So…here we are. Palm Sunday, the beginning of what we call Passion Week. Although we know what happens at the end of this week – the good, the bad, and the ugly parts – we use this day as a day to celebrate and rejoice in who Jesus is – Jesus is King, of you and me, of our family and friends, of our acquaintances and strangers, of animals and plants, of all creation that we see and don’t see around us. As Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” We give thanks and praise to God for this day and every day, for this chance to rejoice.
Join in singing of this familiar song: This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made
This is the day, this is the day,
that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice,
and be glad in it, and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made.
That song comes from the psalter reading for today:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say,
“His steadfast love endures forever.”
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
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.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
As we enter this week, please re-read the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as King:
Matthew 21:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Feel free to sing along or just listen: Hosanna, Loud Hosanna (same hymn, two versions)
Video of a palm procession in Jerusalem
Two videos about Palm Sunday - enjoy!!
In the reading from Matthew, the author interprets a quote from the prophet Zephaniah (Zeph. 9:9): “Look, your king is coming to you” riding on a donkey. Later, he quotes Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” King. Lord. Although their definitions are slightly different, we often use the two words interchangeably when referring to Jesus. But what do they mean? Jesus is King, Jesus is Lord. We even combine them, as Paul (1Timothy 6:15) and John (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) do – King of kings and Lord of lords.
Kings and lords are rulers over an area, over a people, over a nation. When we proclaim, as the people of Jerusalem did, that Jesus is king and Jesus is lord, we are saying that he is our ruler; he is in control of all things. But it goes further than that. When we repeat Paul’s and John’s phrase, King of kings and Lord of lords, we are commenting on Jesus’ title role over all creation. Jesus is thee King over all other earthly kings; Jesus is thee Lord over all other earthly lords. No one is greater, no one can compare, no one has, is, or will even come close! Jesus is the ultimate ruler over all things, over all creation – that’s you and me, our friends and families, the animals and plants, the fish and sea creatures, the stars and galaxies, the neutrons and protons – everything comes under Christ’s rule and he reigns as supreme King and Lord. The stars and galaxies hold their place in the skies because God through Jesus created them that way. The moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun because God through Jesus created them to work that way. Our bodies move and breathe and have their being because God through Jesus created them to work that way. There is nothing that goes on in the universe, galaxy, planet, nation, state, country, community that God through Jesus has not created and placed here.
What does that mean for us? As King and Lord, there is nothing we do that Jesus doesn’t already know about. There is nothing about our bodies, our thoughts, our fears, our joys, that Jesus doesn’t already know and care about. But although God is in control, that doesn’t mean we are robots or automated beings. God gave us free will – the ability to choose and make our own decisions – when God created us. So, even though God is in control, we have the ability to choose whether or not to follow this King and allow him to reign in our lives as supreme King and Lord.
When the people of Jerusalem shouted “Hosanna!” at Jesus and laid their coats and palm branches on the road, they did call him Lord and King, but their idea of a supreme ruler was one that would overthrown the Roman government and allow them to live as they wanted. But that’s not the type of King and Lord Jesus was or is. Jesus didn’t overthrow the government, neither does Jesus overthrow our self-governance. We often think we have everything in control – we have decent jobs or a great retirement, we have cars and houses that are paid for (or at least almost), we have good educations for ourselves and for our kids and grandkids, we have health care and doctors and nurses that look out for us, we have money in the bank for rainy days – we have everything in control. UNTIL we are faced with some life-changing event that we never thought possible and didn’t plan for, something, say, like this CoVID-19 situation we find ourselves dealing with now. So much for having things under control. When faced with situations – with crises, chaos, uncertainty – how do we deal with not being in control? We panic, we fear, we look for ways out, for ways to hide, for ways to make ourselves feel better. But none of that seems to work, does it? When faced with these situations, we have no control over anything, not even ourselves. However, when Jesus is King and Lord of our lives, when we face these unknown, uncertain situations, we can rely on him to help us face it. We don’t have to panic, we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to look for ways out or places to hide. We can rely on and trust in our King and Lord, who, despite being royalty, actually wants to have an intimate, personal friendship with each and every one of us.
So as we celebrate what this Palm Sunday means to us, reflect on what it means to have Jesus as King and Lord of your life.
This last song is one that fits perfectly for today, for this situation we're in, and for the coming Passion Week. Praise You in the Storm, by Casting Crowns.
May you have a blessed Palm Sunday.