Palm Sunday B- 2012

From Fr. Tony Kadavil: 
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Readings
First Reading: Isaiah 50: 4-7
Second Reading: Philippians 2: 6-11
Gospel: Mathew 21: 1-11 & 27:11-54

Anecdotes

1)Passion Sunday and the shadow of the cross: During the early part of the last century, the bishop of Paris, with Notre Dame Cathedral as his cathedral church, was a great evangelizer. He tried to reach out to unbelievers, scoffers, and cynics. He liked to tell the story of a young man who would stand outside the cathedral and shout derogatory slogans at the people entering to worship. He would call them fools and other insulting names. The people tried to ignore him but it was difficult. One day the parish priest went outside to confront the young man, much to the distress of the parishioners. The young man ranted and raved against everything the priest told him. Finally, he addressed the young scoffer by saying, “Look, let’s get this over with once and for all. I’m going to dare you to do something and I bet you can’t do it.” And of course the young man shot back, “I can do anything you propose, you white-robed wimp!” “Fine,” said the priest. “All I ask you to do is to come into the sanctuary with me. I want you to stare at the figure of Christ, and I want you to scream at the very top of your lungs, as loudly as you can. ‘Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.’” So the young man went into the sanctuary, and looking at the figure, screamed as loud as he could, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” The priest said, “Very good. Now, do it again.” And again the young man screamed, with a little hesitancy, “Christ died on the cross for me and I don’t care one bit.” “You’re almost done now,” said the priest. “One more time.” The young man raised his fist, kept looking at the statue, but the words wouldn’t come. He just could not look at the face of Christ and say it anymore. The real punch line came when, after he told the story, the bishop said, “I was that young man. That young man, that defiant young man was me. I thought I didn’t need God but found out that I did.” As we enter this Holy Week on this Passion Sunday, we will look at the Cross repeatedly. Through the liturgies of this week we emphasize this central fact of our salvation. Let us allow it to overshadow all we do and all we are. May this Holy Week bring us to a realization that Christ truly died on the cross for each one of us – and continues suffering for each of us as He dwells in us. May this realization bring us to Easter resurrection.
2) Am I a donkey with a Christian name or one carrying Christ? An interesting as well as challenging old fable tells of the colt that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday. The colt thought that the reception was organized to honor him. “I am a unique donkey,” this excited animal might have thought. When he asked his mother if he could walk down the same street alone the next day and be honored again, his mother said, “No, you are nothing without Him who was riding you." Five days later, the colt saw a huge crowd of people in the street. It was Good Friday, and the soldiers were taking Jesus to Calvary. The colt could not resist the temptation of another royal reception. Ignoring the warning of his mother, he ran to the street, but he had to flee for his life as soldiers chased him and people stoned him. Thus, the colt finally learned the lesson that he was only a poor donkey without Jesus riding on him. As we enter Holy Week, today’s readings challenge us to examine our lives to see whether we carry Jesus within us and bear witness to him through our living or whether we are Christians in name only.

Introduction

The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. It is on Palm Sunday that we enter Holy Week, and welcome Jesus into our lives, asking him to allow us a share in his suffering, death and resurrection. This is also the time we remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. That is why the Holy Week liturgy presents us with the actual events of the dying and rising of Jesus. The liturgy also enables us to experience in our lives, here and now, what Jesus went through then. In other words, we commemorate and relive during this week our own dying and rising in Jesus, which result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. No wonder Greek Orthodox Christians greet each other with the words, "Kali Anastasi" (Good Resurrection), not on Easter Sunday but on Good Friday. They anticipate the resurrection. Just as Jesus did, we, too, must lay down our lives freely by actively participating in the Holy Week liturgies. In doing so, we are allowing Jesus to forgive us our sins, to heal the wounds in us caused by our sins and the sins of others and to transform us more completely into the image and likeness of God. Thus, we shall be able to live more fully the divine life we received at Baptism. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will also deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. But let us remember that Holy Week can become "holy” for us only if we actively and consciously take part in the liturgies of this week. This is also the week when we should lighten the burden of Christ’s passion as daily experienced by the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonely and the outcast through our corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Passion Sunday liturgy combines contrasting moments, one of glory, the other of suffering: the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem and the drama of his unjust trial and suffering, culminating in his crucifixion and death.
First reading, Isaiah 50:4-7:
In the middle section, chapters 40-55, of the book of the prophet Isaiah, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Today's first reading is the third Servant Song. These four songs are about a mysterious figure whose suffering brings about a benefit for the people. In the original author's mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. However, Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs, and the church refers to them in this time of solemn meditation on the climax of Jesus' life. In today’s Psalm, the psalmist puts his trust in Yahweh for deliverance and salvation. The context of this day's worship also conveys Jesus’ confidence in God’s protection in the midst of his trial and crucifixion.
Second Reading, Philippians 2:6-11 is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. It is a message that Paul received from those who had been converted to Christ. “Jesus was divine from all eternity. But he didn't cling to that. Rather he emptied himself and became human. He accepted further humbling by obeying the human condition even unto death by crucifixion. So, God highly exalted him, giving him the highest title in the universe.” Christians reading this passage today are joined with the first people who ever pondered the meaning of Jesus' life and mission. We're singing their song, reciting their creed, during this special time of the year when we remember the most important things Our Lord did.

