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The Nourishing Place

Sermon, April 5, 2020   Palm Sunday 

One week from today we celebrate our faith tradition’s Highest Holy Day…Easter Sunday.  

But today is Palm Sunday.  This day can be colorful, uplifting, and exciting for us who are believers, who have experienced the saving Grace of Christ. But for Jesus, 2000 years ago,  he felt two opposing emotions mixed together.  One emotion was a peaceful  joy that his mission on earth was coming to an end and he had endured to complete what God had asked him to do.  The other emotion was one of intense sadness, that his people, the Jewish people, had  for the most part not believed his message of Grace, Goodness, and God-love.  When he topped the hill that looked down on Jerusalem, he tucked his feet up under him so he would not fall off the little colt he was riding, and he wept great tears of grief.   

Perhaps he wept because he may have thought he failed in his mission to bring all people into the reign and realm of God. Maybe he wept because he knew his earthly life was very soon coming to an end...and he did love to live.  But knowing his compassion, he cried for his people, the Jewish people, for not accepting the great peace, comfort, strength, and love Jesus offered them. They seemed to prefer   cruel self-centered leaders, pomp, military might, and extravagance at the cost to common people. Jesus cried for the people he loved.  

Today, he might still cry over most of us when we do not act on or give to others the powerful, unending love each of us has within to give give generously to friends and enemies alike.   

Does your withholding of love for some people cause Jesus to weep for you?  That is a question each of us must take time to consider...and change our actions if needed. 

We celebrate Palm Sunday as a special day, but do we really know why we do so? 

We have heard the story over and over again about Jesus sending two men to find a donkey and the foal of a donkey which would be tethered close by and bring it to him to ride.  We also know that as Jesus  rode toward Jerusalem his disciples, a few followers, perhaps not as many as he had hoped for, lined his path and put down greenery, palm leaves, and even cloaks to honor him as worthy, a tradition long associated with Jewish heroes.  But why did Jesus’ followers reenact this scene?   

This is why:  They were fulfilling a prophecy found in the Prophet Zechariah’s (9:9) writings that claim one day the Messiah, the savior of the Jewish people, would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey or colt, entering  humbly with an offering of eternal peace to all.  

The prophecy also told people would lay palm branches and other greenery in the path because a palm branch is a symbol of peace, but more importantly it is a symbol of victory.  The people creating this scene knew the prophecy and they were proclaiming it is here, it has come to pass...this is the king, the messiah we have long awaited.  And they sang from the Psalms (118:25-26) “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.”  Thus Jesus entered Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace, for all of us, yet being recognized as such by only a few. 

Here is the rest of that story.  Across town Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, was also entering Jerusalem at the command of Rome’s Emperor Tiberius, to keep the peace during the large Passover Festival which was beginning on that very day.  Pontius Pilate and his parade of strutting horses ridden by hundreds of mounted soldiers and hundreds of others marching beside him, swords raised in anticipation of a rebellion, entered Jerusalem feeling and acting like they were the victorious ones. 

To the dismay of Jesus, thousands of his Jewish people lined the streets cheering Pilate and his military might, singing praises to Rome. By comparison, Jesus’ entry was minor in appearance, yet eternal and truly victorious for us.   

We know the glorious end of the story, which event is truly victorious.  Yet that story is still a beginning for many new believers.  We know what happened just a week after that first Palm Sunday.  Jesus was murdered.  But the power of his great love, concern, compassion and forgiveness lives on this day for us and in us to honor, cherish and to share.   

As this day progresses, let each of us remember Jesus rode a donkey, not a war horse.  Peace is still the way he travels and the way he asks us to travel, and to be, every day.  Together may we repeat often these words, “Lord, we lift up your name.  With hearts full of praise, be exalted, our Lord, Our God!  Hosanna in the highest!