Rev. Judy’s Homily-Palm Sunday April 13, 2014: Shouts of Victory
Churches all over the world will be adorned in palm branches this Sunday commemorating the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem seated on the back of a donkey. In our church as in many Roman Catholic and other churches, people will gather outside in a procession to the church carrying palms and singing Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest, as was done for the first time by the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Matthew (21:1-11) will be read and we will see Jesus enacting the prophecy about the coming of Zion’s ruler in Zechariah 9:9-10. “Rejoice in heart and soul….Shout with gladness daughter of Jerusalem! Look! Your ruler comes to you: victorious and triumphant, humble, riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”(TIB) The NAB translation of this verse read: “Shout for joy…See, your king shall come to you; a just savior he is, meek and riding on the foal of an ass”. The Peshitta (Near Eastern translation from Jesus’ Aramaic) reads “…he is righteous and a Savior, lowly and riding…upon a colt, the foal of an ass”. The fulfillment of this prophecy about the Messiah is why Jesus sent his disciples to get the colt he would ride on into Jerusalem. To ride on a donkey in that age was more a sign of humiliation than royalty, for only the poor rode on donkeys. Royalty rode on fine horses or in transport pulled by powerful steeds. So, here is Jesus the king of the poor and outcast, for he had loved them, healed them, taught them and won their hearts, now welcomed by them with great joy. They spread their cloaks on the ground before him and shouted “Hosanna” which means “Save” in Hebrew but is a song of praise. Matthew’s Gospel says “the whole city was stirred up” at his arrival.
The account of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem is in all four Gospels. John’s Gospel (Ch 12) adds that the people recalled the raising of Lazarus and thronged around him. “Look, the whole world has gone after him! (12:19b). In Luke’s (Ch 19) account Jesus was asked by the Pharisees to quiet his disciples. He said that if they were quiet even the stones would cry out! This was a time of acclamation and joy, the universe itself was in accord. I think that the joyful shouts of acclamation filled Jesus’ heart and even for a short while he knew that despite what lied ahead, and he had already predicted that, he had accomplished his mission, the ordinary, the poor, the sick and the outcast along with his other disciples, men and women and children, knew who he was and would carry on his work. This deep knowledge and his always close Abba, Amma God (Papa, Mama) gave him the strength to face what was ahead of him.
And, then as he drew close to Jerusalem, Jesus wept for Jerusalem and the people as they did not accept the prophets before him, or him-“you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you”- and destruction not peace would come to them. The oppressors would win after all in Jerusalem and for this, he wept. Then, he entered the Temple and further enraged the authorities by throwing out the money changers and the sellers of animals, doves and others, for sacrifice. In essence, He set those birds and animals free and put the place where God was supposed to live back into God- perspective. God doesn’t want any form of animal or living sacrifice, God wants lives and hearts full of justice and love for everyone. This is to be a house of prayer! The ensuing parable of the tenants in the vineyard (Matt 21: 33-45) where the owner has to send his son because the others collecting the debt were killed and the son is also killed but the vineyard is given to other tenants, tells us what will happen next.
On Palm Sunday I like to savor the victory with Jesus. Jesus joy was short lived because his work was not done-he kept on going with his actions and his teaching. I think the strength of the Heartfelt Hosannas propelled him on. I also think that it may well have been a different crowd that shouted “crucify him” while his loyal group of lowly folks, lowly like him, were overwhelmed by the greater powerful interests of the religious establishment and the Roman Oppressors.
The Roman Catholic Liturgy really rushes Jesus’ moments of victory as once the palms are placed down, the entire Passion is read for the Gospel. Yes, Jesus will be killed in a brutal and slow tortuous way. But even there he will make a statement of victory. When we rely on the English translations from the Greek alone we may miss this shout of victory from the Cross. In Matthew 27:46 we have Jesus saying the Aramaic words “Eli, Eli, L’mana Sabachtani.” In English that is translated “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It is phrased as a question and is taken to mean the abandonment of God. But Aramaic scholar Rocco Errico (Let There Be Light, pp. 12-13) points out, it can also be understood as a declaration: “O God! O God To what (a purpose) You have kept me!” or “O Sustainer, O Sustainer! To what a purpose you have left me.” “Left” does not mean abandoned but it means spared to fulfill an end or destiny”. God never forsook or abandoned Jesus, and God will never forsake us. It is a cry of “I have accomplished it” (Like the “it is finished” in other accounts). The Lamsa version of the Aramaic translates, “for this was my destiny!” In other words, in addition to the words of forgiveness and inclusion (for the thief) from the Cross we have a sense of completion of Jesus’ work -only to be topped by the resurrection! And that indeed is the conclusion of Holy week-rising from the dead!