The first part of today’s gospel describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Two-and-a-half million people were normally present to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons: 1) to reveal to the general public that he was the promised Messiah, and 2) to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3: 16-19): “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your king comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…” (Zech. 9:9). (The traditional “Palm Sunday Procession” at Jerusalem began in the fourth century A.D. when the bishop of Jerusalem led the procession from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Ascension). In the second part of today’s gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Mark. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience, Herod who ridiculed Jesus, and the leaders of the people who preserved their position by getting rid of Jesus.
 
Exegesis

Notes on Palm Sunday events:
1) Jesus rides on a lowly donkey: Doesn't it seem odd that Jesus would walk 90 miles from the Galilee to Bethany and then secure a donkey for the final two miles to Jerusalem? In those days, kings used to travel in such processions on horseback during wartime, but preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. I Kings 1: 38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the ceremonial procession on the day of his coronation. Jesus entered the Holy City as a king of peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. The gospel specifically mentions that the colt Jesus selected for the procession was one that had not been ridden before, reminding us of a stipulation given in I Samuel 6:7 concerning the animal that was to carry the Ark of the Covenant. 
2) The mode of reception given: Jesus was given a royal reception usually reserved for a king or military commander. I Maccabees 13: 51ff describes such a reception given to the Jewish military leader Simon Maccabaeus in 171 BC. II Maccabees 10:6-8 refers to a similar reception given to another military general, Judas Maccabaeus, who led the struggle against the Greek Seleucid Emperor, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and liberated the temple from pagan control in 163 BC.
3) The slogans used: The participants sang the “Hallel” psalm (Psalm 118), and shouted the words of Psalms 25 and 26. The Greek word “hosiana” originally meant "save us now" (II Samuel 14:4). The people sang the entire Psalm 118 on the Feast of the Tabernacles when they marched seven times around the Altar of the Burnt Offering. On Palm Sunday, however, the people used the prayer “Hosanna” as a slogan of greeting. It meant “God save the king of Israel.”
4) The symbolic meaning of the Palm Sunday procession: Nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed during the feast of the "Pass Over," but the lamb which was sacrificed by the High Priest was taken to the Temple in a procession four days before the main feast day. On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the Temple in a large procession.
5) Reaction of Jesus: Before the beginning of the procession, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Lk.19:41-42), and when the procession was over, he cleansed the Temple (Lk. 19:45-46). On the following day he cursed a barren fig tree. Jesus cursed a fig tree for lying with its leaves. It looked good from the outside, but there was nothing there. Surely he must have intended a reference to the Temple. The religious folk of his day were impotent and infertile. They had taken a good thing, religion, and made it into a sham.
 
Life messages :

- Does Jesus weep over us? There is a Jewish saying, “Heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner and sheds tears over a non-repentant, hardhearted one." Let us get ready to imitate the prodigal son and return to God, our loving Father, through the sacrament of reconciliation during this last week of Lent, and participate fully in the joy of Christ’s resurrection.

