Tag Archive | Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, 2016

Palm Sunday, year C, 2016 (preached 3/20/16)

procession with palms reading:  Luke 19:28-40

first reading: Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

second reading:  Philippians 2:5-11

gospel reading:  Luke 22:14-23:56

*because of the lengthy gospel reading, covering the whole “Passion of our Lord,” the sermon is considerably shorter than usual

Today, on this day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, surrounded by an adoring crowd saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Palm Sunday by Sue Todd

Palm Sunday by Sue Todd

But in just a few days he will be alone, deserted by those who loved him, whom HE loved, who would say, “I do not know him.”(Luke 22:57)  In just a few days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, beaten, crucified and dead.  We read all this in Luke’s account of The Passion.

What changed?  How could we go from shouting blessings to the king, to “crucify him!”?(Luke 23:21)

Although Jesus spent his ministry healing, preaching love and proclaiming forgiveness – in the end he was not the “king” the people expected.  They wanted him to be a tough guy.  A revolutionary.  Someone who would rally the troops and make Israel a mighty people once more.  Their expectations of the Messiah were very different from the reality before them in Jesus, who would not defend himself.

And this is a challenge for us even today.  We like to be winners.  We like to appear strong.  We like to think we can handle things on our own.  We like to believe people get what they deserve.

Jesus stands, or rather HANGS, in opposition to ALL this.


  • Jesus HANGS to say that government and faith are two different things – that God loves us whether we live in a wonderful democracy or an horrific dictatorship.
  • Jesus HANGS to say that worldly winners and losers ALL have the same seats at his table.
  • Jesus HANGS to say that “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8-10)
  • Jesus HANGS to say that we DON’T get what we deserve – because despite our best or even pitiful efforts we all sin and “fall short of the glory of God.”  (Rom. 3:23)

Jesus’ kingdom isn’t about anything on the OUTSIDE – it’s all about what’s on the INSIDE.

Jesus’ kingdom is about the transformation of our hearts and minds and souls.  It isn’t about what we can do for ourselves, but what God has done for us.  It isn’t about us being better than anyone else, but in seeing Jesus in the face of everyone we meet.

It’s about recognizing the poor in us, the weak in us, the sin in us, and realizing that Jesus has embraced it all.

It may not mean we live in the biggest house, drive the best car, have the greatest health or the happiest family – but it DOES mean that we have so much more –

  • hope for when we fail,
  • love for when we fall,
  • strength even IN our weakness,
  • comfort when we grieve,
  • and life even after we die.

NOT what his early followers, (or even WE), expect – but more than we could ever imagine.




Palm Sunday, 2015

Palm Sunday, year B, 2015 (preached March 29, 2015)

first reading:  Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm:  31:9-16

second reading:  Philippians 2:5-11

gospel reading:  Mark 14:1-15:47

procession with palms reading:  Mark 11:1-11

*Palm Sunday is a bit different than a “regular” Sunday.  On Palm Sunday we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but we also read the whole story of the passion.  As a result the sermon is considerably shorter, (at least in my congregation), to keep the worship service at an acceptable length – also because who needs to hear my  voice so much!

palm crossesFor raw honesty, the book of Psalms probably wins the prize.  I love the Psalms.  There’s no sugarcoating, no pretending, no putting our best foot forward in the Psalms.  Life is either wonderful and so we praise God, or life is awful and we shake our fist at heaven and ask for help.

Listen again to our psalm for this morning:

“my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat and my belly.  For my life is wasted with grief, and my years with sighing, my strength fails me because of my affliction, and my bones are consumed.  I am the scorn of my enemies, a disgrace to my neighbors… when they see me in the street they avoid me.  Like the dead I am forgotten, out of mind; I am as useless as a broken pot… fear is all around… they plot to take my life.”

Wow.  So tell me how you really feel!  This is no mere bad day.  This person is truly suffering.

I’m sure each one of us here has gone through periods in our lives where we have felt just like this psalm writer.  Feeling weighed down both literally and figuratively.  Our bodies holding physical ailments and/or depression.  Feeling like our friends are even backing away from us cause we’re such a mess.  We look around and don’t see any signs things will get better.

The image of the broken pot is one of my absolute favorites.  That’s what the psalm writer feels like, that’s what we feel like at times – and indeed that’s what we ARE.  Not only life circumstances, but the reality of our sin causes us to be broken.

