A homily prepared for Red Door Healing Service, Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
Friday, April 7 2017
Gospel Text: Palm Sunday/Liturgy of the Palms, Year A
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.”
This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Blessed in the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
As we read this Gospel, I can practically see this scene playing out. Before we even get to this road on the outskirts of Jerusalem the crowds have been growing. They have been fed, miraculously. They have seen healing, they have been taught lessons that suggest something beautiful lies beyond the political rule by foreign powers that can feel repressive and overbearing. These crowds have heard that the poor are blessed; that the meek shall inherit the earth. They have followed this man, hearing stories of this prophet as he has moved through the Judean country-side, on the shores of Galilee, from town to town and village to village. And now, as word travels, it’s looking like today will be the big day. This Prophet who brings a new vision of hope, of the power of God available to all of God’s people and not just a select few powerful leaders…this prophet is making his way into Jerusalem. And this crowd…and all of us in it…are going to have a prime view for his triumphal entry.
I can imagine the news spreading, the crowd growing. I can imagine them thinking: we need to honor this prophet and his entrance. This prophet who has been foretold as Messiah, who will ride triumphantly into town. The crowds, we are told, went on ahead of him. They spread their cloaks and cut branches from trees and spread them out on the road, making a path constructed by what was available from nature, and their own resources, to welcome this arrival to a longed-for future reign of one who was coming in the name of the Lord.
If I was going to put a modern-day spin on this scene, this would be a crowd gathered in solidarity, holding their experiences of oppression mixed with the sweet taste of hope to sing “We Shall Overcome!” as their social justice hero came to town to challenge the ruling, oppressive authorities. It wasn’t a parade to celebrate how good things were; it was hope-filled gathering of discipleship, triumphantly welcoming a change in the tide that could liberate the oppressed and set in motion a new kind of justice that would change the world.
Hosanna! Blessed in the One who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have the gift and challenge of hearing this story without blinders on. We know history. We know Palm Sunday inaugurates Holy Week. We know that the triumphal entry will soon move to a different procession where Jesus leads not on a donkey, but bearing the wood of the cross on which he is to be crucified.
But those events have not yet unfolded for the crowds we read about today. On this day, their hopes are with this prophet who some are proclaiming as the Messiah, who others are whispering is not only the messianic Son of Man but also the Son of God, a prophet, priest and king who is both wholly us and wholly divine. There is hope, and there is mystery. There is proclamation, and there are questions. There is a loud cry of Hosanna! and hushed whispers of what might come next. On this day, as palms and branches are strewn in the street, and our cloaks come from off our own shoulders to make the way for the one who comes in the name of the Lord, we are filled with hope and wonder. Even here, even in the shadow of the cross, even with the hope of resurrection peeking over the Easter horizon: we are left standing together, in the midst of an abundant crowd looking for Him, hoping to catch a glimpse, filled with hope and wonder.
What do we remove from our lives to lay down before the triumphant messiah who is coming to bring justice? What branches do we cut down and lay before the Lord? Who is standing with us? What freedom songs are we singing as we wait for Jesus to come in glory? Do we hear the voices of other prophets…old and new? What are the changes we are seeking, in our lives and in the world? Will we be surprised by the donkey on which he arrives, or will we smile and nod, knowing that power and glory sometimes arrive in the most humble of the beasts of burden. This messiah is our messiah; this crowd is our community, the people of God, us. This day is filled with our hope, as we journey together, linking arms and lifting our voices:
Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!