2) Are we barren fig trees? The new Israel must always be ready to bear fruit out of season. That is its vocation! The Church is supposed to be the Church for all seasons. God expects us to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Let us discover whether we are fruit-bearing fig trees, barren trees or useless trees producing bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness.
3) Do we expect Jesus to cleanse our hearts with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of his Holy Spirit in us by our addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither does he approve of our calculation of loss and gain in our relationship with God. 
4) Do we welcome Jesus into our hearts? Are we ready to surrender our lives to Jesus during this Holy Week and welcome him, singing our “hosanna,” into all areas of our lives as our Lord and Savior? Today, we receive palm branches at the Divine Liturgy. Let us take them to our homes and put them some place where we can always see them. The palms are meant to remind us that Christ is the king of our families, that Christ is the king of our hearts, that Christ is the only true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in our lives. And if we do proclaim Christ as our king, let us try to make time for Him in our daily life; let us be reminded that He is the one with whom we will be spending eternity. Let us be reminded further that our careers, our education, our finances, our homes, all of the basic material needs in our lives only pertain to our life in time and will vanish, for us, with our death. Let us prioritize and place Christ the king as the primary concern in our lives. It is only when we have done so that we will find true peace and happiness in our confused and complex world.
5) Are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus? As we "carry Jesus" to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received on Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet the same opposition, crosses and trials later. Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms. Such a one betrays the Christian message. Hence, let us become transparent Christians during this Holy Week, enabling others to see in us Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service.

