Tag Archives: palm Sunday

Hosanna – Crucify Him – Hosanna

Liturgy of the Palms Gospel
Passion Gospel according to Matthew

We have been journeying Jesus since Ash Wednesday, where we began lent by marking our foreheads with ash, remembering that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We then passed by 5 different people with Jesus on our way to the gates of Jerusalem. We met the tempter in the wilderness, where we saw that Jesus had chosen a new path. We heard the deep questions of Nicodemus by night about faith and meaning. We met with the Samaritan woman at the well in the noon day heat in order to receive the water of life. We got into the mud with blindman and our sight revealed the ongoing blindness of the world around us. We grieved with Mary and Martha at the edge of the valley of the dry bones.

And today, our lenten journey, our lenten wilderness and wanderings have brought us to the gates of Jerusalem shouting Hosanna. We have been calling upon God for deliverance from our oppressors. That word Hosanna, that word which sounds a lot of Hallelujah, like praise the Lord does not mean the same thing.

Hosanna means save now.

Save us now God.
Save us from enemies.
Save us from our sufferings.
Save us from all that threatens us.

And all of a sudden we were no longer passing through the lives of various people on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem. Today we became the ones whom Jesus was encountering. We are the crowds lining the roads singing Hosanna and it is us who Jesus passes by.

The Hosannas we sing today sound like the ones we sing most Sundays,
“Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

We sing Save us Now, and call upon God to come down a meet us.
To meet us in Bread and Wine, to become Body and Blood.
To become our Body and Blood.
To be the Body of Christ that we share in the Lord’s supper.
To become the Body of Christ that we are as the Church.

But today our Hosannas aren’t like our normal Hosannas.

Today our Hosannas, even though they still technically mean “Save Now,” sound a lot more like “Crucify Him.”

In fact, the Hosannas of this day are not prayers pleading for Salvation from our sin and death. They are not confessions that recognizes we are not enough, nor reminders that we need salvation from ourselves.

Rather the Hosannas today are calls for vengeance

Hosanna – Save us now by kicking out the oppressors from our land.
Hosanna – Save us now by destroying our enemies.
Hosanna – Save us now by becoming our righteous warrior king.
Hosanna – Save us now by making us relevant and powerful again.
Hosanna – Save us now by restoring our families and communities and workplaces and churches to their former glory
Hosanna – Save us now by letting us never suffer inconvenience or have think about hard things or be challenged or have to change.

The Hosannas of Palm Sunday are cleverly disguised.

They are disguised shouts of crucify him!

And by Friday they will be revealed for what they truly are.

But despite our vengeance filled Hosannas,

Jesus rides the donkey anyways.

Jesus makes the last move before the cross.

The move that began by coming down the mountain of Transfiguration.
That set the new course in the wilderness of temptation.
That adjusted to meet Nicodemus’s needs
That persisted with the samaritan woman who needed living water.
That came back to fill the blind man with faith.
That allowed the grief of God to bring the dry bones to life.

And that today rides into Jerusalem, even when the Hosannas also mean crucify.

And because Jesus rides the donkey anyways, the disguised Hosannas have another meaning. One that we will soon see.

They will remind us.
That God has come.
That God will saved.
That God has come for us.
That God will save us.

Now.

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The Disappointment of Holy Week

Mark 11:1-11

…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!”

(Read the whole passage here).

Sermon

The Palms have been waved, and Hosannas sung. Today begins Holy Week, today we join with anticipation as the people of Jerusalem greet Jesus, riding into town like a King. This moment begins as sequence of events that pushthe people of Jerusalem and us from welcoming Jesus as a King to only days from now demanding death. During Holy Week, we re-live and rehearse this movement, this change in attitude towards Jesus, towards God. We rehearse this movement because as much as we would like to believe it belongs only to the people waving palm branches 2000 years ago, it is an experience that we know too well. It is expectation and hope met with disappointment and resentment.

The scene of the Triumphant entry is not easily identified by us for what it truly is. The idea of riding a donkey up a dusty road covered in palm branches, into an ancient city does not trigger memories or images for we modern people. Yet, for the people of Israel the symbol that Jesus represented was far more powerful than we imagine.

For us it would be better to imagine a Head of State stepping down the stairs of a private jet, being met by the welcome of cheering crowds and a band playing presidential music. Or we might be better to think of celebrities and stars walking down the red carpet to screaming fans and the flashes of media cameras. Or a motorcade with little flags on long black limos with motorcycles and big guys in suits with ear pieces and guns under their jackets.

Jesus is not just some guy on a donkey, and the reception he receives from the people is not just an impromptu greeting. Jesus has been headed towards this moment since he first rose out of the waters of the Jordan river and that voice thundered from heaven, “This is my son, my beloved.”

The people of Israel too, have been waiting for this moment. They have been anticipating the arrival of Messiah. They have been waiting for a King.

A King who was to hear the cries of the people.

A warlord who was to oust their Roman oppressors.

A spiritual leader who would re-establish the Kingdom of God on earth, with the Jerusalem temple at its centre.

And so when Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a steed, just like the Kings of Israel would have according to the Old Testament, the people believe that their salvation is near. They have high expectations for what is to come. They shout Hosanna, which does not mean Praise the Lord, but means Save Now. They believe that Jesus is One who has finally come to meet their expectations, to deliver on their hope, to save them from their problems.

We know this hope, we know this expectation. We have all longed for the one who will save us. Who will save us  from our problems, from our worries, from our brokenness, from our suffering and pain.

And again, we know the disappointment that will come. We know what it is like to have promises broken. We know that un-met expectations lead to resentment.

Holy Week is a reminder of this experience.

Holy Week is a practice in disappointment.

As much as we long for a saviour to come on our terms. A king from the house of David or a prime minister leading our party of choice. A warlord who will oust our oppressors, or a lottery ticket, romantic partner, job opportunity that will finally make our problems go away. A spiritual leader who will establish God’s Kingdom, or a pastor or program that will bring all the people missing from pews back to church (along with their wallets).

Our expectations for salvation. For our version of salvation will only lead to disappointment, this week more than ever.

This week, more than ever do we try to hold God’s feet to the fire for not being God in our image… and by Friday, Save Now becomes Kill Now.

But the disappointment is necessary. Because none of this has been about what we want. Jesus has reminded us all along the way, that our expectations, that our version of the world is not what he come for.

Jesus has come to do God’s work. Jesus has come riding a donkey, a symbol of peace, rather than the war horse of a conqueror.

And peace is what Jesus delivers. It will not be on our terms. It will not come by Thursday or by Friday morning. It will not happen in the Garden when Judas comes with soldiers. It will not be in Pilate’s court.

No, peace does not come on our terms. Salvation is not according to our version.

Instead, in the place where we have finally given up on peace, On Golgotha, where no one can imagine salvation. On the cross, where there is only death. God will deliver us from evil, and the King will finally sit on his throne.

On Good Friday, salvation will finally be on God’s terms.

We just won’t know it until Sunday.

Amen.