Rev. Eric Dillenbeck
April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday

Scripture: Psalm 118: 1-2,19-29 & Mark 11:1-11

Psalm 118:1-2 & 19-29

1O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever! 2Let Israel say, “God’s steadfast love endures forever.” 19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! 26Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. 27The Lord is God, and God has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.

29O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”

6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God

“The Pomp, The Circumstance, The Set-Up”

I am probably in the minority here, but I am not a huge fan of parades; all of the standing around, the sun in your eyes, the waiting and I always feel bad for the organizers because the parade never ends up really celebrating the theme it was organized around.

For example, growing up I remember going to the annual thanksgiving parade. Being there was never about being thankful for those first pilgrims who became friends with those first Native-Americans; it was always about the candy the guys in the funny hats and little cars would throw out into the crowd.

And then you have parades cities throw for sports teams who win a big championship. Being there should be about pride in the team, but it’s really just an excuse for those gathered to overindulge and get rowdy.

Hmm… other famous parades. The inaugural parade. A time when the country gathers to celebrate the installation of a new president. We gather to celebrate a deeply political event. A time when our country should be united to celebrate a peaceful democracy at work. But in reality it always seems to be deeply divided, with commentators and politicians from both parties waxing poetic or whining about the outcome of the election depending on who is taking office.

Our story from the Gospel of Mark captures a very political parade taking shape in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus is approaching the sacred city, the heart of Roman authority. He comes to the city from the Mount of Olives, the place from which, according to the Prophet Zechariah, God will fight the nations and restore Jerusalem. Jesus approaches Jerusalem as a widely known figure, having performed miracles of healing; having worked out God’s care for all people by feeding thousands with loaves and fish. He approaches Jerusalem as the personification of the people’s hopes for a Messiah, a Jewish King who would save the people from Roman rule.

And as the dot on the horizon draws nearer, the people lining the streets are holding their branches prepared to fan the one who comes as they imagine what he will look like, how he will present himself on his approach into Jerusalem. And as they get their first glimpse of this Jewish king they chant,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

But as they chant some of them are probably wondering, “what’s that he’s riding?” Is that a donkey? Where’s the royal steed? Where’s that noble beast who intimidates his opponents, who symbolizes his royal power?

That young colt should be our first clue that things will not unfold as these crowds expect. The crowds have gathered to celebrate the coming of the mighty Messiah of God, the anointed one who will save their lives, who will restore Jerusalem and send those Roman’s running.

But this Messiah comes to town on the back of a beast of burden, on the back of an agricultural tool, not on the back of a weapon of war. He has not even entered Jerusalem and he is already subverting people’s expectations. Where people want Jesus to charge into town and save them from those awful Romans, Jesus prepares to challenge and confront the powers present in that city with disarming love, with the peaceful presence of the Living God.

On this day we commonly place ourselves among the crowds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. We regularly find ourselves waving palms, chanting “Hosanna,” praying for Christ to save us.

As we wave our palms this day, what are we expecting from this Messiah King? As we sit here at the beginning of Holy week do we feel a need to ask for Christ’s saving presence? From what are we wanting Christ to save us?

A pastor friend of mine told me about an experience he had with his confirmation class. They had scribbled questions on 3×5 cards for his “stump the pastor” segment of Confirmation. Four of the twelve cards asked: “Is Jesus the only way to salvation?”

Being an annoying pastor, he told them that before he would answer their question, they had to answer one for him. “Since salvation implies that you are being saved from something, what do you think Jesus is saving you from?”

Pushing past the obvious Sunday school answer of “hell,” he asked them to remember that the Hebrews on Palm Sunday were not on that street chanting hosanna because they were worried about hell. They wanted to be saved from the romans, from real life problems and concerns. So, he said, why would you be on that street? Why do you cry out Hosanna? Their responses were astounding:

One of the youth raised her hand and said, “Death.” Another one offered that God could really help him out by saving him from an upcoming math test. Then one of the seventh graders said, “Pressure.” And another youth said, “My parents’ expectations.” Then another, shy individual, almost in a whisper said, “Fear. I want God to save me from my fears.”

Can we dip down into our souls and be as honest as these young people were? When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, “Hosanna,” do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from?

Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression.

Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from the gridlock of government. Save me from bitterness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.

Somehow, when I think about what I really need saving from I find that I appreciate that subversive little colt.

I appreciate the Messiah who comes, not in the name of war, but in the name of peace; who comes to create paths of peace and grace in my life and for all God’s people. And as we stand poised at the beginning of this Holy Week I find myself crying:

Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna!

Hosanna!

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