Additional Anecdotes

1) Hosanna leading to the cross: Some years ago a book, entitled When the Cheering Stopped, was written by a noted American historian. It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following World War I. When that war was over, Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought, and that the world had been made safe for democracy. On his first visit to Paris after the war, Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than France’s own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate, and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all, the President’s health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man. It’s a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. It happened that way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation. On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of "Hosanna." But before it was all over, a tidal wave of manipulated opposition welled up that brought Jesus to the cross.
2) “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy:” A father, Tim Miller, writes about a time when he experienced what God surely experienced that day on Calvary. Miller’s nine year old daughter Jennifer was looking forward to their family’s vacation. But she became ill, and a long anticipated day at Sea World was replaced by an all night series of CT scans, X rays, and blood work at the hospital. As morning approached, the doctors told this exhausted little girl that she would need to have one more test, a spinal tap. The procedure would be painful, they said. The doctor then asked Tim Miller if he planned to stay in the room. He nodded, knowing he couldn’t leave Jennifer alone during the ordeal. The doctors gently asked Jennifer to remove all her clothing. Then they curled her into a tiny ball. Tim says he buried his face in hers and hugged her. When the needle went in, Jennifer cried. As the searing pain increased, she sobbingly repeated, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” her voice becoming more earnest with each word. It was as if she were saying, “Oh Daddy, please, can’t you do something?” Tim’ tears mingled with hers. His heart was broken. He felt nauseated. Because he loved her, he was allowing her to go through the most agonizing experience of her life, and he could hardly stand it. In the middle of that spinal tap, his thoughts went to the cross of Christ. What unspeakable pain both the Son and the Father went through, says Tim Miller. [Edward K. Rowell, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), p. 180.] And it’s true. We see Christ’s courage. And we see the Father’s amazing love poured out. And here is the most astounding thing of all: it was all for us. We didn’t deserve it, but Christ died for us.
3) Silent protest: Henri Nouwen tells a disturbing story about a family he knew in Paraguay. The father, a doctor, was active in protests against the military. He spoke out repeatedly against its abuses of human rights. Local police took their revenge by arresting his teenage son and torturing him until he was dead. It was a horrible crime. Townsfolk wanted to turn the funeral into a huge protest march. But the doctor chose another means of protest. The father displayed his son’s body in the local church. However, he was not dressed in a fine suit. And the funeral director applied no make-up. The father displayed his son as he had found him in the jail. The son was naked, his body marked with scars from the electric shocks and cigarette burns and beatings. It did not lie in a coffin but on the blood soaked mattress from the jail. It was the strongest protest imaginable, for it put injustice on grotesque display. (Rev. Tim Zingale’s website, http://www.dodgenet.com/~tzingale/sermonb/goodfridayillustrations.html.) See Christ hanging on the cross, showing all marks of cruel torture.
4) The king on an ass! Some of you heard my story about the husband and the wife who had quarreled. It had been a high-pitch quarrel, each digging heels in to preserve the position each had vehemently taken. Emotions ran high. As they were driving to attend a family wedding in a distant city both were nursing their hurt feelings in defensive silence. The angry tension between them was so thick you could cut it with a knife. But, then the silence was broken. Pointing to a donkey standing in a pasture out beside the road, the husband sarcastically asked, “Relative of yours?” The wife quickly replied, “By marriage!” In modern communication, the ass is a symbol for awkwardness, dumbness, blundering ineptness, non-sophistication. Yet, an ass plays a key role in the drama of Palm Sunday at which we’re looking today.
5)Palm/Passion Sunday: Philip Yancey, an editor at Christianity Today magazine, grew up in a fundamentalist church which didn't observe the major events of Holy Week. He never attended a Good Friday service and shied away from crucifixes because they were "too Catholic." He writes, "The church I grew up in skipped past the events of Holy Week in a rush to hear the cymbal sounds of Easter." (Christianity Today, September 9, 1996). We can understand this desire to skip through Holy Week. Jesus on the cross is death; Jesus risen is life! A sanctuary stripped bare for Good Friday is depressing; a lily-bedecked sanctuary is glorious! Who doesn't want to skip through Holy Week? Yet, the adult Philip Yancey has learned that the Bible "slows down rather than speeds up when it gets to Holy Week." What people want to get through quickly, the Bible takes slowly. One early Christian commentator went so far as to say that the gospels are actually the record of Jesus' final week . . . with extended introductions. Here's the challenge for Holy Week. We have but this Sunday to cover everything from Jesus entering Jerusalem to "Hosannas," through the moment when Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb. Even the name for this Sunday reveals our challenge. Today is "Palm/Passion Sunday." It's not "Palm or Passion Sunday," not even "Palm and Passion Sunday." It's Palm/Passion Sunday, two different subjects jammed up against each other.
6) “Welcome home Mr. President.” A number of years ago, Newsweek magazine carried the story of the memorial service held for Hubert Humphrey, former vice-president of the United States. Hundreds of people came from all over the world to say good-bye to their old friend and colleague. But one person who came was shunned and ignored by virtually everyone there. Nobody would look at him much less speak to him. That person was former president Richard Nixon. Not long before, he had gone through the shame and infamy of Watergate. He was back in Washington for the first time since his resignation from the presidency. Then a very special thing happened, perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference and broken the ice. President Jimmy Carter, who was in the White House at that time, came into the room. Before he was seated, he saw Nixon over against the wall, all by himself. He went over to [him] as though he were greeting a family member, stuck out his hand to the former president, and smiled broadly. To the surprise of everyone there, the two of them embraced each other, and Carter said, "Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!" Commenting on that, Newsweek magazine asserted, "If there was a turning point in Nixon's long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion." The turning point for us is Palm Sunday. It is our moment of triumph. It was a triumph because God, Jesus, decided to ignore our miserable state and act on our behalf.
7) “Greater love has no one than this:” On January 13, 1982 an airliner crashed into the icy waters of the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. Seventy-nine people were aboard that ill-fated aircraft, and of that number, only five survived. All of those survivors had something in common: they owed their life to another passenger, a 46-year-old bank examiner named Arland D. Williams Jr. Workers on the rescue helicopter sent to the crash reported that Williams was one of only a half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when they arrived. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. Williams repeatedly spurned the safety line and passed it on to the five others floating in the bitterly cold water. One by one they were taken away to safety. By the time the helicopter crew could return for Williams, however, both he and the plane’s tail section had disappeared beneath the icy surface. He had been in the water for twenty-nine minutes with five opportunities to be saved, but each time he deferred to another. His body was later recovered. According to the coroner, Williams was the only passenger to die by drowning; the rest died on impact. He did not so much lose his life as gave it. When the helicopter pilot was interviewed later he described Williams as a brave and good man. “Imagine,” said the rescue pilot, “he had just survived that horrible plane crash. The river was ice-cold and each minute brought him closer to death. He could have gone on the first trip but he put everyone else ahead of himself.” The man was truly a hero. Later, the bridge the plane hit on its way into the icy water was renamed. Today it is the “Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.” (Rev. Ronald Botts, http://www.firstchurch.org/sermons/2003/2003070129.htm. ) “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend . . .” That’s what sent Jesus to the cross.

