MESSAGE: Palm/Passion Sunday – 10 April 2022
THEMES: God coming to his people in faithfulness and love.
What a joy it is to celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem!
The disciples gathered the colt for him to ride; people shouted “Hosanna!”, waved palm branches and placed their cloaks in the path of the colt.
Even when some were cautious, Jesus reminded them that the stones would sing out.
For triumph was truly coming to the Holy City, triumph in a way they couldn’t imagine.
So we, this day, wave our palms, sing and shout “Hosanna!”.
We want Jesus to ride into all the places of tension and anger of our lives.
We want Jesus to heal the hurts and establish His reign of peace forever.
The parade is a good thing.
It is not to be discounted as inconsequential to the events ahead.
We need to shout with joy and let the shouts ring in our hearts.
Bring us hope, gracious Lord, where we have allowed fear and confusion to reside.
Bring us healing, where we have been wounded or have wounded others by our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Bring us peace, where we have been bombarded by anger and alienation.
Bring us with you, into the holy city, not made with human hands, but in your heavenly realm. AMEN.
The heart of the Palm Sunday celebration this year is God coming to God’s people in faithfulness and love.
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the one who will suffer – this is the doorway to his passion – and in his suffering invites people into God’s grace and presence.
And this arrival of God will not be resisted or stopped.
It can only be received and enjoyed.
It is interesting to note that only Luke includes the Pharisees’ plea for Jesus to ask the crowds to be silent, and Jesus’ response that if the people were to stop singing, the stones would cry out.
It is most likely that the Pharisees were concerned for how Rome would interpret this procession and the songs the people were singing.
The last thing they wanted was a revolution – for both personal and national reasons.
But, Jesus’ response demonstrates Luke’s understanding of God’s salvation that comes in Christ.
God’s Reign, which for Luke is the expression of God’s salvation, and the reality into which the saved are brought, is unstoppable.
It is personal and social, and is as concerned with justice as it is with personal restoration and forgiveness.
In proclaiming that even the stones would cry out, Jesus declares that God’s Reign will not be silenced by the powers that be, and that it includes and impacts the whole of creation.
When God’s Sent One comes, the entire created order knows it and responds to it.
In a similar way, we who witness this event again at Palm Sunday, are called to know and respond to the One who brings God’s irresistible Reign into our world.
The Liturgy of the Passion, from Luke’s perspective, is not just about the suffering of Christ. It is also about Jesus’ presence in our suffering, and about us sharing Christ’s suffering by serving and caring for suffering people around us. It will not take much more than the Scriptures themselves to get these complementary messages across, and it may be wise to allow the service to be more meditative than preaching-focussed.
The Liturgy of the Passion is, quite simply, a meditation on the suffering of Jesus. But, in the Psalm reading, we are also invited to reflect on God’s solidarity with all who suffer, in the Epistle, we are called to view Christ’s passion as an example for us to follow. In addition, two particular narratives stand out in the Lukan account of Christ’s passion. Firstly, Luke places the dispute over who is the greatest here, at the Last Supper, which, when placed alongside the Philippians reading, drives home the servant nature of Jesus’ death, and the call for us to embrace the same self-giving life. Secondly, only Luke includes the account of the penitent thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him. The response of Christ to this man, in the midst of his own suffering and persecution, demonstrates very dramatically, the extent to which the loving, serving grace of Christ reaches, and the extent to which we are called to serve and love others in Christ’s name. In the light of this, the Liturgy of the Passion, this year, invites us into a deep and transforming journey into Christ’s suffering, Christ’s presence in our suffering, and Christ’s call for us to share his suffering. It’s not just about the passion of the Christ – it’s about the passion of the followers of the Christ as well!