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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

Palm Sunday “Prayer of Action”


With all of the songs that proclaim Hosanna, I never really got a “save us” vibe. They all seemed upbeat and parade-like: Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! ...Save us, in the highest? Save us doesn’t seem to go with the parade-feel we’re used to having on Palm Sunday. But that is what this crowd is saying, whether they are quoting Psalm 118 as part of their journey towards Jerusalem for Passover, or specifically saying “Save us” or “Savior” to Jesus the prophet and political Messiah, as they understand him. When talking about what God does or what God had done in their history, “Save us” could make sense in the setting. After all, they had been promised a Messiah, a Son of David, who would save them.

A couple weeks ago I was listening to the book of 1 Samuel, and it hit me just how much of a warrior David was. We all know the story of young David slaying Goliath: he couldn’t even wear King Saul’s armor or use his sword. He had to use the sling and 5 smooth stones that he was familiar with. But David goes on to be a great warrior. There are a few times where crowds say “Saul has killed thousands, and David has killed tens of thousands!” David was a warrior. And the Messiah was assumed to be the same: someone who would overthrow Rome and be a political king. As David Lose noted a few years ago, this was “a crowd of people who were worn out by occupation, by feeling like strangers in their own land, and who had little day-to-day hope of improving their life or lot. And so they turn to Jesus.” The word Hosanna “capture[d] the hopes, pleas, dreams, needs, and expectations [of this desperate crowd].”

Prophets coming to town during a festival had the potential of stirring up trouble, and Jerusalem for the next week or so has about 10 times more people than usual. The parade welcoming Jesus brought turmoil. In his version, Matthew even says that the whole city of Jerusalem is “stirred up.” And it makes sense. I can see how the locals would be shaken up. I can understand why the religious leaders would be angry when Jesus comes in and turns over the money changers tables. Jesus is shaking things up.

Turmoil is “a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.” And that continues to describe life time after time. Lose noted how “so many of us carry [a deep ache]. Fears about the future, challenges in our relationships, a general sense of impotence about world events, less confidence in some of the social structures – church, law enforcement, government, family – than we once maintained. ‘Hosanna. Save us.’ All in all, [we’re] not that different from the folks who welcomed Jesus and longed for him to change things…and themselves.” But, there is good news: turmoil is NOT the opposite of peace.

While Jesus goes to the temple and turns over the table of the money- changers, he also teaches. In Matthew's gospel, he heals the lame and the blind. Jesus is still who he’s always been. Bringing good and teaching even in the midst of turmoil. After all, this is two processions in one: Jesus’ followers and the crowds are processing into Jerusalem, hailing Jesus as Son of David; and Jesus is processing to the cross.

This week, we are journeying with Christ. Unlike the disciples and the crowds, we know what lies on the other side: we know the cross is looming, and we know that the tomb will be empty. But first, we have to journey through it.

We’re entering Holy Week, which is part of our faith: there would be no Easter without Good Friday… and that Friday would not be called Good if Easter weren’t on the other side. Enter into these days, into the suffering that Christ experiences. Come back on Thursday evening at 7pm for our Maundy Thursday worship and experience the last supper as Jesus steps closer and closer to the cross. And after worship on Thursday, head to the Harris room for our interactive stations of the cross to contemplate this Holy path to the cross. And know that this Jesus gives abundant life, even in the midst of the turmoil.

Throughout their history, Israel would come together at the same time to pray the same prayer. There is some amazing solidarity in coming together to pray. It means we are turning to God, which is exactly what we should be doing.  So during this week, pray for each other, pray for yourselves, pray for those dear to you. Act on your prayer. And then put it all in the Lord’s hands. For through the cross we will find resurrection.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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