Year C; Palm SundayFB; 4.14.2019
Behold, O God your restored house! Behold, O God your vibrant Spirit! Behold, O God
your generous people!
It’s good to be here in this holy space today. We are entering the restored Nave right on
schedule. On January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, we made a procession after the service with
hymnals and prayer books in hand to the Great Hall. We have been there holding services for just
over four months.
The building restoration began last summer and is now complete. There were only two
alterations to the plan along the way. First, we discovered that we needed to shore up the beams
right here underneath us because of beetle bug damage. And second, our clever and innovative,
carpentry contractor saw a solution to create handicap access from the center aisle by eliminating
the step barrier. The front sections right here in the Nave are now adaptable for wheelchairs and
The Construction Team didn’t skip a beat in presenting these changes in the plan to the
Vestry. The Vestry approved them. The fund-raising committee embraced it all with inspiration.
And you! You gave generously to make this a beautifully restored house of God. Thank you.
The palms for today always arrive the week of Palm Sunday. They are fresh and green.
They come from Texas. We treat them like fresh flowers, so we keep them in a cool place so
they don’t wilt and turn brown. Because the box is so bulky it doesn’t fit in the refrigerator. So,
every year, Susan Tyler, our parish administrator puts them right inside the Pleasant Street door.
It is ALWAYS cool in there this time of year, so the palms keep very well.
Except this year. The new boiler is so efficient that the vestibule is now nice and warm. It
is no place to keep palms cool! We had to figure out another cool place!
So, lift your palm! We lift them and wave them in celebration of our re-entry into this
historic, beautiful restored place of worship. And, as we have done for every Palm Sunday for
over a century and a half, we lift them and wave them to symbolize Jesus’ majesty as he entered
the city of Jerusalem. “Hosanna!” “Save us!” we shout.
The crowds thought Jesus was a powerful leader and mighty savior. Most of them
thought they were shouting “Hosanna!” “Save us!” because they hoped he would be their general
to lead them in overcoming the oppressive Romans. Luke writes, “The whole multitude of the
disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had
seen…” Were those “deeds of power” going to free them from Roman oppression? Did they
expect that all the healing and casting out of demons was a sign of earthly might? Didn’t they
notice that he was not riding on a stallion? Didn’t they notice he hadn’t come to them with spoils
of war? These were the things a general brings to his triumphal entry into a capital city. Jesus
had none of that.
Instead, Jesus was riding on a lowly beast of burden – a colt, a donkey.
And yet, the frantic waving of palms, the shouting voices of hope and breathless attempts
to touch his garment persisted. No matter how lowly Jesus was in his entry into Jerusalem, all the
commotion made the religious officials uncomfortable. They vocally objected saying, “Teacher,
make them stop!” “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
I imagine Jesus might have said, “What? You object to their joy and anticipation? What
makes you want to control them? Don’t you know that even if I did command them to stop
shouting, that nature itself would raise its voice in praise? Don’t you realize that ‘the stones
themselves would start to sing?’”
Even nature wishes to herald the earth-shaking news of God’s entry into life. Stones
would step in to make the noise. Peace not war is the message.
Remember at Christmastime the ruckus the heavenly host made in the bright lights of the
sky to the shepherds that night of Jesus’ birth? The heavenly host couldn’t contain itself with the
good news: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he
favors!” And on Palm Sunday the disciples shout the message for all is, “Peace in heaven, and
glory in the highest heaven!”
Peace on earth and peace in heaven was the good news being heralded about Jesus
regularly during his lifetime. I wonder what more could the crowds have wanted?
Perhaps peace is not really what they wanted after all. A new way of living was not what
they wanted. By the end of the week, after Jesus arrived with such fanfare into Jerusalem, his
closest friends had scattered in fear. They were cowed by the fierce and immediate abuse of
Jesus as he was falsely blamed as an agitator and blasphemer. They heard how easily the people
believed the lies told about Jesus. The dropped their palms and ran in terror.
What is stunning to me about the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus is how quickly
it went “south.” How quickly the pressures of politics, power and fear obliterated any notion of
Fear is a strong motivator for us all, isn’t it? How quickly we get caught up in the noise
and hysteria of the news – the chronic bad news, and allow it to invade our inner serenity.
I once listened to a meditation recording of a woman who was an expert on meditation.
She was kind of hard core “boot camp drill instructor” for those who wanted to be able to
meditate in all kinds of circumstances and conditions.
Her advice to her listeners was the opposite of anything I had ever learned in meditation
practices. First she said to never light a candle. That we mustn’t rely on creating a special kind of
atmosphere for our meditation. Then she had us imagine our very least favorite music, THE
most jarring music, and then, she told us to play that music DURING the meditation time. This
way, she said, we would learn to be able to keep our center in all sorts of unwelcome conditions.
I turned off the CD by then1
But she had a point.
Jesus kept returning to his center – even after all the jarring things that happened to him:
his beating, carrying his heavy cross, wearing a crown of thorns that caused him to bleed, and
finally, being affixed to the cross. He kept his center as terror unfolded all around him. He kept
his center to call on God to forgive his tormentors. He kept his center as he generously confirmed
to the one criminal that he would join him in paradise. And he kept his center as he gave up his
spirit. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
It’s so very joyful to be waving our palms and making our procession into a beautifully
restored place of worship. Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place. We are nourished and
strengthened for our journey as we go out into the terrors of the world each week. What is our
center? Who is our center? Jesus Christ our Savior is the “who” of our center.