What an exuberant way to sing in our worship today. Rejoice. Rejoice and even Lutherans are doing it. I mean, I think this is just awesome. You know, I have, you know, I’m retiring at the end of May, so it’s time for a personal confession. 43 years ago on a Palm Sunday in Watertown, South Dakota. I thought those are pretty pathetic palms that we give you, right? I mean, what? What do you do with that? Unless you know how to make a cross. So 43 years ago I was preaching on Palm Sunday and I called up the florist and I said, how much for the big fan poems? And they rattled it off to me for, you know, 30 of ’em for this much and how much for the big ones. This much for the big ones. And um, some of you may know that I’m not all that good at math, but I thought 35 bucks. For 350 Palms, it’s a steal. So I got up and preached and people were waving all these palms and I sat down and I refigure. I go, oh, that was $350. Now you know why you still have those ugly little Frans. You know, it’s the, the title of my sermon today is Palms and Praise, and you’ve already got the Palms. We’ve been doing some praising and we’re gonna do more of it, but there are a few things I wanna say about the text I read from the alt from the aisle a moment ago from Zacharia, and then we’ll talk about our text from the Gospel of John Zachariah was a prophet that lived 520 years before Jesus. And he spoke to a people that were so desperate, they’d been kicked around, knocked around, abused. They’d been in bondage to so many different world powers at that time, and God sent Zacharia a shaker and a mover to bring them hope. And he did so in this prophecy that we read, that portends exactly what happened.
Today as we celebrate Palm Sunday, he talked about rejoicing for your king comes riding on a cult, the young fo of a cult. And there’s a line there that I want you to hang on to because he extended an invitation as from God himself, and it still comes today because he said to these exiled people, he said, come you hopeful prisoners. Come you hopeful prisoners come home. Come home to the arms of God. And that’s an invitation that is always extended to us. We are wayward people. We go our own ways and always and forever. God is saying, come home, you hope filled pilgrims and prisoners. And so today we’re gonna hear the same kind of thing from the gospel writer John. John is the one that we identify as the one who Jesus loved. Isn’t that a great title? The one who Jesus loved, you know, he loves all of you. I, there was a priest I read about who on his return address, whenever he’d send anything, he just wrote the one who Jesus loves. Wouldn’t that be a great way to address, to put a return on your envelope? Well, you know, John is the only one. All four gospel writers record this scene of Palm Sunday. So it’s an important event in the life of Jesus and now in our lives as the church. But John is the only one that mentions palms. So if it weren’t for John, we probably have Branch Sunday rather than Palm Sunday. So we can be grateful to John that he gives us this. But our text today begins with the word, uh, on the next day. The next day. So I’m curious about that. You may not be, but I’m gonna satisfy my curiosity. What came the day before? Well, Jesus was at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were good friends.
Okay. Lazarus, he had raised from the dead, and Mary and Martha threw a dinner party in honor of Jesus. And Mary did something so dramatic that I want you to catch the significance of what she did. After dinner, uh, Mary went and she broke an expensive vial of of pure ard. It’s a perfumed and scented, uh, spice scented oil that was worth more than diamonds. More than a year’s wages, and she broke this vial of perfume and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and she wiped them with her hair. It was a scandalous thing to unbind her hair, but she was so moved to to anoint Jesus with this oil. They protested a little bit and Jesus told us what she was doing. She was anointing him for his burial. But there’s a further significance that is just so amazing to me, and it was so common and so well understood that neither Jesus nor John ever mentions it in the text that follows. But what happened was in ancient times when anyone as a priest or a king was coronated or indoctrinated or welcomed into their role, they were anointed with this expensive oil. Kings didn’t get a crown. They got perfume, aromatic perfume that acted as an invisible crown. Now imagine that day when Jesus is riding in on the donkey into Jerusalem from Bethany and this invisible crown. Would have surrounded the people when they would smell this expensive oil. Rare, rare, they, they were, were ready to, to look for the king somewhere, approaching them.