8) "Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus." Author, speaker, teacher Tony Campolo tells how he was asked to be a counselor in a junior high camp. He says everybody ought to be a counselor at a junior high camp. A junior high kid's concept of a good time, Tony says, is picking on people. "And in this particular case, at this particular camp, there was a little boy who was suffering from cerebral palsy. His name was Billy. And they picked on him." As Billy walked across the camp with his uncoordinated body the other kids would line up and imitate his grotesque movements. On Thursday morning it was Billy's cabin's turn to give devotions. Tony wondered what would happen, because they had appointed Billy to be the speaker. Tony knew that they just wanted to get Billy up there to make fun of him. As Billy dragged his way to the front, you could hear the giggles rolling over the crowd. It took him almost five minutes to say seven words. These were the words: "Jesus . . . loves . . . me . . . and . . . I . . . love . . . Jesus." When Billy finished, there was dead silence. A revival broke out in that camp after Billy's short testimony. Tony says that as he travels all over the world, he finds missionaries and preachers who say, "Remember me? I was converted at that junior high camp." The counselors had tried everything to get those kids interested in Jesus, says Tony. They even imported baseball players whose batting averages had gone up since they had started praying. But God didn't use the superstars. He chose to use a kid with cerebral palsy. Why did I tell that story now? Because the crowds, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Herod, Pilate and everyone involved, even the disciples, believed that the Cross was defeat. Everyone that is except Jesus. Jesus knew that our God is a God of reversal who likes to take our beliefs and stand them on their heads.
9) There was not one winner there were nine winners. The one-time Methodist Bishop of Mississippi, Jack Meadors tells a wonderful story of an incident that occurred during the Special Olympics. Nine children lined up for the 100-yard dash. The gun sounded and the race was off. But only a few yards into the race, one of the children fell and began to cry. For some reason these challenged children did not understand the world's concept of competition and getting ahead and taking advantage when a competitor was down. The other eight children stopped running and came back to their fallen comrade. A young girl with Down's syndrome kissed him and brushed him off. The children lifted him up together, arm in arm, they ran over the finish line. The audience rose to their feet in applause: there was not one winner there were nine winners.  
For a fleeting moment these children showed us what the Kingdom of God is like. They challenged the world's concept that first place is everything. In the race that we're in, everyone matters, particularly those who have fallen and are on the outside. Why did the cheering stop? Because on Palm Sunday, Jesus opened the doors of the church to everyone. It angered some people then, and let me tell you, it will anger some people today.
10) "What did the Christian's God do then? On Marco Polo's celebrated trip to the Orient, he was taken before the great and fearsome ruler, Genghis Khan. Now what was Marco Polo supposed to do before this mighty pagan conqueror? One false move could cost him his life. He decided to tell the story of Jesus as it is recorded in the gospels. It is said that when Marco Polo related the events of Holy Week, and described Jesus' betrayal, his trial, his scourging and crucifixion, Genghis Khan became more and more agitated, more engrossed in the story, and more tense. When Marco Polo pronounced the words, "Then Jesus bowed his head and yielded up his spirit," Genghis Khan could no longer contain himself. He interrupted, bellowing, "What did the Christian's God do then? Did he send thousands of angels from heaven to smite and destroy those who killed his Son?" What did the Christian's God do then? He watched his beloved Son die, that's what the Christian's God did then. For that was the way God chose for Jesus to ascend the throne of his kingdom and to establish his Lordship for all time. Not at all the way we would expect God to demonstrate his might and power, but that's the way it was, and that is how we know what our God is like. In practical terms, that means that this suffering King, who rules in love, comes to lay his claim on your life. Your entire life, is subject to his Lordship, not just a portion of it. To have Christ be our King means that we rely on him for everything, most of all the forgiveness of sins.
11)”The Man Born to Be King." Back in the early 1940's, the British Broadcasting Company provided the people of England with a real spiritual experience. These were the dark days during the Second World War, and Dorothy Sayers' play, "The Man Born to Be King," was broadcast. The play portrays the life of Jesus in a reverent and realistic way. I have read that skillful use of sound effects, such as the scraping of a boat on the rocks around the Sea of Galilee and the dripping of water in the basin as Jesus washed the disciples' feet, made the story come astonishingly alive. The season of Lent affords us an excellent opportunity to listen to some sounds - some sounds of the Passion. Over one-third of the material in the four Gospels is devoted to that last week in the earthly life of Jesus. We call this part of each Gospel the Passion Narrative, for it tells of His entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the arrest, the trials, the crucifixion. Perhaps all this can come alive for us in a different way if we turn off the picture and listen. We can use the ear instead of the eye, for if we hear, we are more apt to be drawn in. If we only watch, we may be mere spectators. So let's try to create a sound picture.
12) Jesus shed tears: Remember what Adlai Stevenson said when he lost his bid for the presidency? (Probably because he was divorced. How far we have come!!) The reporters had asked him how it felt. How was it supposed to feel? (I must confess I am more that a little tired of reporters sticking microphones into the faces of grieving people and asking them how they feel. I'm afraid that if any should ever do that to me, I might explode and say something quite unministerial). But Stevenson seems to have taken it in good humor. When asked how he felt, he replied, "I'm too big to cry, and it hurts far too much to laugh." Where did we ever get the notion that that bigger you are, the less tears you shed? I think that is the opposite of Biblical truth. Jesus wept. It is possible that in some way far beyond our understanding, even God can shed a few tears. 
13) King for a day: Once upon a time, before television, there was radio. One of the most popular daytime radio programs in those days was called Queen for a Day. Each day four or five women from the studio audience would tell the host what they would like to do if they could be "Queen for a Day." Then, on the basis of applause, one woman was chosen, and insofar as they were able, the sponsors fulfilled her wildest desires. She was given a number of valuable prizes and for one day she reigned as "Queen." That sounds like what happened to Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus was crowned "King for a Day" on that first Palm Sunday.
14) Hostages saved: In March 1994, a young man, armed with a handgun and a bomb, walked into the Salt Lake City Public Library and took everyone hostage. The young man, Clifford Lynn Draper, seemed at the time to be mentally unbalanced. He gathered up the people on the second floor of the library and forced them all into a conference room. Among his hostages was a man who had chosen to be there. This man was Lloyd Prescott, a local policeman. Prescott had been on the first floor of the library when he heard the news that an armed man had taken the second floor hostage. He sneaked upstairs and mingled in with the hostages who were being herded into the conference room. Prescott knew that the best way to solve this situation was to hide his own identity and become a hostage himself. Their young captor was angry, violent, and unstable, but he eventually made the mistake that Lloyd Prescott was waiting for. Prescott caught Draper by surprise and shot him, saving the lives of all the other hostages. In the same way, our faith teaches us, humanity was held hostage by sin and death. Christ was sent to infiltrate our world in order to set us free. He was sent to break the yoke of sin that kept us from being what God created us to be. We remember and celebrate these events in Holy Week. (L/12).

