april 5th, 2020 – Palm Sunday

Reading #1
O God you are very great; you are clothed

with splendour and majesty. 

The heavens declare your glory, the skies

proclaim the work of your hands.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.


The Lord wraps himself in light as
with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers
on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on
the wings of the wind.


He set the earth on it foundations;
it can never be moved.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines,
they give water to all the beasts of the field.


How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established
it on the waters.
                          (from Psalm 104 & Psalm 8)
God of Love,
Hallow the hyperspace between us.


You created us for community,
You created us to need one another’s
presence, but now our loving solidarity
requires our loving separation.
In what may become a long loneliness,
we lean fully on Your love,
from which no quarantine
can separate us.
We pray to you, O God,
Do not be distant. Be with us.
                                  (Beth Carlson-Malena)

Psalm 27  (click here for audio link)

Lord, You are our light and our salvation
Why should we be afraid
Lord, You are our shelter, protector and defender
Why should we be afraid
Hear us O Lord, answer our prayers
Have mercy on us, Our hearts have heard You say


Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming, Lord, you say
Come, come with Me, Our hearts will say
Lord we are coming,  O Lord
Reading #2:     
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.


The Lord is God,
and he has made his light shine on us.


Reading #3:    
Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it,
you will find a colt tied there which  no-one has ridden. 
Untie it and bring it here. 
If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 


Those who were sent ahead went and found it
just as Jesus had told them. 
As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 
The disciples brought it to Jesus,
threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 


As he went along,
a large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from trees, and spread them on the road. 


The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted:
                        Hosanna in the highest!
                        Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
                                                                                   (from Isaiah 61, Luke 4, Psalm 119, Mark 11)

Holy Lord  (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy, holy Lord

God of power and might

Heaven and earth of Your glory are full

Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest


Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Today is the beginning of what has been called Holy Week.  It is a time in which we are invited to journey with Jesus through the last week of his life.  Of course this framing of things is from the perspective of looking backwards in time.  Those around Jesus, even his disciples, wouldn’t have known the way the events of the week would unfold.  On several occasions, the Gospel writers point out that they didn’t fully understand what was happening right in front of them until much later.  I point this out because sometimes it’s easy to frame the week in a concrete fashion, scripting it in a way that misses the dynamic choices that shaped the trajectory of events.  If we open ourselves to the humanity found in these stories, we may gain a new appreciation for the man people called Jesus, while at the same time, being pulled deeper into the mystery of the Saviour called Jesus. So with that, let’s join in with Jesus and his disciples and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. 


Just a quick side note:  In rudimentary form, Passover commemorates the people of Israel being led from Egypt, out of slavery, to become a free people in their own land.  In the Exodus account, Moses asks the Egyptian Pharaoh to free God’s people from their slavery.  The Pharaoh refused over and over again to grant Moses’s request, which in turn, resulted in a series of plagues.  The final plague was described as the coming of the Angel of Death, whose visitation would result in the loss of life of every first-born son in the land.  Moses warned the people of Israel that they needed to be ready to leave on short notice. To save time, they were to bake bread without using yeast.  In addition, Moses instructed the people to kill a lamb and use the blood to paint their doorframes so that the Angel of Death would ‘pass by’ them. Hence the name ‘Passover.’  In the time of Jesus, the main focus of the Passover festival revolved around sacrificing a lamb at the Temple and eating a meal mirroring the last meal before leaving Egypt.  In these two actions there was a retelling of God’s faithfulness to God’s people and a reminder of God’s sovereign plan for them. 


Ok, back to Palm Sunday…


As Beverly read, Jesus’s arrival into Jerusalem caused quite a stir.  The story strikes me as being a little bit funny  – Jesus seems to have a bit of dramatic flair.  It’s on his instructions that the disciples find a donkey for him to ride into the city.  As is often the case with Jesus, he is understated in his words, while at the same time making a grand declaration with an action. I think this is going on here.   In this story there is very little spoken by Jesus but how he enters the city makes a huge statement about who he is.


If you look in the Gospels, the headings above the accounts describing Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem say things like, ‘The Triumphal Entry’ or ‘Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as a King.’  It’s easy to understand how it can be categorized that way.  In the stories, people were waving palm branches and shouting hosanna.  In the culture of the time, the palm branches were symbols of victory, triumph, and eternal peace.  The word ‘hosanna’ literally means ‘Please, save us!’ but through time, its transliteration came to mean ‘Salvation has come!’  In many ways the people around Jesus were declaring him to be their King, their Messiah.  It was good news for the people.


While all this is true, we should take a minute to consider that there may have been some disconnect between what the people were expecting Jesus to be and the true nature of Jesus.  I suspect at times there is disconnect even for us between what we want Jesus to be and who he reveals himself to be.