And so it was that Jesus comes and enters into Jerusalem in this incredible way, this symbol that Mary had done. Anyone that smelled like that. Was known to be special, specially set apart by God. So imagine this as they’re rethinking the parallel of what’s happening because Solomon one day years before had rid ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey as a king who had been anointed, and so too, Jesus came in that way. That aroma lasted for days, probably right up until his crucifixion. I’d like to read for you our gospel text from John chapter 12. The next day, the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the King of Israel. Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it as it is written. Do not be afraid. Daughters, Zion. See, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s cult. At first, his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him. Now, the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to spread the word. Many people because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisee said to one another, see, it’s getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him. This is the word of the Lord. Thank you, God. Will you join me in prayer? Heavenly Father, thank you for this living word. But you know that so many of us sitting here have heard this story dozens of times as we’ve sat holding a palm frond in our hand when we were younger and even as we were getting older. But there’s a new meaning, a new purpose in us sitting here today. It’s no accident that we’re all gathered here in this room at the same time singing these songs, hearing these scriptures, and so I pray that your, your powerful word would do its work in each of our lives. And to that end, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy Ito Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Dear friends, in Christ, grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. There’s a line from our gospel text that I’d like to use for a call and response. A couple of times during my sermon, and I hope you’ll be able to remember it. I will prompt saying Hosanna and invite you to respond. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Let’s practice it again. Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Boy, you’re all awake. You had your coffee this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a parade that I didn’t love. Don’t you love a parade? I mean, there’s something just, I don’t know, magical about a parade, whether it’s at Disneyland and their evening parade. Every time the the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the Rose Bowl parade you watch on tv, maybe it was the Bicentennial Parade in your, uh, city Square or the 4th of July parade every year in your little town, right? Can you conjure up the memory, the firetruck going by the clowns, throwing candy to everybody, the beauty queens, you know, waving with the royal wave on the back of a convertible, the high stepping drill drill team. And then the bands, I think, I love the bands the most. Can’t you just feel them in your feet when they’re going by that big bass bass drum that’s pounding loudly and the snare drums that are tapping in unison and, and then the brass. Oh yeah, you wanna be right there when they start to play. Raising their trumpets and trombones and tubas. And then finally the, uh, the symbols clash and then the piccolos playing stars and stripes forever. Don’t you just wanna stand almost, you know, I want you to conjure up that image because sometimes we neutralize these images in the scripture. We think they’re just one dimensional flannelgraph figures dancing across the, the flannelgraph in front of us. But these are real live people. And there were, the city of Jerusalem was teaming with pilgrims there for Passover, up to a million pilgrims, crowded in those old streets, those cobblestone streets in, in Jerusalem. And there was a festive air. You can imagine these people then, and when Jesus comes, they said, Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. These people were crawling up these palm trees and stripping off branches and carpeting the cobblestone with green and taking off their own coats almost as an ancient red carpet treatment for the approaching king. It was like a Mardi Gras just jammed and you were there.
The Hawkers are hawking their wares. Lambs for sale. Lambs for sale. Matza, fresh matza. Get your matza. Can’t you hear him get matza? I don’t speak Hebrew, but I’ve got a good little Yiddish. Come and have Passover meal with us. Good code, good food. What a mad house it was. Just imagine that these streets so crammed full dirty streets. Dusy, mules, camels, bang off in the distance. Pilgrims chanting their prayers. Romans chariots and charioteers riding back and forth all of this to honor the one who came in the name of the Lord. And they had to wonder, could this be the one? They’ve obviously knew of this prophecy of Zachariah. They’ve been waiting no longer on tiptoes because they’d almost given up hope. There had been false messiahs before, but this one. Many of them had seen him raise Lazarus from the dead that had never been done before. He’d been healing the blind and curing the lepers and forgiving the sinners and eating with the down and outers the tax collectors, the sinners, the prostitutes. And then imagine this scene as he enters. Jesus is a grown man and he’s trying to mount this little cult that’s never been ridden before. Her, I think what a scene that must have been. I don’t know if they buck or not, but he was rodeo riding this stubborn mule and Jesus disciples, they’re fishermen, they don’t know what to do. And, and I kind of delight in thinking of, of, of them just having a playful time and laughing at Jesus trying to be on this donkey like he was. I have images of my big fat Greek wedding and people saying, mov mov, or what they said in the scripture, Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. In the words of Isaiah, uh, excuse me, and the words of Zacharia that I read a moment ago, God was saying to these people, come home, hope filled pilgrims. Come home, hope filled prisoners. Come home to me. Jesus laid out his life for them to say, come home. Come home. You prodigals. Wherever you’ve wandered, come home. Come home to Almighty God who is keeping his promises come home to the God who I am fulfilling these promises. We come today with, with a festive parade as hope-filled prisoners because we know what happens the next seven days.
