Palm Sunday- "The Unprecedently Holy"
Scripture: Luke 19: 28-42
Sermon: “The Unprecedented Holy”
Today begins Holy Week in the church liturgical year. It is Palm Sunday—the day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem! The day when Palm Branches are waved, Jesus is hailed as the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest. This is my first Palm Sunday with North Lonsdale in person, and it’s my 3rd year as your pastor. Unprecedented has been a word that’s been found on our lips more than once. And today, we read about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem—it’s unprecedented. A King enters…on a donkey.
When we plan big events, we go big! We get out the best flatware and cutlery, bring on the crystal glasses and the wine. Decorate until you drop—order floral arrangements, and bring out all the stops for a grand event. Palm Sunday is everything opposite of that. It is humble. It is small—less grand than we imagined. Yet, there is power in the small. Even a stone has power in this story. Jesus says if he silenced the praises from the disciples, the stones would shout out! The very foundation of our being—of creation, would dismiss any such order from a Pharisee. Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
This is a celebratory Sunday—as we begin. But as we come to a close at the end of our worship today, we will enter into the Passion Sunday, which leads us into this Holy Week. Today, we enter this sanctuary, this house of God, following our King. We come to this holy place to give thanks, to praise, and to adore. We pass through the gates of righteousness to worship.
Jesus rides in as one who identifies with the poor. God is showing glory not in a grandeur, magnificent way, but in something as small as a little colt—the one who holds the king. There is nothing impressive about it.
Jesus doesn’t want fame, he wants our hearts.
I was speaking with a friend awhile back who was at UBC when Yo-Yo Ma came to play in Vancouver. My friend was so excited and he was a part of the large symphony that were to play in the background, before Yo-Yo Ma was featured. Everyone was giddy! And my friend knew how excited all of his fellow musicians were. They were squeezing their way to the front row, so they might be as close to Yo-Yo Ma as possible. Ben sat at the back—to allow others to be closer. There was an empty seat by him, but he thought nothing of it. Yo-Yo Ma had some time to kill before he played up front, so he proceeded to sneak in around the back and take the empty chair! My friend was ecstatic!! Yo-Yo Ma was sitting next to him—in the back row! Ma decided to just play along with the symphony before his performance. AND…he turned the pages of my friend’s book while he played along. I love this story. Someone as world renowned as Yo-Yo Ma sits next to a young boy musician in the back row, unassumingly, and turns the pages that the younger man might be able to continue playing his part of the greater song.
Palm Sunday is teaching us to let go. Let go of how we think things should be. Let go of what we would normally expect. Let go of our own expectations for our life. Surrender—to God and lean into the purposes that God has for us, not that we expect for us.
As we come to the end in this season of Lent, which has been a time of penitence and confession, we remember our own struggle with sin, and we rejoice in the grace and mercy of God. The Christian life is a victory due not to our own strength, but to the glory and passion of God. On this Sunday, we wave the branches, we shout “Hosanna!” We are right there with the crowd, going along with the crowd, and we will inevitably follow the crowd to the cross.
My in-house theologian, Jason Byassee, writes this: “Jesus turns what we expect upside down. He’s a king on a little donkey. He’s a ruler on a cross. He is God in a tomb.”
When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, he is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 “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.” While a multitude of disciples sing the words from Psalm 118:26 “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
This is where it turns to the Passion of Christ. In verses 41-42 we read and hear that things make a turn. Jesus sees the city of Jerusalem, and weeps. The peace we seek is only one that Jesus can give, “and that peace cannot be found apart from the journey that leads to Golgatha, both for him and for those that would be his disciples.”
Luke’s Palm Sunday account echoes his Christmas story. Angels appeared and sang “Peace on Earth,” when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:14). Now, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem, the people sing “Peace in heaven.” William G. Carter writes that “Heaven sings of peace on earth. Earth echoes back, peace in heaven.’” He writes that as the church gathers this day, we are caught in the crossfire of blessings.
Jesus knows what ‘things’ have to take place. He knows what it takes for peace to come. We come to Palm Sunday and are reminded that it is a day of contrasts. We begin with songs of Hosanna and we’ll turn to inevitable sorrow. The city that welcomes Jesus, will also be the ones who shout for his death.
We come to this world with our own set of contrasts and contradictions. I have a friend who carries a gun in her purse for…what? Fear? Ironically, what we think makes us stronger, can have all sorts of consequences. Often the ‘strong’ are strengthened by holding off the weak. We live daily admist contrast. We’re here worshipping together, and Ukraine is being ravishly bombed and horrific crimes are happening. We often can’t find the words when we pray. Lord, be our peace. Be the peace for the people of Ukraine, and let this unimaginable violence end.
We come today and wonder, what can we do? What are the “things” that will make for peace?
Small things do matter. Every prayer, every donation to help support Ukraine, every effort made for peace in your own life and with your neighbour and beyond.
A father was having a conversation with his son, and the son was frustrated with the overwhelming pain in the world. The father calmly said to the son, “we will never have peace on earth until we can quiet the wars within our own hearts.” Every heart matters.
Lord Jesus…make way for peace…in all our hearts, and in all the world.
Here’s some hope! We have the opportunity to welcome back home to Canada a family from Ukraine—Valeri, Tatiana, Daniel & Gabriel and Benjamin. Thanks be to God! In very small ways, we can help to bring God’s peace to a hurting world. The act of Jesus on the cross is a sign of God’s vulnerable love, which risks everything and promises to gain all.
My grandmother gave me a book that was a beloved book to her. One she reread often, an old book called “The Robe,” by Lloyd Douglas. It is the passion story told in a creative way. There’s a scene where Jesus is coming to Jersusalem, riding on a donkey. The crowd is waving palms that they’d grabbed from the trees nearby, and they were celebrating this king. Someone in the story was straining to see Jesus and asked “how does he look?” “Is he and old man?” No, not very. “What does he look like? Like a king?” Finally the fellow who could see clearly, watched the well-favoured Jew slowly advance on the shaggy white donkey, and said nothing in reply. The man who struggled to see past the crowd was impatient. Tell me! “Is he a king?” No…said the man in a puzzled voice…but—he is something more important than a king.” This is Jesus. This is peace. Son of David. Hosannah in the highest. Thanks be to God. Amen.
 Jason Byassee, Psalm Sunday, BUMC.
 George W. Stroud, Feasting on the Word Commentary.
 FOW, WGC.
 FOW, Pastoral Section.