Palm Sunday 2019

The Holy Gospel according to Luke, the 19th chapter.

Glory to you, O Lord. 

And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.

If any one asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this, 'The Lord has need of it.'"

So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.

And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

And they said, "The Lord has need of it."

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it.

And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, 

"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples."

He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jesus said, "I tell you, if these (disciples) were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  

This is no ordinary day.  This is no ordinary week.  We begin our holy week by re-enacting the events of the first Palm Sunday.  Like the disciples and the crowd on the road, we are definitely not silent. We sing and ring our bells. We wave our branches and shout “Hosanna” and “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.”

For us, this sanctuary becomes our Jerusalem.  It becomes the place we remember the last days of Jesus on earth. Here, this week, we will participate in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. 

We begin our week in joy.  We have much to celebrate today. We will welcome Jackson as a new member of God’s family through the sacrament of holy baptism.  We blessed the new front doors that welcome us in for prayer and praise. 

We welcome our new friend and colleague, Pastor Gonzales, from Tree of Life.  We are looking forward to a close association with him as we share ministries in this building and neighborhood. 

We have new paraments to aid in our worship.  They are scarlet, the color of royalty.  We sing new songs, a different setting for the liturgy from the one we sang the last several weeks in lent. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus said, "I tell you, if these (disciples) were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

It seems like an unusual analogy. There are many verses in the Old Testament about nature making noise. There is the roaring of the seas, the tumult of the mountains. The fields rejoice and the trees sing out. But, there is no other verse about stones crying out. 

I can’t think of anything less animate than a stone. Trees are alive. Fields have growing plants on them. Mountains and seas are teaming with life. Rocks are inanimate. Not only that, they are hostile to life. The seeds that fall in the rocky soil do not thrive. 

There are lots of Bible verses about rocks and stones. Some of them are about stoning people as a method of the death penalty.  Some of them are about removing stones from the pathway.  That’s what “Prepare the Royal Highway” is about.  The Romans cleared the stones from the roadways before the king traveled on them.  

But, Jesus isn’t that kind of a king.  He doesn’t ride in on a big horse, the symbol of victory in battle.  He rides in on a donkey, an animal who is a symbol of peace. Nobody has removed the stones from his path.  

In several places in the psalms and prophets, stones are a sign of strength.  God is compared to a rock and a fortress and the rock of our salvation.  We have some hymns like that, too.  “Jesus is a rock in a weary land.”  “A mighty fortress is our God.” “On Christ the solid rock I stand.” And of course, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.”

But today, Jesus said, "I tell you, if these (disciples) were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  

Jesus is telling us that something literally earth-changing is about to happen.  The Palm Sunday procession is no ordinary event.  It isn’t even ordinary in the context of things Jesus does.  Today’s procession marks the beginning of the week that changes the world for all time and eternity.  

We know that Jesus routinely used natural things to teach us about the kingdom of God.   We have parables about coins and sheep, weeds and wheat. Today, God is with us in the water of baptism as we welcome Jackson into the church, the family of God. 

Palm Sunday is no ordinary day.  We remember Palm Sunday, every week in our communion liturgy when we sing, “Hosanna, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!”  This Thursday we will remember that Jesus promised to be present with us in a special way in bread and wine.

God does not routinely change the natural order of things.  The natural laws are part of the way God made the world. They are an integral part of creation itself.  In the beginning, God made the world and declared it to be good.  So, when Jesus says something earth-changing is happening, it’s time to pay attention.

On that first Palm Sunday, the disciples and the people in the crowd did cry out.  They did make some noise, throw down their coats and wave the palms. The stones did not need to cry out.  

This is no ordinary week.  On Thursday, this place becomes Jerusalem for us as we remember the night of Jesus’ betrayal.  On Friday, we go with Jesus to the hill outside the city wall. On Saturday evening we join our friends from 4 other churches and light a fire and candles and travel from the darkest night into the glorious light of Christ. 

Today, we are singing and waving our branches, so this week, the stones do not need to shout. But this is no ordinary week. This week the stones are like small rocks, the kind that get in your shoe and annoy you, the kind that you stub your foot on.

Just wait until next Sunday! Come and hear what God does with a really large stone!  It changes the world.  It changes your life. 

Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.