April 15, 2014
Matthew 21: 1-11 Phil 2: 5-11 April 13, 2014 Palm Sunday Reveals the Heart of God Palm Sunday is a very joyous occasion in the life of the church. Therefore for most Christian churches, Palm branches will be present and will be waved and spread on the sanctuary floor and traditional Palm Sunday hymns […]
Matthew 21: 1-11
Phil 2: 5-11
April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday Reveals the Heart of God
Palm Sunday is a very joyous occasion in the life of the church. Therefore for most Christian churches, Palm branches will be present and will be waved and spread on the sanctuary floor and traditional Palm Sunday hymns will be sung as we remember what happened on that special day- Palm Sunday. So many wonderful memories I have and I am sure many of you have about Palm Sunday. I still remember bringing home the large Palm branches and my mother making baskets to be used for the Easter egg hunts at the church. I remember on occasion gathering outside of the church and then singing a hymn as we would process into the church with palm branches. It was a wonderful time. It was a joyful time. People smiling and being in a good mood and the children singing. Oh, all is well with the world.
But as we know triumphant processions are familiar to us. The Ravens won the super bowl two years ago and there was a massive parade and motorcade in downtown Baltimore. Thousands of people came to see and to watch and to rejoice. We know of parades for war heroes and the famous tickertape parades down the streets of New York City, the inaugural parades down Pennsylvania Avenue. Processions are how we honor human victory and achievement. The Boston Red Sox were recently honored at the White House in recognition of their winning the World Series last year. Which team will be there next year????
Now I believe that with most parades and celebrations of this nature, it is a culmination of hard work and the achievement of a goal…the winning of a championship; the ending of a war; obtaining an academic achievement so in many cases it signifies the ending of something. I was at an event the other night where we were walking hand in hand to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. I began to think about my graduation…..the parties held to celebrate the end of high school; the end of college days.
Maybe that is what we think about Palm Sunday as well. Jesus preached for three years; he healed many people; he instructed his disciples; he had performed some miracles; he had raised Lazarus from the grave; he had healed the blind man; he interpreted scriptures and now with a fairly large name recognition and great popularity, it was time to celebrate and give thanks for the work that was done.
And I would imagine that for many people Palm Sunday is the celebration of something which has ended. I think for myself growing up as I did even in the church, I just thought Palm Sunday was a wonderful but an isolated event in the life of the church. Jesus threw a party. He came to make people happy that day. It was a victory lap. It was a day in the life of Jesus that was not really connected to anything. What real meaning or purpose did it serve? Jesus came to town …to Jerusalem like he did throughout his lifetime and this time he came in a special way. He came to see his friends and his family. He took a trip to get away from home and from work. And a party broke out. I mean all Jesus wanted to do was to get a ride into town on a donkey. Plenty of donkeys around but he did not plan on a parade where people start shouting Hosanna and laying down cloaks and tree branches. Jesus is trying to come into town and this parade breaks out and today we remember it. So the overall memory of Palm Sunday is that it is a wonderful day of celebration and rejoicing and thanking this man Jesus for all that he has done. Indeed the church needs days like that. Just simply to gather and rejoice and give thanks. Jesus had achieved his goal. His had a fairly successful three year ministry. He was popular and he was now being hailed as a leader. Mission accomplished.
Yet for Jesus this Palm Sunday was not an end of something but rather it was at the very heart of his passion…of his ministry. And I think it not only defines his ministry but it also describes the foundation for life. In the book of Philippians, the writer Paul …says…..
“Jesus, in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself. Being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death”.
This Jesus, who is the Christ, willingly and voluntarily does not hold on to divinity but relinquishes it. This Christ willingly gave up his power which displays the essence of divinity and so Christ’s death and resurrection define the essence to and for humanity. Jesus came into Jerusalem to herald the beginning of his ministry…a ministry of passion…of commitment…of sacrifice….of obedience…..to willingly die to show the heart of the gospel.
As followers of this Jesus, it is not just fun and games. It is not just parades and dressing up and throwing down palm branches but rather take up “Your Cross”….No!!!! NO!!!!! No!!!!! I want to wave palm branches and say Hallelujah…..I do not want a cross!!!! There is no fun in that.
The cross comes to each of us. God calls us not so much to a parade but to a life of faith and faith always involves a cross. And the cross means a certain amount of sacrifice, self-emptying, doing a specific task. Jesus was called to do what he had to do.
Likewise, so are we on this Palm Sunday. I do mean to mess up the joy of the palms because unless we hear about the cross today, we will not hear about it during Lent and Easter. We will skip right over it through Easter egg hunts and the joy of resurrection.
Paul talks about it by saying…….”let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” A decision of the mind: Am I or am I not going to be like Christ who on Palm Sunday and the days ahead…..mounted a cross to show the essence of faith. The Palm Sunday event was a decision which Jesus made. He thought about it and planned it and organized it and carried it through. I think for Christians to have a passion for Christ and his teachings that one needs to have made a conscious decision. In this particular season, I know most folks focus on Palm Sunday and Easter egg Saturday and resurrection Sunday. And we will skip right over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and I do not blame folks for wanting to do that. No one likes a cross !!!!!
A writer has said…” there is a direct link between thought and action”. It is impossible to act like Christ if we have not made a conscious decision to do so. If the mind of Christ is in us, how is it manifested in our character? I am not going to take up the cross of Christ if I do not decide to do so. I am not going to respond well to the essence of God’s love in Christ unless I make a decision to do so. Jesus did so.
Here is the issue……we rejoice in the parade but do we remain in the parade to take up a cross or do we drop out to celebrate again the resurrection? Jesus took up a cross to love others and we are asked to do the same. We will wave palm branches today but will we carry a cross on Friday?