We Have To Tell The Story

Here is my Palm Sunday sermon!  I had a beautiful altarscape that I cannot wait to show you!  Just need to pull the photos off my camera.  Which means I need to clear space on my computer.  Which means I need to buy another external hard drive.

My life is a process.

Enjoy!

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Luke 19:28-40

We Have To Tell The Story

Hear a reflection on Palm Sunday from the Rev. Kathryn Matthews Huey, Minister for Stewardship, Scripture, and Discipleship for the United Church of Christ:

This story of Jesus entering Jerusalem kicks off, if you will, the holiest of weeks for us Christians. You know, there is no “off-season” for being a Christian: it’s an everyday thing, week in and week out, 24/7. Not just Sunday, not just holy days, and not just when we’re in church or when we’re praying. Being a Christian is an every-day, every moment, all-of-our-lives journey. But. This week is Holy Week, which comes at the end of Lent, a season of conversation, of turning around, of reorienting our lives toward God just in case we’ve slipped off course. It’s been a time for us—as individuals and as a community—to study and pray and examine our lives, to look inward and to ask ourselves the difficult question of whether we’re ready and willing to follow Jesus not just today, in this glad procession, but all the way to the cross. {Kathryn Matthews Huey, Sermon Seeds Year C: Inclusive Reflections for Preaching from the United Church of Christ, pg. 103}

We all know the Palm Sunday story. So here we are; ready to wave our palms, shout “Hosanna!” and lay those palms down so that Jesus can triumphantly ride into the city of Jerusalem.

Except … if you notice … Luke’s account of the Palm Sunday narrative does not include some of the familiar pieces of this story. There are shouts of “Hosanna”. There is actually no mention of palms! “Then they brought it to Jesus,” the gospel records. “And after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he road along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.” (Luke 19:35-36) Perhaps the kids and I should have paraded around the church with cloaks this morning? Perhaps the top of this week’s bulletin should read Cloak Sunday instead of Palm Sunday? It just does not seem to have the same ring to it.

But do those details really matter when it comes to how we tell this story in our lives?

I have had showtunes on the brain for the past two weeks. I was in Connecticut last week helping my dad and his students open their annual musical and the CD player in my car has played nothing but Broadway music since then.

One afternoon I was listening to the musical Ragtime, a show based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow. Ragtime tells the story of three groups living in the United States during the turn of the 20th century (upper-class white Americans living in New York City suburbs, African Americans and Eastern European immigrants). In the story, the African American group is represented by Coalhouse Walker Jr., a Harlem musician, who loses his girlfriend when she is wrongly accused of threatening the Vice-Presidential candidate and beaten to death by white secret service men. Coalhouse – with a group of faithful followers at his side – seeks out justice in vengeful and destructive ways, but ultimately realizes that there are more effective paths towards justice than violence. In the song, “Make Them Hear You,” he charges his followers to use their voices, to tell their stories and to let the power of words lead their journeys.

At the end of this song, Coalhouse sings a line that caused me to stop and think last week:

Proclaim it from your pulpit, in your classroom, with your pens.

This line caused me to stop and ask myself the question, “What am I proclaiming from my pulpit?”

This line, of course, has a literal meaning for me. I stand behind a pulpit every week. But what about the other ways that we all can raise our voices and use our words to lead our journeys? What do we proclaim in our classrooms, at our dinner tables, on our Facebook status updates, around our children, with our friends, in our offices and to the people that we work with? What do we proclaim when we are frustrated, angry and feeling overwhelmed? What do we proclaim when we are happy and feeling blessed? What do we proclaim with our words, in our actions and throughout our lives?

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. This is a really special time, not just because of what is playing out, but because of how it is playing in our lives. Holy Week is the only time in the Christian year when we live out the Christian story in real time. At the end of the week we will experience Christ’s death and then wait – just like the scripture reads – three days for him to rise again.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of the resurrection.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of one of the most miraculous things God has ever done.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of salvation.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of a second chance at a covenant with our creator.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of a resurrection in our own lives.

We wait. We wait in anticipation of the sustaining grace of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us along our journeys.

In one week – something incredible is going to happen.

And we have to tell that story. We have to proclaim that story in our words, in our actions and throughout our lives.

This week we have to wave our palms – or our cloaks, as the case may be this year. We have to lay down those palms in humble adoration of Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. We have to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and all that it represented. We have to reflect on Jesus’ ministry, what he proclaimed, believed and did throughout his life.

We have to tell that story.

We have to reflect on the words that the crowd shouted, recorded as “Hosanna!” in some accounts and simply, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” in the Lukan narrative that we read this morning.

We have to tell that story.

As we wave our palms, we have to think about the ways that this story is still playing out in our lives, today. We have to think about the ways that we prepare an entryway for Jesus in our lives. We have to reflect on the gospel, how it is still very much active and alive in the lives that we are living.

We have to tell that story.

As we watch our palms dry out over the next couple of weeks, we must remember that these palms will eventually be burned into the ash that will be placed on our foreheads next year on Ash Wednesday. We must be reminded that with joy often comes sorrow, but with sin always comes grace.

We have to tell that story.

As we enter this Holy Week and experience another Easter holiday, we have to remember what it means to be a Christian, to love Jesus and to follow Christ. We have to remember what the resurrection means in our lives today, what it means not only that Jesus died on the cross, but that he also rose again to give us new life.

We have to tell that story. We have to proclaim that story from our pulpits, classroom and households. We have to proclaim that story not just this week and on Easter morning within the four walls of this sanctuary, but every single day throughout our lives, both inside and – especially – outside the four walls of this sanctuary.

This morning’s lectionary psalm is a familiar one this morning:

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. (Psalm 118:23-24,NRSV)

Rejoice!

What are you rejoicing in this Easter season? Why are you waving your palms – or spreading your cloaks – on this Palm Sunday morning? What will you proclaim throughout your Christian journey?

The details of this story do not matter. What matters is that we proclaim the gospel in our lives.

As you enter this week I invite you all to think prayerfully about how you will tell this story in your life.

Because this is a story that we have to tell.

Blessings into your Holy Week.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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