Faithlife Sermons

Palm Sunday Celebration

Notes & Transcripts

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Lord, our King our Saviour – Amen

I love Palm Sunday – I think that I have always loved Palm Sunday

And I am going to go out on a limb here and say I believe that God wants us to love Palm Sunday

I Think that God made us, each one of us slightly different, yet made each and every one of us with a desire or longing to Love Palm Sunday

The story of Palm Sunday is a very simple one and it is one of those stories that most children’s bible story books include

They include it, for one simple reason…. – it’s a celebration of Jesus being the King of kings

            Children’s bible story books got it right!

True not every story is in them, even the very thick and comprehensive ones can’t have every story – but most have Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem

It has become a modern adjustment to our Lent and Easter time to transform Palm Sunday into Passion Sunday

            Sometimes with Palm Sunday and sometimes without

For some churches, if you have the time or make the time, you might have the service broken into two parts

the first being some form of telling the Palm Sunday story

            maybe done as an active and extended Children’s focus

and the other, much larger part, to tell the Passion narrative

            often this is the responsible adult time of the service

            For many, if not most churches, Palm Sunday has been all but erased

The reason for this stems from when the lectionary was last revised

It was determined that many people, are only able to come to church on Sundays, missing what can be daily services in Holy Week, missing Maundy Thursday and most significantly missing Good Friday.

            Good Friday the service that each year tells the Passion of our Lord

                        Good Friday, the day in the year where we don’t celebrate

                                    The day when we collectively go to a Funeral service

                                    The day when we are faced with the cross

The most brutal form of torture that the Roman Empire could think up

So it was decided that if people are unable or unwilling to go to Church on Good Friday, missing the Passion of our Lord – then the Church would change the Sunday before, to either a blended Palm/Passion Sunday or leave out palm Sunday altogether

If you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain – then bring the mountain to Mohammed … to mix religious metaphors a little

But I have to say… I believe that Children’s bible story books got it right!

I believe that the modern accommodation is simply foreign to the whole telling of the story

I believe the answer, in this case, is not to accommodate to the culture – but call the culture to accommodate to the whole reality of Jesus Christ’s story

I will explain in two parts and close with a short remembrance

First, Theologically… Jesus tells us that His triumphal entry is a vital part of the whole story

We heard the story read this morning and for many of us this is a well known story

            Jesus is nearby the Holy City of Jerusalem, in Bethpage and Bethany

He has only a day or so ago preformed His most incrediable miracle of raising Lazarus back to life after four days of decomposing in the tomb

            Then He instructs a couple of his disciples to go get a colt for Him to ride on

Whether it is Matthew’s choice of colt being translated to the humble work creature of that of the donkey

Or it is Luke’s choice of a colt, one that has never been ridden to indicate this as a majestic moment  - a beast that has been reserved specially in God’s long vision for this majestic moment

The point is that Jesus will not be walking in but making a grand entrance into Jerusalem – He will be making what we (who know the whole story) call His triumphal entry

As He approaches people lay down their cloaks on the colt and then also on the ground in service for the coming king

Luke the evangelist, our reading this year, was a Gentile – not a Hebrew, and he doesn’t include the Palm branches

But a harmonized reading of the Gospels and appreciation for Jewish culture has the crowd in joyful celebration waving palm branches for the coming of the Messiah

But all of this is too much for the by-standing Pharisees

It is too much celebration – it will draw too much attention during this the first day of Passover

They are worried about how the ruling Roman authorities will see this celebration – will they feel threaten that someone other than Caesar is treated like a king

History tells us that there were many ‘so-called messiahs’ and there were many riots and uprisings within a few years of this

            Each time the Romans dealt with it effectively and brutally

The most brutal was about 30 years previous, where 2000 Jewish rebels where put on crosses and lined all roads to Jerusalem for 20 miles

The Pharisees want to keep the peace – they want the Passover to be peaceful remembrance and their most sacred festival of the year

            And Jesus is not helping their cause – not with this commotion and celebration

And certainly not with the way in which Jesus is being revealed as a king – the Messiah, arriving to the Holy City of Jerusalem

So… Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”(Luke 19:39)

And here is the moment – Here is the time where Jesus tells us that His triumphal entry is a vital part of the whole story

            Here is where Jesus is whispering in the ears of the Children’s Bible story book editors

                        “The story must be in”

            Here is one of the moments that all creation has been groaning for

                        Where in the fullness of time – the wholeness of the message must be told

From the mouth of our Lord we hear His response to the Pharisee’s

            “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

Jesus declares that this is so important that – even if he told His disciples to stop

            Creation would SHOUT OUT … that the messiah has arrived

As I said the story is really quite simple – but it has profound implications

Jesus enters in Jerusalem riding on a colt and people celebrate the arrival of the coming of the messiah to the Holy City

I said in the beginning of this sermon that I believe that God has made us each slightly different, yet made each and every one of us with a desire or longing to Love Palm Sunday

And what I meant by that is that I believe each one of us – like the stones that would shout out if we didn’t – each one of us loves a celebration – and particularly loves a parade of some form

Whether it be the record crowds that gathered across this nation for the Olympic torch run

Or the thousands that flooded downtown Toronto – when our hockey team won gold on home soil – a game that was said to be watched by 80% of all Canadians

Whatever the celebration – but especially some form of parade – it is a wonderful - life enriching moment – and I believe that God has hard-wired us all to celebrate

God has made us with a desire at some point in our life to long for and Love Palm Sunday, regardless of what temporarily abates and satisfies the desire

We want to celebrate – Our Lord – Our Messiah - arriving to where He belongs

The last thing I want to share with you in a memory of a Palm Sunday – long in the past

            I grew up going to a Church that celebrated Palm Sunday

                        Each year numerous palm branches were brought in for the special day

            Each year the children of the church got to take a special role in the service

                        For this one service of the year, we were told repeated to sit still and be quiet

No, we were given palm branches as we entered and we were part of the choir procession into the church. We were not only allowed but encouraged to wave them about wildly and enthusiastically

Because On Palm Sunday we celebrated the coming of Jesus as King of kings

And I remember that after the service, after all the celebration of the worship service

There was this one older gentleman – I seem to remember his name being Mr. Andrews or something like that – he was soft spoken with an English accent, shorter even to a kid and kind

He came alone, His wife was not in good health, but I remember him especially on Palm Sunday

I remember him, because he was the one that patiently taught us kids how to make palm crosses

I imagine now, that many other adults could probably have also made palm crosses, but he took the time to teach us kids

That to me explains a lot of what Palm Sunday is – it is the memory of celebrating in church – Jesus – and it is the beginning of the Passion story – it is the palms of celebration turning into the cross of our lord

Jesus knew that all creation was groaning to declare this moment – that Jesus is the King of kings

That Jesus is the stone that the builder refused – becoming the chief cornerstone

And Jesus knew that by coming to Jerusalem, coming in this way, that He was coming to His death

So I close by encouraging you to take some instruction out of a children’s bible story book and keep Palm Sunday in – celebrate our Messiah

And I encourage you as well to respect the cross of Christ – and join in the passion story – not today – but this coming Good Friday

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, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:37b-38)


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