Sermon 3-28-21 Palm

Sermon 3-28-21       The Rev. Jen Van Zandt

NEW TESTAMENT READING      Luke 19:29-40 

 29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 

36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Speaking on Our Behalf

Well, this is a well-known story that certainly initially doesn’t have a happy ending and many people aren’t comfortable with enduring the hard facts of the story of Jesus’ passion. As soon as Palm Sunday service is over, they scramble to get out the pastel clothes, start dying eggs, making plans for Easter dinner, even in this liminal space we’re in right now.  We are literally caught between the rocks and the hard place.  But before we get to that, I want you to take a look at the text again.  Really, right now take a look at the text again.  (Pause)

Where do you place yourself in the story?  Honestly… think who you’d be in this story. Do you imagine yourself as one of the disciples going ahead to get the colt?  And, if so, what is your conversation with each other to and fro?  Is it jovial?  Is it matter of fact?  Are you complaining about having to do this job or are you eager to get Jesus on the colt and get to honor and laud Him as He rides to Jerusalem to meet His destiny?  Are you aware and in belief that what He has foreshadowed is really going to take place?  Or maybe you’re secretly hoping that Jesus can pull some strings and outsmart the authorities and set Himself free.  Maybe you’re the colt owner, having no clue or interest in what’s happening.  You just want to go about your business and stay out of the fray.  Or maybe as the colt owner you’re curious about the purpose of the colt for this radical teacher.  Or maybe you’re one of the ones who immediately sees Jesus and you immediately throw down your cloak to honor Him and soften His ride into Jerusalem.  Or maybe you haven’t been a believer very long and you’re just… not…. quite sure… what this whole thing is about, but you’re happy to go along and see what happens… until it’s uncomfortable.  Are you one of Jesus’ closest friends and you already have a pit in your stomach, because you know this is the beginning of Jesus actually carrying out His full responsibilities as the Son of Man.  Or maybe you want to go with Jesus, but you just don’t have it in you to go the distance and you stop short at the gate of Jerusalem.  Or maybe you’re one of the Pharisees that actually wants to keep the peace and not upset the Roman government so that you get sent away to other places.  Or maybe you just don’t know, because you’re just tired.  You want your life back.  You just don’t have the energy to go any deeper than you (and all of us) have already been in the last year.  Or maybe you’re the donkey.  We’re all donkeys from time to time.  Sometimes we’re foolish; sometimes we’re carrying extra loads; sometimes we just dig our heels in and refuse to take a step further.

I don’t have to remind you what a long journey this has been, and we all have a short bandwidth of patience.  We’re all sick of the cold.  We’re all sick of wearing masks.  We’re sick of our spouses.  We’re sick of remote learning.  We’re sick of Zoom.  We’re sick of working at home in our laundry room or in a dark basement.  We’re sick of not being able to go out and go where and when we want to.  And we’re sure sick of not being able to worship together.  That one is still a bitter pill to swallow.  As we started to sing the hymn, I couldn’t get through it, because the tears welled up once again that we will still need to be apart for a while longer.

But this is only the beginning of the story of Hope.  Jesus already models for us that He is going to do the hard work on our behalf.  Jesus sees our humanity and our sinful ways and realizes it has to be atoned, because sometimes we just cannot help ourselves.  And Jesus knows that He’s willing to do the hard work that sometimes we just can’t do ourselves. 

The beauty about going through Palm Sunday, into Maundy Thursday, into the depths of the suffering on Good Friday, is that there is hope in the Resurrection.  And all throughout the last year, a lot of us have lost hope in a lot of things, and a lot of people, and a lot of institutions, even in our marriages and our relationships, we have had struggles in holding onto hope.  But even when we do, as the text says, “the very stones can cry out” and give us that message of hope–concrete messages of hope–that we deeply need. And we’re actually going to hear some of those messages of hope right now.

You all were invited to write a message of some sort on a rock, so that when we are silenced in our fear and our anxiety and our weaknesses, there are words on rocks to give us hope and they are displayed right here (arranged at the base of the wooden cross on the chancel).  And so I’m going to ask Martel to get up and read out some of the messages of hope that were written on these stones: (Martel walks to the cross and picks up several of the stones, reading aloud each one)

“Peace”, “Love”, “Grace”, “Trust”, “Walk by Faith not by Sight”, “I Am with You Always”

The beauty of these messages is that they are now literally painted on, or ‘etched in stone’.  These are the messages that we can hear and receive and take in, in this difficult liminal space because Palm Sunday is a bittersweet day.  It’s a celebration of our Lord Christ, who gets on an unridden colt because every king always had an unridden colt and already knew that they’d be a king even before they got into Jerusalem.  This king however, is going to do far more work for you and for me and for the world than any other king in the past, in the present, or in the future.

So, friends do not lose hope.  Let Jesus meet you in the depths of your suffering and then come out the other side being freed up by the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.