Jokes

1) O Susanna: A little girl came home from worship. It was Palm Sunday. Her father asked what she had learned that day. She told him she learned all about the crowd waving their palm branches and singing a song to Jesus. The father was pleased that she had learned so much. He asked, “What was the song they were singing to Jesus?” The little girl paused, then said, “I think it was O Susanna.”
2) "Why do you have that palm branch, dad?" Little Johnny was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church with his mother. His father returned from church holding a palm branch. The little boy was curious and asked why. His father explained, "You see, when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him; so we got palm branches today." "Aw, shucks,” grumbled Little Johnny. "The one Sunday I can't go to church, and Jesus shows up!"
 
SYNOPSIS FOR PALM SUNDAY (APRIL 1) ON MT: 21: 1-11 & 27:11-54
Introduction
The Church celebrates today as both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. This is the time of year when we stop to remember and relive the events which brought about our redemption and salvation. What we commemorate and relive during this week is not just Jesus’ dying and rising, but our own dying and rising in him, which will result in our healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Proper participation in the Holy Week liturgy will deepen our relationship with God, increase our faith and strengthen our lives as disciples of Jesus. Today’s liturgy combines contrasting moments of glory and suffering – the welcome of Jesus into Jerusalem and the drama of his trial culminating in his crucifixion.

Scripture Lessons
Today's first reading is the third Servant Song from the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. The second reading, from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, is an ancient Christian hymn representing a very early Christian understanding of who Jesus is, and of how his mission saves us from sin and death. The first part of today’s gospel describes the royal reception which Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. In the second part of today’s gospel, we listen to the Passion of Christ according to Mark. We are challenged to examine our own lives in the light of some of the characters in the story like Peter who denied Jesus, Judas who betrayed Jesus, Pilate who acted against his conscience and condemned Jesus to death on the cross, Herod who ridiculed Jesus and the leaders of the people who preserved their positions by getting rid of Jesus.

