On Palm Sunday
SERMON # SIX MARCH 2018
Reading: John 12: 12-16
On Palm Sunday
“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
His steadfast love endures forever!
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank thee that thou hast answered me
and has become my salvation” Psalm 118
Palm Sunday can help us to answer the question why it sometimes is so difficult to have a more complete or genuine faith.
It is perhaps not too difficult to sing the praises of those who do something for us – those who bring ‘good news’ to us or make it possible for us to fulfil any aspirations we may have. But it is not so always so easy to sing their praises when those same people may ask something of us. Sometimes our praises may turn to sounds of unhappiness!
Jesus is our Good News. When we think of what Jesus did for us and do for us it is not so difficult to sing our praises to him, but what about the other Jesus? The one who demands something of us? What happens to our hosannas when we encounter the Jesus who asks of us? It is easy to say hosanna when we encounter Jesus as the miracle worker, the healer, the saviour but what when after the healing, after the miracle, after the forgiveness, he should ask of us to follow him to the cross? What about our hosannas and this other Jesus?
The crowd came to see the Jesus the miracle worker and restorer of Israel’s previous glory. Their hosannas must have been for all to hear! That was it – but what about the other Jesus who at the same time, and something they may have missed in that moment, called them to follow him to the cross? The Jesus who not only gives but asks of us – yet even in asking gives us something still.
The Jesus who came in the name of the Lord? It raises for us the issue of what we do in the name of the Lord. To come in the name of the Lord is to behave or do things in a certain way – in short, for us, the Jesus way. There is no knowing God and doing God’s will outside of what we know about God and God’s will in and through Jesus.
With a bit of humour intended we may perhaps think about it in this way:
How do we wreck a perfectly good church meeting? The answer: ‘For someone or more to say ‘this is what God wants us to do!’’ How do you argue against a conviction legitimized by ‘this is what the Lord says!’ It kills any further conversation. End of good meeting! (Those who know about Church meetings and how we love to go on talking for hours about all kinds of stuff, even small things that should be settled elsewhere, for instance, what kind of tea to buy for the kitchen, will see the light here!)The point is this: When we do things in the name of the Lord we have to be very careful to make sure it is not simply about our own agendas. And that is not too difficult – if we (or any meeting) want to know if it is what can be done ‘in the name of the Lord’ we have to look at Jesus in who we know and see God. Jesus asks of us to be obedient in this way – to not be silent when things are being done ‘in the name of the Lord’ and we know it is wrong. But this may soften or quiet down our hosannas for it is not easy. It may turn our hosannas into grumblings for it may just be too demanding to follow Jesus all the way to the cross.
Jesus came in the name of the Lord and we are called to follow him in this work. Palm Sunday is an invitation to have a more complete or fulfilled faith. To encounter Jesus as the one who is the miracle worker, the saviour, the forgiver, brings forth our hosannas and that is great and right! We should live our whole lives praising Jesus! But we also encounter Jesus as the one who demands of us obedience to the cross. Often, for us, the ‘other’ Jesus with the cross which ‘in the name of the Lord’ stood against all evil powers of this world, even the (evil) possibility that evil is done ‘in the name of the Lord.’ The point here is that to encounter Jesus as both leads to a more genuine faith and thus the call to sing our hosannas, instead of turning away from Jesus, as loud as ever, not only when we remember what he did and do for us, but even when we come face to face with the Jesus who demands our all.
‘O Lord, you have come into our hearts today,
Jesus, you are our miracle worker, our healer, our provider, our saviour,
And we praise and lift you up on high!
You have come into our hearts asking us to follow you to the cross,
To stand against all the wrong that is done ‘in your name,’
Send your Spirit so that we may discern that which is against your will,
Help us to sing our praises of Jesus at all times, even when we are facing
difficulties because of our faith in you. Amen”