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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 10 2022
Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
My memories of attending church on Palm Sunday as a child are limited. I grew up in this area, so I remember waiving sword ferns as we processed in singing All Glory, Laud, and Honor – and that’s pretty much where the memory ends.
It wasn’t until I became an adult, and particularly as I became responsible for helping to plan those worship services and then preach that I really started to pay attention to the difference between Palm and Passion Sundays. And when I was in Phoenix, the first time the worship team and I made the decision to leave it at Palm Sunday, as I prepared for that Sunday, I felt tension within myself.
And it’s because there isn’t a clean break in the story after the Triumphal Entry. The events of the rest of the week unfold quickly, so it can be hard to stay in this moment. But pausing here helps us remember who Jesus came to be – the type of king he was – and the peace that he brought to our world.
For the last several weeks, we’ve heard stories from Luke’s gospel about Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. This day, what we call Palm Sunday, ends that journey and marks the beginning of another one – the final week of his life that leads to the cross and the resurrection.
This second journey begins with the crowds worshiping Jesus and throwing their cloaks down in front of him – a recognition that what he has done has been noticed. It’s moment of celebration before the brutal events of the week unfold, and before the celebration of the resurrection.
It’s also a celebration that wasn’t understood by the disciples or the crowd. They worshiped the one they believed to be the king that would save them from the Romans. But the actions of Jesus, riding on a colt, are the actions of the king of peace. A king who knows that power can be used and abused – and who used the power given to him for the good of humanity.
The people who worshiped Jesus as he entered Jerusalem had witnessed the way he used his power. They saw that it honored his call to social justice, feeding the hungry, and his passion for people who were outcast.
The people that day witnessed that Jesus used his power for the sake of people – that he noticed people and their humanity. He looked beyond a person’s social or economic position and their perceived authority, and noticed the sacred quality of who they were as a person.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem that day, those with power – those in authority – were the ones who panicked and criticized him, and who planned to silence him. But those without power echoed the song the angels sang on the night of Jesus’ birth, “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
It’s a reminder of why Jesus was born – of the king he came to be for us, the king we need – and the peace that that brings even when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to make sense.
Theologian Debie Thomas reminds us that that paradox is what gives Jesus’ story its shape and weight and texture. It calls us to hold together truths that seem bizarre and counterintuitive.
There are days when we understand that that paradox is exactly the reason the Christian faith has credibility. In a world filled with pain and contradiction, we need a faith strong enough to bear the weight of that, and that allows us to face the reality of it.
But our faith also puts us face-to-face with some difficult questions: will we choose Jesus’ way of peace? Will we choose to notice the sacredness of each person? Will we accompany Jesus on his colt and honor his way, or will our impatience get the better of us and make us desert him?
More than any other Sunday, this day puts us face-to-face with the way of Jesus – the coming of God’s kingdom – a kingdom of peace, self-emptying love, radical embrace, radical patience, and radical risk. A kingdom that demands a degree of trust, vulnerability, and courage that the world doesn’t support. A kingdom that humans reject. And a kingdom that humans need.
It isn’t very often that our world has a break from violence; it ebbs and flows, and it’s present even when it isn’t part of the news cycle. For the last 45 days, violence has been front and center with the war in Ukraine. But it never stopped after last year’s events in Afghanistan or Myanmar. It still hasn’t stopped in Syria. There was a shooting late last week in Tel Aviv. There are new reports of ethnic cleansing that has happened in Ethiopia.
That’s what’s going on a world away. Closer to home, there’s violence here, too – economic policies that are structured so that people with wealth and power maintain those things at the expense of people who don’t have them. The fear and anxiety that underlie doing what it takes just to survive.
Our faith in Jesus puts us face-to-face with these struggles every day. It puts us face-to-face with our tendency to hope for a violent solution to situations instead of one that honors life. It puts us face-to-face with our society’s obsession with prosperity and living an easy life, with the way people who are pushed aside or pushed down are ignored, with the way we set conditions for whether or not we love others.
But each time our faith in Jesus puts us face-to-face with any of this, it also puts us face-to-face with the opportunity to live the way of Jesus – to face the truth of our world and hold it up against the truth of his kingdom. To live into its demands, the humility and sacrifices we’d rather run away from. To embody the peace that he brought to our lives and make it real in our world.
“Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” These aren’t words that we say just at Christmas. When the crowds in Jerusalem said them, they were dreaming of a king who would bring victory and glory. And in Jesus as their king they got what they needed – a savior.
One who came to topple sin and death and Satan – all the things that underlie the kingdoms that humans build. Not in a way that anyone expected, but in a way that the world needed.
More than any other Sunday, this day puts us face-to-face with the truth about Jesus. The one who will never leave us alone, even in our emptiest of moments. The one who sees and honors the sacredness of each person. The one who brings peace to our broken world. Thanks be to God! Amen.
 Spirituality of Conflict commentary for April 10, 2022.
 Lederach, J, 2014, Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians, Herald Press, p48