Psalter Lesson: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 11: 1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?’ just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
(April Fools Joke about Kindle not working, must’ve died, need someone to make go and print me off a copy of my sermon)
You know, in my household growing up, April Fool’s Day was one of the best days we had. Actually, my mother would be proud for me to tell you that she got my dad on the same April fools joke each and every year for the first 20 years of marriage. What you may ask could she have done. It’s cruel really, at least to any coffee drinker. She would take the sugar bowl and put salt in the sugar bowl. So as my Father would sit down for his morning coffee he would place the salt into his coffee. On another occasion though, April fools day was not so funny. On March 31st late that night, I remember it well. It was a Saturday night, much like last night and my brother had gotten into a nasty car accident as he took our 1994 cavalier and ran through a telephone pole. Apparently he was going quick enough he went straight through it and ended up with a concussion. So anyways the next morning, my extremely tired father had been up all night in the hospital and he announced from the pulpit this horrible news of my brother Cameron, and at first not one congregant had believed him. It really was awkward when they finally realized my father was telling the truth.
Well, today is a rather unique day. For the secular world it is a day of tricks and gimmicks, making fools of one another, while in the Christian calendar we are celebrating Palm Sunday, the day in which Jesus took a colt and rode into the Holy city of Jerusalem. Thus putting into motion the events of his last week before his crucifixion. These two days interestingly collide together and ironically these two celebrations go together more than we truly realize.
In order for me to show you what I mean, let me explain a little bit about what is happening here in our scripture lessons today. The Jews have heard of the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, one who had begun to find a name as King of the Jews among the crowd. This preparation begins by making the pathways straight, by making the ground in which he rides on to be a smooth path. They get ready by breaking off palm branches to lay at his feet and their cloaks to honor him. The Jewish ancestors have done this before, they have done it many times actually within the past century.
Let us back up a century or two so we may fully understand what the Israelites are doing in this passage. We will begin by saying many nations have persecuted the Jews and the Jews have fought battle after battle while suffering for their identity. It had even gone to the point that theTemple, their only true place of Worship had been desecrated with pagan statues. Not only that, but as we know the Jewish law forbade them to eat of any unclean animal which included any hoofed animal. Possibly the main animal that would have been the big No no was Pork. According to first book of Maccabees, around 167 BCE Antiochus IV, a Syrian Se-cue-clid, declared the Sabbath to be violated and circumcision was to be forbidden. Following this decree, Every day of the week out of spite, Antiochus would go sacrifice a swine in the temple and spatter the pig’s blood over the alters and throughout the temple. Well, the people would not stand for this any longer. And so when Judas Maccabeus led the Israeli victory over the Syrian Se-cue-lids in 157 BC, the crowds celebrated his victory by waving palm branches, as to commemorate the victory, Judas given the name, “The Hammer” stamped an image of palm branches into their coins, thenceforth symbolizing victory for the Jews over their oppressors.
So now, about 150 years later, Jesus of Nazareth was greeted in Jerusalem by thousands of followers, waving palm branches and shouting hosanna (which means Save us!) They were expecting a warrior, they wanted someone like the stories told such as Judas, the Hammer. They thought they were going to have Jesus of Nazareth to be the next Hammer that was going to crush the Roman Authority and release the Jews from this persecution that they have been facing for all these years. As I said before, they were screaming out Hosanna Hosanna, Save US Save US SAVE US NOW!!!!. Come and rid us of these Romans, Free us from our persecution!
As we have experienced this story before or as we experience the story this week, which let me strongly emphasize to get a very true understanding of the joy on Easter morning next Sunday, I strongly encourage you and invite you to come to our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday service. As well as our Sunrise service that will be meeting right outside the sanctuary. Anyways, as we may recall the events we know that Jesus was not a warrior in the sense of “The Hammer”. He did not come to free them of the Romans, instead he came and freed them from something much bigger than the vast Roman Empire: THEMSELVES. Although not the intent of Jesus, the people were fooled! Jesus did not come on a stallion with sword drawn to rid them of the Romans, but Jesus came eye to eye on a colt, with a heart and passion for God and for humanity. Instead of leading a revolution, Jesus gave them absolution. Over the past 6 weeks, we have been partaking of communion, and one of the loudest responses that I have heard from our communion liturgy has been Hosanna In the Highest Hosanna in the Highest, Hosanna in the Highest! We as a people are in need of crying this out, each and every week. We cry out still today Save us, Save Us, SAVE US NOW! Without God it is impossible, but by God’s grace through faith we ARE SAVED! As we come to our Eucharist today, sing to God, Cry out to God, HOSANNA! Save us! Save us not from other empires or nations, but SAVE US FROM SIN! Let us not be so fooled like the others in this narrative on this April Fools day, let us realize our own need of Christ and the cross. For we are like the people Paul writes to in Corinth. Paul says,
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart….He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boasts in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19; 30-31.