Every Palm Sunday the story pulls us into that parade as we sing “Hosanna!” and process into this day waving branches from the Palm tree. Some churches make it a live drama with a donkey and someone riding in a garb meant to resemble Jesus, and children following on behind.
One year our youth began this service in that way. Our younger son was the donkey dresses in brown, with ears attached to a ski cap, and James Hager, riding in as Jesus, trying to stay balanced on his back.
They did manage to make it up the aisle to the chancel steps.
If we were to re-enact the Palm Sunday parade as scripted in the Gospel according to Luke, the one scheduled to be read today, did you pick up two details that call for changes when acting out the parade as Luke describes it?
Did you hear: “As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road” – the first detail:
CLOAKS, not branches tore from the palm trees that lined the road?
Luke doesn’t have nature giving up its growth to uses as flags to wave in a parade.
According to Luke it is people giving up their cloaks to carpet the dusty road.
Now it’s our turn; now it’s our time to spread our prized “cloaks” – to literally relinquish a possession we value almost as much as life itself – to make it a gift for Jesus, like those garments that were given to turn a city street into a carpeted royal walk-way for Jesus.
To cast off, to relinquish our best - whatever that may be - for Jesus.
And to spread our worthless “cloaks” – to cast the worst of who we are, the part of us that is like a coat carrying the fumes of fear, unsolved anger or guilt, that is like a jacket saturated with the stains of wrong choices, that is torn by violence done against us or hurts we have inflicted on others,
which we cast this Palm Sunday, right now, like a cloak, to be trampled under the hooves of a donkey
bearing the weight of Jesus on the way to His cross,
walking to the beat of an early Christian hymn the Apostle Paul passes on to us to read on Palm Sunday:
…he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
so that we may sing:
Amazing grace…that saved a wretch like me!
and pick up the lines of the spiritual:
Free, free, free, free/How you pick me up, turn me around me/Place my feet on solid ground.”
or Paul’s lyrics of the early Christian hymn:
…. at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 1and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now it’s our turn; now it’s our time to let the world see us marching in the order according to Luke’s Gospel:
“As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.” To spread their cloaks on the road for Jesus’ procession, the people would have walked AHEAD of Him; the second detail- “AHEAD” -
for how else could they have carpeted the way for Him to ride?
That means Jesus was in the middle or at the end of the parade; a sight that echoes John the Baptist’s announcement made at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry:
“Prepare the way of the Lord.”
With the spreading of their cloaks it appears that there were people who realized they were being called to take the lead, be out ahead, up front of the One they were committed to follow! In that upfront position they were letting themselves be seen by the sideline viewers both entertained and puzzled at the sight of a Man riding an under-sized donkey, and they were letting their faces be remembered by the political authorities of the temple and of the Roman governor; they were letting themselves be heard shouting,
‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’
The Rev. Dr. Nancy S. Taylor, senior pastor of Old South Church, Boston, says, “This is the day the church found its feet and found its voice and swore allegiance to the Prince of Peace.”(Day1.org Mar.20, 2016)
Now it’s our turn; now it’s our time to be seen announcing our allegiance to the One before Whom every knee should bend; now it’s our day to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is the day to renew our pledge to belong to God and not to the Caesars of today’s world, to let the church be heard speaking with the voice of Jesus,
that silences all the statistics that scare us into believing we live in a secular society that is turned off to
that today’s world has lost its desire to catch a glimpse of God caught in Christ-committed people whose lives echo with His justice and mercy, forgiveness and compassion heard in our speech and proven in our actions;
that today's world judges today’s Christians are a puny, irrelevant minority .
A couple found out how wrong that assumption is when they dropped their children off at church for choir rehearsal and then waited at a nearby restaurant. As they ate, light talk started with another couple until they
mentioned they had to head back to pick their children up at church. “Church?” asked the couple who wanted to know why they would be involved in a church,
and they told how they reached a time when they felt empty inside and happened to pick up a Bible which led them to look for a church where they could learn more.
They asked the couple to come with them to a Sunday service.
It was the invitation that, they later admitted, filled the emptiness that had been in their life.
That invitation happened because a couple had the courage and took the risk to be upfront followers of Jesus.
Now it’s our turn; now it’s our time to let the world see us marching at the head of the Palm Sunday parade,
taking the lead in living out our allegiance to Jesus, taking the risk, and finding the joy. Amen.