Palm Sunday is when EVERYBODY is on parade , some are quite visible in the Gospel scene:
the people coming into Jerusalem from the countryside, hoisting spontaneous banners of leafy branches torn from the roadside trees, carpeting the dusty road with their coats, creating an instant band using their voices as the instruments to raise the music of their cheers, with the color guard and majorettes being children dancing to and fro in front of and around Jesus. The “everyone” in Palm Sunday’s parade depicted by artists and filmmakers
But there are many more who stand on the edge and in the shadows of the Gospel report of
“a very large crowd.”
Jesus knows who they are:
some are scribes (the human, first-century printing press) dedicated to getting the jot and tittle – the smallest pen strokes of Hebrew words, correct, for each affects the meaning; and the Pharisees, charged with holding to the Law. Among them are those who are discussing it and listening intensively to Jesus, while others are gathering their evidence to silence Him.
Jesus knows behind the cheers of the day are the heated arguments, the trap-setting questions, and the disgusting sight of the outer courts of the Temple turned into a for-profit business putting a high price tag on offerings required in worship; along with the showmanship of the religious leaders dressed in bejeweled robes, standing in full view and turning their prayers into a public performance for all to hear how pious they are.
Jesus looks around at what the Gospel writers will later report is “a very large crowd.” He knows the mind and heart of many who are giving Him this impromptu palm-waving, cheering parade; He knows some have high hopes that He will establish a stable tax-free government; equal treatment under the law; food for the hungry, a home for the homeless, a perfect health plan at no cost, fertile fields and vineyards heavy with a harvest, and most of all.
He also knows there individuals who are longing to find peace for guilt-ridden hearts, broken bodies and unsettled minds, peace to separated families, and war-torn lands; everywhere - peace.
Jesus looks around at His chosen friends, His twelve He has been tutoring to see God is working though Him to make every human being a “new creation,” God’s new race, living to the beat of love He is on His way to make visible for all to see, for all to receive.
But He already knows two have mixed motives; they are imagining holding the top offices in His administration;
one will go over to the other side and take a bribe to set up His arrest that will lead to trial and death;
the Hebrew’s high court, the seat of justice, will pay individuals to swear to false evidence.
The Roman governor, charged with holding to the high standards of justice and due process of law, washes his hands in an act of slithering out of acting justly.
Peter will deny ever knowing Him and the other twelve, except for one, all will disappear by Good Friday.
Only a Roman soldier on guard at the foot of the cross and some women, including His mother, will stay by Him
from Palm Sunday through Good Friday.
Jesus sees EVERYONE, present and absent, cheering and silent;
EVERYONE is on parade before Him.
Each year when the calendar of the church, schedules this Holy Week reenactment of the last week in Jesus earthly ministry, everyone is taking up one of the roles of the scribes and the Pharisees, the Hebrew court, the Temple’s priests and marketers, Pilate, the Twelve, an awe-struck, faith-confessing Roman soldier, a few grieving, serving women.
Which one are we on this day that is EVERYONE’S Parade?
Or might we be not one, but several?
Step into the scene that is updated to our news that hasn’t gotten any better; some would say it is worse than the first Holy Week’s procession to Good’s Friday’s execution by crucifixion. Now we witness new executioners of innocent adults and helpless children; and the darkened skies and trembling earth that became nature’s backdrop for Jesus’ last gasp of breathe are now an impending heating up of the earth, melting icecaps, and arid land turned into vast desserts!
The newest issue of National Geographic pictures the future of humans as a bleak, slow-pace parade into a gloom and doom existence.
All the more reason to be the some-ones in everyone’s Palm Sunday parade, whose gaze is fixed on Jesus from week’s beginning to week’s end, and whose ears keep ringing with Jesus’ earlier promise:
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)
Eyes and ears fixed on Jesus Who intends to pull us from the sidelines and the gloom and doom predictions, by lifting us up into His love on the cross and sending us into a future filled with His living Presence, released, let loose on Easter morning.
Will you be one in the midst of everyone who lets Jesus pull you into the company of the some-ones who join the early Christians in singing: at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.?
