Palm Sunday – April 02 2023

Posted on April 5, 2023, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

April 2, 2023

Palm Sunday 

Matthew 21:1-17
Psalm 118:25-29

Worship Service Video Sermon  Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I watched the news last Tuesday morning to find out if there was any new information on the school shooting in Nashville that happened on Monday. The news anchor led into the story by referring to it as the “most recent school shooting” and I shuddered because those four words should never have to be grouped together.

I also found myself wondering whether there would be another one before I stepped into the pulpit today. And praying that there wouldn’t be.

And I couldn’t help but connect our collective turmoil over this latest act of violence against children with the turmoil that Matthew mentions in our reading today. We don’t know if it was really the whole city of Jerusalem that was in turmoil when Jesus arrived, or if it was localized to the Temple area.

But his arrival, with crowds shouting, “Hosanna!”– which means “Save us!” – disrupted things for the religious leaders and called attention to them for all the wrong reasons. And that attention continued when Jesus went in and cleared out the Temple.

The tension that started that day continued to build throughout the week as more and more people heard about what was going on and listened to Jesus. And it reached its peak a few days later, with even children shouting “Hosanna! Save us!”

In Biblical times, Jerusalem wasn’t a large city, but it was significant. It’s estimated that the residential population was around 25,000 people. So, Rome only had a large military presence there when outside people came in for certain festivals and Passover was one of those.

And of the Jewish festivals, Passover was the one that worried Rome the most because it celebrates Israel’s deliverance from captivity. Basically, if there was going to be an uprising in Jerusalem against Rome, it was most likely to happen during that celebration.

So, not only was there an increased number of military troops dispatched to the city, but Pilate was also there as the Roman governor of Judea. And their collective presence sent the message, “If you try to rise up against Rome, we will end you.”

And we know that happened decades later, shortly before Matthew’s gospel was written. Matthew’s community was living in the wake of the great Jewish revolt against Rome that had been violently defeated. The Temple had been destroyed, and its treasures paraded out of the city and taken back to Rome. It was brutal for the Jewish people.

So, when Matthew’s community heard the story we read today, they were again reminded of who Jesus was, why he came, and why it mattered for them. And that the shouts of “Hosanna!” – “Save us!” – were as much for them as they were for the people who said them when Jesus entered the city.

They were reminded that Jesus had come to disrupt and protest the Roman government and occupation. That he had come to protest the system that had been set up in the Temple. That he came to save them from so much that was killing so many of them in so many different ways.

And that in saving them from that death, Jesus saved them for life as they lived. He saved them for living lives of mercy, compassion, justice, grace, and God’s love. So that they could pursue that life not only for themselves but also for others. So that no one else would ever again have to shout, “Hosanna! Save us!”

That assurance, that Jesus saved them for life, carried the disciples through the days that were to come and the years that followed. It carried Matthew’s community through the formation of their identity as Jesus-followers. It has carried countless Christians through the centuries, through times of persecution and times of flourishing.

Because the life that Jesus saved people for on that first Palm Sunday didn’t stay contained within their group. Because it’s life that’s for everyone.

It’s the life Jesus calls us to pursue today for ourselves and others because people are still shouting, “Hosanna! Save us!”

That shout is a call for deeper conversation about ending violence in our society – including responsible gun legislation and ownership. It’s a call demanding us to recognize that another school shooting will happen unless and until we start doing things differently.

“Hosanna! Save us!” is a call for us as human beings and as Christians to examine our priorities. To recognize that people’s lives are at stake because the system we’ve put in place continues to neglect caring for people. To recognize that yes, six people were killed in last Monday’s shooting. And so was Audrey Hale, the shooter, whose story we don’t fully know yet.

“Hosanna! Save us!” is a call for us in this room, and for you watching online, to do the hard work of seeking life for all people. To disrupt and put an end to the things that kill people in so many different ways. To encourage one another in that work; to have each other’s backs as we do it.

To remind one another of who we are in Christ, his love for us and who he calls us to be – the life he calls us to live, the life he saved us for – a life of mercy, compassion, justice, and grace, rooted in God’s love. To help each other keep going in this life and work until no one else anywhere in the world needs to shout “Hosanna!” ever again.

We have to do this work, this life, together – in community and as community. Because the system that is in place will push back hard. I said this after the Uvalde shooting last May – it will wait us out. It counts on us becoming tired or distracted by the next thing and walking away and hoping it resolves itself.

In Christianity, in most conversations about salvation, the tendency is to only think about what it means for us when we get to heaven. And heaven will be wonderful – I’m confident of that. But it’s vital that we remember that our salvation is also for now, for life now, not only for ourselves but also for others. It’s the life that will carry us through whatever comes next and help us shape the world.

When Jesus had come near the Covenant School (2023), when he had come near Robb Elementary School (2022), Ingraham High School (2022), Marysville-Pilchuck High School (2014), Pacific Lutheran University (2001); when Jesus had come near Columbine High School (2001), Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School (2018), Sandy Hook Elementary (2012), and too many other schools to list – the crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Save us!”

Jesus has saved us from our sin. Our place in heaven is secure. But Jesus has also saved us for life here and now. To live in response to his grace. To pursue life for all people and all of creation. Because life is his desire for us. Thanks be to God! Amen.