In itself, Palm Sunday seems to raise the issue of Kingship and Kings.  What is it that comes to mind when you think of kings?  If you could be king for a month, or a week, or even a day, what would you do?  What would it be like to hold all of that power?  To have the ability to make the rules and the control to enforce what you wanted.  As king, what would you want to be remembered for? 


Human history is littered with Kings of all kinds.  I looked some of them up.  You have names of kings that one may traditionally expect to find.  Kings such as:  William the Conqueror, Alexander the Great, Valdemar the Victorious, Pedro the Liberator, and Richard the Lionheart.  Some kings are in a category, shall we say, of unfortunate monikers.  Kings like: Charles the Bald (a little close to home), James the Vain, Enrique the Impotent, and Arnulf the Unlucky.   There are records of kings who seem to be remembered for doing good.  Kings like: Alfonso the Good, Demetrius the Saviour, Leopold the Saint, and Eric the Kindhearted.  However, the majority of kings seem to be associated with, in some fashion or another, the need to hold power at all cost.  Kings such as:  Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Cruel, Yazdegerd the Wicked, and Geoffrey the Hammer.


All of this seems to point to a need in all of us that wants to make kings – maybe not always in the traditional sense, but certainly metaphorically.  We look for Kings who will inspire us, will think for us, will take up our cause, who will make our lives better and more fulfilling.  Who will get us what we want.


The people of Israel struggled with this.  They begged Samuel to let them have a king.  You can read about it in 1 Samuel 8 & 9.  The people of Israel said, ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’  Samuel warned them that to have a king would cost them their freedom, and it did.  You can read the history of Israel and their kings in 2 Kings 15:32 – 2 Kings 20:21 & 2 Chronicles 27 – 2 Chronicles 32:33.


And that is the truth about kings.  No matter what we hope for, instead of giving life, kings take life away. They cost us our freedom, in small and big ways.  Kingship in this world has showed itself to be an order where the powerful rule the weak and where freedom is replaced with slavery.


So how is it that Jesus demonstrates kingship?  Is it that he is the most powerful, the smartest, or the biggest source of power?  As crazy as it is, Jesus is nothing like this.


Let’s go back to the account in the Gospel of Luke.  Subtle as it is, Jesus riding in on a donkey says everything about what his kingship is rooted in.  In the Ancient Middle Eastern world, kings rode horses when they were riding to war.  They rode donkeys if they were coming in peace.  Jesus asked his disciples to find a donkey for him to ride in order to fulfill the words of the prophet Zechariah.  The prophet wrote, ‘Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your king is coming to you: he is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble and riding on a donkey.’


The people were looking for Jesus to overthrow the oppression of the Roman rule and lead them into complete religious, social, and political autonomy.  They looked to Jesus to begin a revolution.  But it was a revolution of a different kind.  Jesus did come to bring the people freedom from oppression and to restore what had been broken, it’s just his way of liberating was not what the people who watched him ride in were asking for. 


And at times it’s maybe not what we ask for.  His kingship seems to be upside down. 

Jesus gave up power and chose vulnerability because what he really wanted is relationship and love, not power.  Jesus doesn’t take power, he gives it away. We’re not in his hands, Jesus is in our hands.  He’s not over anything, he’s subjected himself to be under everyone.  He doesn’t lord over, he comes to serve. The whole way of traditionally defining kingship is shattered by his actions.


We talked about the nicknames of kings.  How about this:  Jesus – the King who gave up being king – for the sake of serving, for the sake of forgiving, for the sake of freedom, and for the sake of empowering.


This is our King.  This is our example to follow.

Reading #4:

Give thanks to the Lord
for He is good!

His love endures forever.

Let all the people say:

“His faithful love endures forever.”

It is better to take refuge in the
Lord than to trust in people.
The Lord is our strength and
our song; The strong right arm
of the Lord has done glorious things!
The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This Lord has done this and it is
wonderful to see. 
Bless the one who comes

in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
                             (from Psalm 118)

Holy Holy (click here for audio link)

Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Holy, holy.  Holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
Who was and is and is to come


Lift up His name with the sound of singing
Lift up His name in all the earth
Lift up Your voice and give Him glory
For He is worthy to be praised
For He is worthy to be praised
Let’s pray our closing prayer: 
O Lord our God,
   as we have sinned,
      whether in word, or deed, or thought,
   forgive us all,
      for Thou art good and lovest humankind.


Grant us a peaceful and undisturbed sleep,
   and deliver us from all influence
      and temptation of the evil one.


Raise us up again in proper time,
   that we may glorify Thee
      as we learn to live alive in hope, victory,
   and power of the resurrection.


Thou art the eternal Father,
   the Only begotten Son,
      and the all holy, and good,
   and life-giving Spirit.
Now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

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