!
All through Lent I have asked us to deepen our understanding of what God offers us. What might these stones mean to us, why would they shout? Today as Jesus begins his journey to the cross he walks on these very stones of Jerusalem. I have walked over those same stones. And for me they held the message not only of Jesus but also of all the others that have traveled them.
In the verses that are just past our scripture today, Jesus comes near the city and he weeps. He says; “if you, even you had only recognized on this the day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” He then continues to prophesized the destruction of Jerusalem because the people did not recognize that God had indeed come to them in the form of Jesus.
If those living in the time of Jesus didn’t’ not recognize that Jesus was the messiah, the subsequent ages has firmly rooted that belief in the city of Jerusalem. Millions travel each year to experience the places Jesus was, to feel the power and presence of God in this ancient place. Jerusalem is actually the most visited city in the world with over 3.5 million tourists in a single year. Many of these millions of people have walked over the very stones that Jesus walked. The stones are worn from so many footsteps.
Jerusalem is filled with churches, Christian religious sites, as well as Muslim, Jewish and Armenian temples, mosques and places of significance. The Christian heritage shares the same space with all the others and as you walk though the city you cross four main areas representing these cultural groups. A woman in a berka may pass by a Hassidic Jew as they walk along the way of the cross or the Via Dolorosa. So many foot falls, so many traditions on the very same stones.
When Jesus was riding into Jerusalem the crowds were elated, joyful, celebratory as they sang, and laid their coats and palm branches in front of him. They were welcoming this man, this Son of God, this hoped for Messiah that they have long awaited.
This was also the week before Passover so Jerusalem was filled to overflowing with people. Every Jew that could would come to the temple to celebrate Passover. For the Roman government this was not a favorite week. In face it was a week that extra Roman solders and officials were brought into Jerusalem to supervise and put down any trouble made by the great number of Jews. It was an anxious time for fear that there might be a major Jewish uprising.
Obviously Jesus coming in, exciting the crowds bringing the promise of a Messiah, a Lord a King only increased the tension. There is a lot going on, the city is packed and all these different people are walking over the very same stones on the very same paths into and out of the city.
One thing that everyone has in common is a desire for peace. Jesus’ followers desire peace, relief from their oppression and persecution. They desire to have a new type of relationship with God. A relationship that allows honors the poor, the widow, and the helpless and does not favor Herod and his religious leaders.
The great multitude along the road into Jerusalem declares Jesus to be the one who comes in the name of the Lord and who represents heaven’s peace and glory. Even though the multitude sings of peace and glory in heaven, it fails to recognize the price of true peace. The crowd does not understand that Jesus is not an example of some larger notion of peace. He is not coming to overthrow the Romans in a show of power and might. He is not going bring peace to the world. Instead Jesus is the people’s peace. The Kingdom is not going to be of the world but reside only in the hearts of the people. Jesus is the peace that only he can give and that peace cannot be found apart from the journey that leads to Golgotha.
The Romans desire peace, the cessation of these troublesome Jews and their demands. They desire to ease the friction between the idea of Roman Gods and law and this new faith from this radical, poor rabbi. Jesus’ idea of peace is not congruent with Romans. Peace in Jerusalem is going to look as different as the people who desire it.
So the tension between these ideas of peace, of God of who is Lord is palatable and even thought the crowds are happy the Pharisees caution Jesus to “order your disciples to stop.” Here is when Jesus lets them know that there is no stopping what is happening. There is no stopping Jesus’’ journey to the cross and they is no stopping this radical new upstart faith. He says: “ I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Jesus is saying that I speak of a ture peace that is too good to have its mouth shut. You may be able to silence my disciples and me but this message is as strong as these stones and it will resurface, it will survive. In fact you may kill all of my disciples but God will raise up more. Finally even if you think you have silenced us all, this type of injustice will not prevail. No wonder this journey would end in Jesus death. Yet his voice was not a shout, he did not speak from the back of a powerful white horse, his followers were not the rich and influential. The meaning of his message of peace and change and justice was from God. God has put this peace in the hearts of the people since God created them. This what the stones said then and today. They shout peace!
We are those stones today. When we examine Palm Sunday we have to see our part in the story. What is the part we play 2000 years later? We love to wave the palms, and sing hosanna but there must be more. We have to be as resilant and strong as the stones. We have to be that place of peace. Its God’s peace not ours. God’s peace is present to comfort us and to make us uncomfortable.
When we experience God’s peace it brings us the love and grace of God and it also pushes us out into the world to work for change. So whether we have actually walked upon the stones of Jerusalem, our own feet sharing the places that million have walked. Or if we as a community figuratively walk this path we share in the responsibility of finding a greater good, a greater peace, true justice for all. Our lives should be a pilgrimage; walking in the footsteps of Jesus and realizing that what gives us comfort also gives us purpose.
Today is filled with visual, tactile reminders of this very special day. There are palm branches that we wave in celebration as we sing our hosannas. We honor Jesus and his courage to make this journey. We have the palm crosses to move us into the reality that these palms lead to the cross. There are nails in some of the crosses a pointed and painful reminder that this is not an easy journey. Our faith journeys never are, they are suppose to move us into greater belief and greater action. Then there are the stones, objects of absolute strength and tenacity. Jesus’ message is so strong so powerful that if every voice was silenced the very stones would cry out. It is the testament to the strength of our faith. But now that message is up to us. Jesus, his disciples and followers are gone. We have to be willing to speak it, to act it, to walk it. Take a stone and remember the strength and power of this radical message of Palm Sunday. Amen.