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Reflections on the Way

Rev. Dr. Karin Case and Sarah Higginbotham
Sun, Mar 25

Text: Luke 19:28-40

 

As we gather this morning, we remember a day long ago, near the end of Jesus’ life, when he went up to Jerusalem. It was a day just before the festival of Passover and many pilgrims from the hill country around Jerusalem were also going up to the holy city to celebrate the festival.

On that day, crowds gathered along the road, surrounding Jesus and shouting to him. Some lay their coats in the road, opening the way. Some climbed trees and cut branches. Some waved at him. Some came very close, hoping to catch a glimpse of this prophet and healer. There were folks who needed to touch him and feel for themselves if Jesus was real. Folks who had heard about his deeds of power. Some who doubted. Some who enjoyed the spectacle of a parade—any parade! And a few who were merely curious.

 In that crowd were men, women and children who were hurting and in need of comfort; folks who were sick and in need of healing; some who were afraid and in need of assurance. Some came to Jerusalem that day because Jesus had changed their lives and they would follow him anywhere. They had already had a taste of blessing. Some were part of the new community he was forming—a community of compassion and joy. Some gathered along the road because they had something to say and wanted to make their voices heard; because they believed in something and wanted to shout out!

And so, they gathered, calling out their testimony. “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace and glory in the highest heaven! Hosanna!”

They shouted out about the power of this gentle man, who came riding on a colt—our teacher and healer—the one who calls to account the principalities and powers, who sets a table with love and justice, and who welcomes all to the feast of life. Now that’s a reason to show up!

Scholars tell us that on that very day, on the opposite side of Jerusalem, another crowd was gathering. It was the day that Pontius Pilate came up to Jerusalem from one of his royal palaces to the west of the city. Pilate was the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, and he entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Pilate’s parade was a show of imperial force. Jesus’ procession proclaimed the power of God.

 The palm procession that heralded Jesus’ arrival was a counter-demonstration! Jesus’ community was full of folks who had tasted the power of God’s grace—a grace that transforms by a kind word, a gentle touch, a table set with food to share, a heart for justice. Not with swords, nor the power of empires. They were folks who knew that coming together is a powerful thing. That community makes us strong. That together, our voices will be heard.

 And they knew that they needed to tell of Jesus’ love.

 And this is why we gather today, waving our palms and shouting Hosanna! Because we, too, have been touched by the power of God’s grace and because we want to shout about it.

 

— Rev. Dr. Karin Case

 

 ---

 

The kids gather up front, bringing their palms.

Today we processed into the sanctuary in a large parade - it was crowded! Did you feel squished? Did you get jostled about? Was anyone shouting "Hosanna!" near you? Did you hear the bells? The organ? Were people singing?

We do this every year to re-create the parade that marched into Jerusalem, with Jesus at the center, riding a donkey. Many people came out to line the streets to see him pass by - they were definitely squished and jostled, according to the storytellers who wrote about it in the Bible.

Yesterday, some of us marched in a really, really big parade. It was led by teenagers, and there were many children marching, too. Were you there?

There's something pretty thrilling about being in a large group, focused on one message, using our voices and our bodies to be united as one. That's the point of today, Palm Sunday.

But sometimes we're not in a big crowd; sometimes we're alone. And that feels different. Let's try an experiment... Pick one child to stand up, shout/repeat after me "Hosanna! Hosanna!! Blessed is he! Who comes in the name! Of the Lord!" Then have all the kids stand up and surround that child, doing the same thing.

As we move through Holy Week, Jesus starts in a big crowd full of love and support, but later he finds himself alone, and his own cries start to place him apart from others, as he names the hard things that are coming. His cries become cries to God for help, for peace, for forgiving others. And the people who cheered together in the Palm parade also find themselves alone, and even a bit confused and frightened.

But even in the parts of the story where Jesus feels very alone, and the disciples feel alone, and we feel alone, God is with us. God is walking with us, even if our path has moved away from Jesus for a bit, even if we are scared or confused or nervous. God never leaves us. And then, just when it seems like all is lost, and we feel like we might just be alone for good, God shows us Joy in the amazingness of Easter morning. One week from today, we will gather here with the crowds to shout again and to celebrate the Love and Peace that God gives us in Jesus and the mystery of Easter.

So, in order to get through this coming week, when there's more darkness and alone-time, I want to give you something. Remember the part of the story Joanne read? She told us how when authorities told Jesus to quiet down the people in the Palm parade, he said that even if they were quiet, the stones would shout! So, I would like you to each take a stone from this bowl, to take with you through Holy Week. The stone is a reminder that even if you feel alone, even if you are quiet, you can know that the shouting will live on, that God stays right by your side all the way to Easter morning.

After kids take stones, I invite grown-ups to come take a stone at the end of the service if they'd like to carry a symbol through the week.

I then invite the kids to stay up front as we sing about marching/walking in the light of God…

 

— Sarah Higginbotham

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