“Remember,” says Dennis Bratcher in a Palm Sunday sermon, that early Christian hymn Paul quoted in his letter, (and we hear today) was sent “to the Philippians from his jail cell!” ( Dennis Bratcher, “The Poured-Out Life: The Kenosis Hymn in Context”)
Pastor Michael Foss hears in those words “The Call and the Promise of Forever” which enabled Abraham Lincoln "to do great things because he had a humble, serving heart. One quote of his that Pastor Foss loves is:
‘Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower could grow.’” (Rev. Dr. Michael Foss, Pastor, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, York, PA)
Amid predictions of gloom and doom, will you be that some-one who bends a knee as Jesus passes by and raises the confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord, MY Lord, My Savior!”? .Amen.
Sermon of Confirmation Class - 10:45 AM ; "Our Gospel Four:
Text: Philippians 2: 12-13; Matthew 21: 10
Knowing that this year’s Confirmation Class numbers four, I have come to call them “our Gospel four,”
and I promised them that this SHORT sermon would be a time to associate each one of their names with a Gospel.
First there’s Matthew, the disciple, who was a tax collector, good with math, whose mind was a calculator (for that is all there was then; no electronic devices – just one’s head).
Of our “Gospel four,” our Matthew can tells us what the answer is even before we write down the numbers;
and like the Gospel writer who has given us an orderly record of Jesus’ life, our Matthew is good at straightening up our cluttered table;
so the Gospel named Matthew is a natural choice for one of our four whose name is Matthew.
Then there’s the Gospel written by Mark; the shortest of the four Gospels, giving us a biography of the ministry of Jesus that’s told in precise descriptions, all following a mystery-like pattern to see if we spot how people are reacting to Jesus. From those shouting out condemnation, to those raising trick questions, to those plotting His death, to those called to be His closest friends, running away in fear at the sight of His empty tomb…each of whom are meant to draw us into probing and asking where we are in the story, and urging us on to read the later additions that describe Jesus’ followers running out into the world where they let Jesus continue His ministry through them.
The Gospel named Mark is a possible choice for one of our four whose demeanor is much like the Gospel writer’s way of writing an account of Jesus, and that one is Kyle: quiet, observant, likes things to be concise and brief, yet seeing what others may not notice; the same demeanor of the Gospels writer named Mark.
Then there’s the Gospel according to Luke, a Gentile among Jews, a physician, who shows Jesus making Himself at home with everyone in a culture filled with hatred and high walls built to segregate people of
different religions, cultures, and classes; Luke who gives the stories of God in Christ welcoming the no-good son home, a despised Samaritan being the only one to help a victim of robbers, left to die by the side of the well-
The Gospel named Luke is a good choice for Caroline who loves to be out-and-about, mingling with everyone, and wanting to know the Jesus Luke pictures in his Gospel.
And, the fourth Gospel according to John, differs from the other three. It’s filled with word-pictures of Jesus portrayed in everyday scenes and through everyday words, such as: water, bread, light, gate, way, resurrection and life.
When Chrisanne was asked what she liked to do, and I jumped in with the answer, “It’s to play the piano, isn’t it?” she said, “I like to draw.”
That was the queue for the Gospel name: John, the artist whose brush was words used to paint portraits of God-in-Christ made visible for all to see, and like Thomas, say, “My Lord and my God!”
Having tied each of our “Gospel Four” to a name of one of the four Gospels, I will admit there is some of each Gospel in all four, and each is a version they will write in their own words, in their own way; each will be a living, ongoing story of Jesus, personalized by them…which prompts me to tell of a couple whose work took them to a new city – as some of you came to make your home in Collegeville.
The wife decided to take up her hobby of woodcarving and to do a piece depicting the Last Supper, using new-found friends in the neighborhood as models; knowing that, they asked, “But what about Jesus?” and she said, “That is a problem, because I see traits of Him in so many of you.”
“Traits of Jesus in …you” in each of you, our Gospel Four, as you become your own version of God’s Good News in Jesus. Our “Gospel Four” – a work of art commissioned today with Paul’s charge carried forward…just for you:
…my beloved, … work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you
both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Amen.