Palm Sunday 2007/2023
At the beginning of our procession we prayed:
Assist us mercifully with your help, O Lord God of our salvation, that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts whereby you have given us life and immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And after hearing the Gospel we prayed again:
“It is right to praise you, Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us – On this day he entered the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palm along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory.”
We are entering the most solemn week of the Church year, but the collects do not sound at all sorrowful, do they? That is because we begin this week – and indeed we walk through this week – remembering what God has done for us – “given us life and immortality,” – and how God has done it, by God’s “mighty acts” – God’s “acts of love.”
We acknowledge that in Jesus, God did for us all that we cannot do for ourselves, and we rejoice in his victory even as we recall the cost: the suffering and death of Jesus. We may well grieve for our sins, and for the present, miserable state of God’s already-redeemed humanity, mostly blundering along unaware of what has been done for the whole world.
But it is also right for us to “enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts.”
What God has done in Christ Jesus is to reveal in an indisputable way the power and love of God: God’s endless desire to deliver his creation out of bondage to sin and death and lead us into full freedom, and life unending.
This is the deepest and widest Exodus: greater even than the mighty acts that our Jewish friends will celebrate as Passover begins this Wednesday evening. God delivered God’s people from slavery to Pharaoh and made them a new people in a new land – God’s own people. And they never, ever forget it. And they make it their own in every generation: “When we came up out of bondage…”
We understand the Jesus story as another Exodus – and we celebrate it that way every single Sunday as we “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes…” But we will only remember “with joy” those mighty acts that are in our own Christian history and experience when we are also willing to be connected to our whole, long Christian history, to all of our people everywhere, and in every age.
We will only “enter with joy” upon the contemplation of these mighty acts if they resonate with our own experience, if we are glad to be those whose story this is.
If you are a baptized believer, you, too, have been drawn through the waters of death and brought safely through the wilderness into a new homeland, a new life of freedom. When you eat the bread and drink the wine at this table, you, too, taste the Manna- the bread of heaven, and share the cup of salvation, which are the undying love of the Lord himself, given for you.
But it is also likely that you sometimes forget what that means, or misunderstand, from time to time what being part of the body of believers means. We all do. That is why we are invited to remember – weekly of course, but also yearly, when we give ourselves a whole week to re-tell in dramatic ways what God has done for us.
We begin this week with the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem: Jesus, riding on a lowly donkey, surrounded by crowds of his most ordinary followers, people like us, who recognized the royal symbolism. They spontaneously threw down their brightly colored cloaks and ripped down palm branches to wave – and called him, ”King!”
They saw him riding a young donkey, not a Roman horse of war – and they saw Jesus do what every king in their past had done. He came in peace. They remembered David, their beloved king when they saw Jesus. And they did what was right to do – they made took up branches, flowers and palms of victory to wave, shouting, “Hosanna!”
“Lord, save us!”
It is no wonder that they did, really.
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