No matter how hard we try, life is unfair.  No matter how good we are, perfection is impossible.  No matter how faithful we are, we are still saint and sinner.  We are broken pots.  And broken pots are useless.  Beyond repair, they have lost their purpose.

The only thing we can do with a broken pot is toss it away in the trash.

As we enter into this holiest of weeks, let us be eternally grateful that God is NOT like you and me.

God looks at us broken pots, and throwing us in the trash is never an option.  God looks at us broken pots and LOVES us.  God looks at us broken pots, and God doesn’t even think “repair.”  God doesn’t “fix” you and me.  God goes beyond repair and fixing.  God does what only God can do – through Jesus Christ, you and I are REMADE.

Jesus does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  He sees it all – our imperfections, every shortcoming – our sin, our brokenness – and loves us to wholeness.

Through the cross, through Holy Baptism, you and I are made new creatures.  Each day, each moment, given a new start through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

This is the whole reason for this most sacred of weeks.  God sees our brokenness, as individuals and as a PEOPLE, and remakes us – makes us whole again, through love.

This is no warm fuzzy love.  No cuddly kittens, cute puppy dogs or fluffy bunnies.  This love is deadly serious.  Love that is willing to lay down its life.  Love that became broken itself so that we could be made whole.  Love that is willing to suffer.  Love that doesn’t just go the extra mile, or even in the words of the children’s book* – all the way to the moon and back – this love goes to DEATH and back.

This love stoops to become one of us, washes our dirty feet and cleans our dirty souls, so that we can have heaven. Now THAT’S a reason to wave palm branches and shout Hosanna.


*Guess How Much I Love You.  written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram.  Candlewick Press, 1995.



Palm Sunday, 2014

Palm Sunday, year A, 2014 (preached April 13, 2014)

processional reading:  Matthew 21:1-11

first reading:  Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm:  31:9-16

second reading:  Philippians 2:5-11

reading of the Passion:  Matthew 26:14-27:66

***preface – because of the procession with palms and the reading of the Passion, the sermon is shorter than usual

IMG_1308I have often said that a life of faith does not mean our life will be easy.  It’s not as if our baptism into Christ provides us with a warranty against pain and struggle.

I’ve thought of that a lot recently.  A plane vanishing with hundreds of people, leaving hundreds more behind to grieve.  A landslide in Washington state killing dozens, leaving more homeless.  A school stabbing in Pennsylvania.  A bus/truck crash of aspiring young people killing teachers, students, and both drivers.

And in our own little corner of this big world, we have our personal worries – either for ourselves or those we love – physical ailments and accidents.  And we sometimes feel powerless to make any of it stop or get better.

This is one of the many reasons why the book of Psalms is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  The various writers of the Psalms have what I’ve referred to as an “honest faith.”

There is no sugar coating in the Psalms, no false sense of hope or security.  No smiling in the storm – just a fierce determination for God to see them through it.  In the Psalms we find open and honest dialog with and about God.

Our psalm for today sums up how I’ve been feeling in the face of all the world and local events – “as useless as a broken pot.”  What a wonderfully rich image.

We look at the world around us, and at our own lives, and we know it can be hard to sing the old hymn, “It is well with my soul.”  All we really want to do is cry with the psalmist, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble.”

When we think as Christians that our lives have to be perfect, full of happiness and praises or we’re doing something wrong, we’re setting ourselves up, and we set God up too.

Living a life of faith isn’t living life in some kind of happy bubble where everyone is healthy, where there are no poor and none hurting.

Living a life of faith is about confronting the challenges and pain of the world and our lives head-on.

This is what our psalm does, this is what this coming week of passion and crucifixion does.

In the life of faith there is a constant tension between saint and sinner, now and not yet, hard reality and real hope, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

When we feel as useless as broken pots, when we look at our lives and around the world and say, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,” we’re acknowledging this tension and asking the Lord to break in and remind us of that REAL HOPE.

It is the hope that broken pots aren’t entirely useless after all, and that our troubles will not be the end… because of how our psalm ends today:  “But as for me, I have trusted in you, O Lord… My times are in your hand… Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.”

This sustaining hope, that we are God’s, and that God holds us in his hands, is the hope, the love, that sees us through this most holy of weeks.  It is the hope that sustains us through the hard realities:  the betrayals, the humiliations, pains and deaths in our lives, so that the deep abiding joy of Easter can be ours too.

Our baptism may be no guarantee of an easy life, but it IS a guarantee that we don’t navigate life’s journey alone – EVER – and that through the good and bad we are in God’s hands and are saved by God’s steadfast love.