Sermon for Palm Sunday, Year C

April 10, 2022

Luke 19:28-40     Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29    Isaiah 50: 4-9a    Psalm 31:9-16    Philippians 2:5-11   Luke 22:14-23:46

Last Sunday I said, “There can be no Easter without Good Friday.”  Holy Week, which begins today, is an important week in our practice of faith.  It is a difficult and painful week, but if we are to fully appreciate what Jesus has done for us, it is necessary for us to remember Easter comes at a price.  This morning’s worship began with the blessing of the palms where we hear the story from Luke in which Jesus enters into Jerusalem with great fanfare.  He enters the city riding a colt as people throw their cloaks on the road in front him – the equivalent of rolling out the red carpet.  In Mark and Matthew’s account, some of the people cut branches from trees and laid them before Jesus – hence the palm leaves used in this service.  By all accounts Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as a king is welcomed.

But this service turns from a celebration to something dark and disturbing with our reading from Isaiah – a portion of the scripture that tells of a servant who is unjustly beaten, insulted and disgraced.  That is followed by the Psalm in which the psalmist says, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow and also my throat and my belly.”  The psalm is both a plead for mercy and a statement of the psalmist’s faithful commitment to God.  Then, in Paul’s letter the church in Philippi, he writes, “[Christ] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” 

Finally, we heard the passion narrative from Luke which ends with Christ’s death upon the cross.  Today’s service contains all the elements of Holy Week, yet during the services on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we experience the last supper, betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion in even greater detail.  This is a painful week as we remind that life can turn on a dime.  One day we’re celebrating Christ’s entry into our lives, the next we turn our backs on Jesus and he is crucified on a cross.  We may say that Christ died once for all generations, but in our lives, we relive this week over and over again.  Whenever we turn our backs on the needs of others we are like Peter, we are denying that we are one of Christ’s disciples.   

Yet, on the cross Jesus says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  Forgive them, forgive us.  We, like the people of Israel in Exodus, lose our way often and we are forgiven.  All that is asked of us is that we repent – we turn back toward Christ and walk the way of love, using our gifts and talents to make a positive difference in the lives of others.  Christ’s love for us is resurrected when do so. 

Lent is coming to a close, Easter is only a few days away.  The path we are embarking on to resurrection is not an easy one.  In this life we are betrayed and we betray others.  We are in need of forgiveness.  On the cross we are forgiven.  Jesus says, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  Even in the midst of suffering and death, Jesus offers us the hope of a better, more fulfilled life.

Let us pray.

          O God, creator of us all, we pray today for the strength to endure our suffering.  Help us, we pray, to follow Jesus and forgive those who treat us and others unjustly.  Keep our souls safe in the dark times of our lives, and keep them close to Your heart that, with an awareness of your presence, we might live in faithful service to You.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.