Sunday, March 29, 2015
Little Did They Know, Little Do We: a sermon
Year B Palm Sunday
St. Thomas’ Episcopal, Richmond
Little did they know. No one realized what this week would bring. Except maybe one.
After waiting for the fullness of time, he rode into Jerusalem, God's Holy City, and the crowds were eager for the show, or perhaps the showdown. The popular preacher was coming to town.
He knew the reaction that would probably happen. He even sent his people ahead. The preparations had to be just so. He could not walk in. Promised kings don't walk. Kings ride.
But no magnificent stallion was obtained. A humble colt of a donkey that had never been ridden was borrowed for this king's entry. He was sending just as poignant and political a statement as a mighty stallion, and the symbolism would not have been missed. The prophecy of Zechariah some 500 years before that day Christ rode into Jerusalem...
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
A king of peace he was declaring himself to be, so on a donkey he rode in that day.
On the bumpy road, he had cloaks thrown across the colt's back, no saddle for this ride. Ahead garments were strewn across his path and branches hurriedly cut from the surrounding fields lined the way. And then the people began their shouts...
"Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!" More than a shout of praise or exclamation, it was a plea. "Save us! Save us! Save us!" With such words, they declared him, “Savior! Savior! Savior!” "Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord! Save us! Save us! Save us!" they cried.
He heard their shouts, called out in ignorance. How could they know? He would save them, of course. Not from the Romans as they wanted or expected, but from a far greater enemy. Themselves.
It says that he took in the Temple, seeing all that there was to see. And then he headed to where he was staying for the week. And so that week began for Jesus. Do we even know? Do we even realize? What does God have in store for us this Holy Week?
Where do you hear the cries for help? Where do you see people in need of saving? We do not have to look far. Maybe even the mirror.
Most days in our Eucharistic Prayer we proclaim:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest,
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.
“Hosanna in the highest!” We acknowledge our inability to save ourselves. We acknowledge the one who can. Often Hosanna is expressed as an exclamation or praise. But it is because Hosanna comes from the Hebrew words for “Save” and “Now.” And there is only one who can; Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We say these words. God of power, God of might. Everything is full of your glory. And we are full of our need.
Jesus, humble, precious Jesus, guides us and directs us, especially this week. This week as we meander up and through the Temple, on to the Upper Room, to the stillness of a Garden by night, to the course and crass illegal trial at Caiaphus’ house, by way of a Palace, along the city streets carrying our cross, on up to Calvary and then down to the Garden Tomb. On all this path, Christ is with us. He leads our way.
And here I am going to stop and put in a plug. This week we are having special services. The Tenebrae Service on Wednesday night is a special reflective service preparing for the next three days.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the central and pivotal days of our faith. The events of these three days are re-enacted here EVERY SUNDAY MORNING. In fact, I will make you a guarantee, come to the entire Triduum Sacrum, the three Sacred Day services and it will change your life. This is no small promise. These services are at the very heart of our faith. And the guarantee, if you are not completely satisfied, I personally will refund double your admission price. [I can say that will full faith because there is no admission price.]
All joking aside, a question remains. Why should you come? To better enable what Paul spoke of in today’s Philippians passage:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
This one they praised and worshiped. This one they begged to save them, some of these same voices that cried, “Hosanna!” would in just few short days scream, “Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!”