Amen to the Victory of Palm Sunday and the Victory of the Cross-God is with us until the end, and will raise us up! Amen!!!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP
HAPPY HOLY WEEK by Rev. Deniray Meuller -The Garden Community Outdoor Church ,Ohio
This past weekend was beautiful — sunny (finally!), with bright flowers starting to pop out everywhere and little birds singing. Winter seems to have finally left, at least for a little while. A friend of mine, said to me, “You must be busy getting ready for Easter. So what’s the thing to say — do you tell people “Happy Holy Week?’”
“Well,” I said. “You could say ‘Happy Easter,’ when it’s actually Easter day, or ‘Christ is Risen!’. But until then it’s kind of confusing: there’s a lot of different stuff going on in Holy Week.”
Think about it. During Holy Week, we wave palms in the air and hail Jesus as king, the long-awaited messiah who’s going to save us, then we change our minds and scream that the Romans should crucify him; we share a loving last supper with Jesus and he washes our feet, then we sneak out after dinner and betray him. Jesus begs us to stay with him, we promise we will, then we don’t. We abandon him, he’s arrested and beaten; he forgives us, then we run away. Then Jesus is killed; we lay him in the tomb and weep; we go back for him, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then — wait! — he’s not dead at all.
We call this week before Easter Sunday ‘Holy Week’ because it was originally the time of the Feast of Passover when the Jews were saved in Egypt, and because of the miraculous things that Jesus did in the last week of His Life.
We witness to Christ in song and story throughout Holy Week.
On Palm Sunday we process with our palms and incense and songs. We celebrate Jesus triumphantly riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Men, women and children lined the streets yelling ‘hosanna’ and waving palm branches. They were greeting the messiah who they believed had come to save them.
Holy Monday we remember Jesus’ throwing all the money changers and vendors out of the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Jews and they were required to present money and animals for sacrifice to the priests when they visited. Animal vendors, and money changers had set up booths in the court. People believed that God actually lived in ‘Most Holy of Holy Places’ the inner sanctum of the Temple. This desecration angered Jesus so much that he turned over the tables of the money changers and ran all the animal vendors out.
On Holy Tuesday, Jesus spent most of the day on the Mount Of Olives, where he preached what we now know as the’ Sermon on The Mount’, telling crowds of people what the Kingdom would be like and how we could join Him.
On Spy Wednesday we remember Judas Iscariot, a zealot, who thought he was doing the right thing by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He thought that if Jesus was jailed, the people would rise up and overthrow the Romans.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared a common meal with his disciples – this has become the celebration we call Eucharist or Communion. Many churches strip their altars and cover any icons and statues on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. There will be no celebration of Communion until the resurrection.
Many other churches hold feet washings, washing each other’s feet, to commemorate that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus reminds us that we are to love each other as he loved us.
After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. He asks the disciples to stay and pray with him, but they all fall asleep. Jesus is left to pray for strength for what is to come by himself, abandoned by his own disciples.
Judas then identified Jesus for the Roman guards with a kiss and He was taken away by the soldiers.
We don’t know why this Friday got the name of ‘Good Friday’ – it certainly was not a fun day. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, and sentenced to death. He was then forced to walk to the Hill of Golgotha, carrying the cross on which he will be crucified. There is a commemoration of this walk called the ‘Stations of the Cross’ where participants remember each of the steps to the crucifixion. Here at Trinity, we do a Stations of the Cross around the Statehouse, interweaving Jesus’ trials with social justice issues.
It is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to the cross around noon on Good Friday and died after three hours. Many churches, including Trinity, hold a vigil with readings and music during this three hour period. The Bible says that when Jesus died, the world turned black, which scientists think was a solar eclipse in the middle of the day.
Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried in an unused tomb.
Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent for Easter Sunday will be a celebration of new life. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some churches hold a twilight or midnight vigil waiting for the resurrection; others have people praying throughout the night, waiting for Easter Sunday.
The word ‘Easter’ comes from the German ‘ostern’, meaning the direction from which the sun rises, celebrating the spring sun, when all things return to life again.
Some churches, if they do not do an Easter Vigil, hold a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the sun comes up. This is a day of great celebration with banners and special music and great feasting. We have left the penitential season of Lent and are reveling in the fact that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we all have new and eternal life. All our sins have been forgiven with His death and have been promised a place in Heaven for eternity.
So this Holy Week, think about each of the days and what preparation you can make to be ready for the festive celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, was we approach the week of the trials of your Son, let us remember our own shortcomings and vow to cleanse ourselves of those things that keep us from you. By raising Christ, your Son, you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Rev deniray mueller
Diocese of Southern Ohio
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