Bonus sermon this week! RCC hosted our area men’s ecumenical Palm Sunday breakfast this year, so we had worship and communion at 7AM and then the men gathered for breakfast afterwards. Here is that sermon! Apparently I had a lot to say about Palm Sunday this year?
Men’s Ecumenical Palm Sunday Breakfast
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 14, 2019
A Faithful Paradox
For some reason, Palm Sunday has always sort of perplexed me.
It is a paradox, right?
As Christians, we know that the story does not end here; that Jesus does not ride his donkey off into the sunset towards Jerusalem while the scene fades to black.
We know what happens when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.
We know that the disciples – friends whom Jesus trusted, devoted followers that ran ahead to fetch Jesus the donkey that he would ride into Jerusalem, saying, “The Lord needs it,” – are going to deny, betray and abandon him.
We know that the shouts from the crowd of, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” will very quickly turn into cries to, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
We know that while today we cheer, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” later we will mock, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
We know that the palms branches that we will all receive later on today in our worship services – palms that we will joyfully wave high above our heads and perhaps even turn into crosses – will next year be burned down to create the ashes that we will receive as a sign of our sin and our mortality on Ash Wednesday.
I know that Palm Sunday is supposed to be a joyous celebration, but there is a part of me that just cannot help but see a lingering darkness hovering over the celebration in anticipation of what is going to happen later on this week.
So – right now y’all might be thinking, hey I did not wake up at o’dark’hundred this morning to drive to Rehoboth to hear a real downer of a sermon so you need to find a way to shine some light onto that hovering darkness and give us a happier anecdote to take with us on our journey.
But here’s the cool thing about the Christian story – the light shines itself.
Because, as people of the resurrection, we know that the story does not end in the darkness of the night, but that light shines on Easter morning. We know that the story does not end with crucifixion, but that resurrection is coming. We know that the tomb is empty. We know that love will win.
But we also have to journey through the hard stuff first to get there.
Our journey as Christians has highs and the lows, peaks and the valleys, moments where we feel like we have it all together and moments where it all comes crashing down. There are moments in this journey where we will follow Jesus and also moments where we, too, are going to deny, betray and abandon him; moments where live up to the grace that has been given to us and also moments where we fall short.
After all, we are human. We are broken. This is why we needed Jesus to come in the first place.
And so we as we celebrate Palm Sunday – knowing what is going to unfold later in the week, but also that the story does not end there, either – we do so holding this paradox in tension, celebrating who we are as disciples of Christ, but also being gentle with ourselves when we make mistakes and when we do not get it right the first time.
Or the second time.
Or even the third time.
After all, being Christian is not about getting it right all the time – it is about being faithful through it all.
One of my favorites parts of this narrative of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is Jesus’ instructions to the disciples to tell anyone who asks why they are taking the colt, “The Lord needs it.” This reminds me that Jesus needs us to be his disciples, to do the hard work that is required to spread the Gospel, to experience both the good and the bad as we bear witness to God’s work in our lives and in the world.
The Lord needs it.
The Lord needs us.
The really powerful part of Lent and Palm Sunday and Holy Week and Easter is that we get to experience the extreme highs and lows of the Christian story and we have no choice but to be faithful through it all. We cannot rush our way through it or skip over the hard stuff to get to Easter morning. We need to be here, entering Jerusalem, laying down our palms and our cloaks as Jesus rides by. We need to gather around the table, sharing a final meal with Jesus. We need to stand in the presence of the cross and bear witness to the crucifixion. And then we need to wait for resurrection.
And then we need to tell that story to a world that so desperately needs to hear it.
And in doing this – in experiencing the whole of this narrative over the next week – we are reminded that it is okay for us to experience highs and lows in our own lives and in our own faith journeys. It is okay if we stumble. It is okay if we make mistakes. It is okay if we do not get it right the first time. It is okay if it sometimes feels like our lives and our journeys of faith are a paradox of their own.
Because resurrection is always coming. Redemption is always possible. We can and will be faithful through it all.
And this is the Good News that brings us new life.
Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!
Thanks be to God!