This parade will very soon take a dramatic turn in the road and it will become Friday’s processional and then Sundays peon of praise. Today’s festival is just a simple foretaste of the joy and celebration that we will know a week from today. And living on this side of the tomb, we can truly, with full throated praise, say Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Indeed. Blessed is this one who has come and will come again in the name of the Lord. And he speaks to us saying, come home. Come home my friends. On this first Palm Sunday, the first time Jesus came, he came to be torn. The next time he comes for his second coming, he will come to tear it all, tear down all evil. This time when Jesus came meek and moly riding on an asses cult. But the next time Jesus is gonna come riding on the clouds and calling our name, we’re close to his second coming, my friends. Either way, he comes as our king and he welcomes us. One last time. Hosanna Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. You know, my friends. There’s a hundred years ago in the deep South when people would talk about a living dynamic, life changing encounter with Jesus Christ. They didn’t use the term born again. They used the term seized by the power of a great affection. They were seized by the power of a great affection. You know, we as the people of God, it’s nothing that we do. It’s something that’s been done for us, and we have been seized by the power of a great affection, the late Brennan Manning, a priest, an alcoholic in recovery, but falling off many times. He was a writer and a speaker. Um, in his book, the Signature of Jesus. He helps us understand what being, uh, seized by the power of a great affection means. Manning had the privilege of spending an afternoon with an Amish family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There are a lot of Amish people near where our kids and us have a lake home in Missouri, and if you’ve ever seen them, they’re very distinct. They’re wearing black, all black. The men are suspenders and untrimmed beard and a round circular hat. Well, Brennan went to this home and there was a father and four children there. The father was 82 years old. His name was Jonah Z, and he was a widower. He was trying to raise these children on the farm. His daughter, Barbara, was 57 years old, and she managed the household. Then there were three younger children, Rachel, who was 53, ELAM, who was 47, and Sam who was 45. All of these younger children, manning rights were severely retarded. His story centers around Elam. He calls him Little Elam. He was four foot, nothing heavyset thick beard wore the black Amish outfit with the circular hat. When Brennan arrived around noon, little Elam was coming out of the barn some 50 yards away, and Manning writes this, he had never laid eyes on me in his life. Yet when he saw me step out of the car, he ran licked. He split in my direction and two feet away, he threw himself into the air, wrapped his arms around my neck, and and wrapped his legs around my waist. And he kissed me smack dab on the lips. And he said to say he was dumbfounded would be an understatement, but he said, Jesus set me free in an instant, and I returned ELAMs Kiss. Elam jumped down and he wrapped both arms over, both hands around my arm and took me on a tour of the farm. And then they sat down later for lunch and Elam sat next to me. He says, midway through the meal, I turned around to say something to my friend, and inadvertently my right elbow slammed Elam in the ribs. He didn’t groan. He didn’t wince. He wept like a child. He says. And then he said, ELAM did something absolutely amazing. He says, ELAM came to my chair and he kissed me even harder on the lips. And then he kissed his eyes and his nose, and his forehead, and his cheeks, and there was Brennan dazed, dumb struck, sweeping, seized by the power of such a great affection. And Manning says Elam Little Elam was an icon of Jesus Christ with this unwarranted love and acceptance and affection. And we too, my friends, have been seized by the power of this great affection of Jesus Christ, who went to the cross bearing our name, who rose from the dead, bearing our name.
Paying the cost that we should have paid for our sin and he rose from the dead for us in order that our hearts would be seized with a great affection. You see that God, Jesus Christ is the one who opens his arms and says, come hopeful prison prisoner. Come home. Come home to me for the sake of Christ, will you join me in prayer? Lord God, a heavenly Father, as we hear your word and soon celebrate this sacrament of your body and blood, may you move on each of our hearts far past Palm Sunday into this very day and our very lives, and seize us with that powerful affection of yours to love us and accept us and forgive us. And now Jesus, may you receive the glory and the honor for we prayed in your name. Amen.