Life Messages

Let us try to answer 5 questions today:
1) Does Jesus weep over my sinful soul as he wept over Jerusalem at the beginning of his Palm Sunday procession?

2) Am I a barren fig tree? God expects me to produce fruits of holiness, purity, justice, humility, obedience, charity, and forgiveness. Do I? Or do I continue to produce bitter fruits of impurity, injustice, pride, hatred, jealousy and selfishness?

3) Will Jesus have to cleanse my heart with his whip? Jesus cannot tolerate the desecration of the temple of his Holy Spirit in me by my addiction to uncharitable, unjust and impure thoughts words and deeds; neither does he approve of my calculation of loss and gain in my relationship with God. 
4) Do I welcome Jesus into my heart? Am I ready to surrender my life to him during this Holy Week and welcome him into all areas of my life as my Lord and Savior? The palms should remind us that Christ is our king and the true answer to our quest for happiness and meaning in life.
5) Are we like the humble donkey that carried Jesus by radiating Jesus’ universal love, unconditional forgiveness and sacrificial service in our families, and communities?
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Sermons.com
Some years ago a book was written by Gene Smith, a noted American historian. The title was "When The Cheering Stopped." It was the story of President Woodrow Wilson and the events leading up to and following WWI. When that war was over Wilson was an international hero. There was a great spirit of optimism abroad, and people actually believed that the last war had been fought and the world had been made safe for democracy.


 On his first visit to Paris after the war Wilson was greeted by cheering mobs. He was actually more popular than their own heroes. The same thing was true in England and Italy. In a Vienna hospital a Red Cross worker had to tell the children that there would be no Christmas presents because of the war and the hard times. The children didn't believe her. They said that President Wilson was coming and they knew that everything would be all right.

 The cheering lasted about a year. Then it gradually began to stop. It turned out that the political leaders in Europe were more concerned with their own agendas than they were a lasting peace. At home, Woodrow Wilson ran into opposition in the United States Senate and his League of Nations was not ratified. Under the strain of it all the President's health began to break. In the next election his party was defeated. So it was that Woodrow Wilson, a man who barely a year or two earlier had been heralded as the new world Messiah, came to the end of his days a broken and defeated man.

 It's a sad story, but one that is not altogether unfamiliar. The ultimate reward for someone who tries to translate ideals into reality is apt to be frustration and defeat. There are some exceptions, of course, but not too many.

 It happened that way to Jesus. When he emerged on the public scene he was an overnight sensation. He would try to go off to be alone and the people would still follow him. The masses lined the streets as he came into town. On Palm Sunday leafy palm branches were spread before him and there were shouts of Hosanna. In shouting Hosanna they were in effect saying "Save us now" Jesus. Great crowds came to hear him preach. A wave of religious expectation swept the country.

 But the cheering did not last for long. There came a point when the tide began to turn against him. Oh, you didn't notice it so much at first. People still came to see him, but the old excitement was missing, and the crowds were not as large as they had been. His critics now began to publicly attack him. That was something new. Earlier they had been afraid to speak out for fear of the masses, but they began to perceive that the fickle public was turning on him. Soon the opposition began to snowball. When they discovered that they could not discredit his moral character, they began to take more desperate measures. Before it was all over a tidal wave welled up that brought Jesus to his knees under the weight of a cross.

 Why did the masses so radically turn against him? How did the shouts of Hosanna on Sunday transform into the shouts of crucify him on Friday? I am not just talking about the immediate events that may have brought it about, but the deeper root causes. What were the underlying issues? In five days it all fell apart. Why? That is the issue that I would like for us to concentrate on this morning. Why did the cheering stop?

 1. Jesus Began to talk more and more about commitment.
2. Jesus dared to suggest that all people are worth loving.
3. Jesus began to talk more and more about a cross.
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How many of you have been "April Fooled" already today?

 Did you get salt out of the sugar bowl for your coffee or cereal? Did the lids to the pepper and salt shakers fall completely off with the first shake?

Were all your shirt sleeves turned inside out?

Good April Fool jokes and pranks are supposed to strike out at our routines, shake up our perceptions, make something ordinary odd and extraordinary. Sometimes April Fool is something contrived. Sometimes April Fool just happens. For example, Andy Warhol, who turned out to have been a devout Christian, received a Catholic burial at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan on April Fool's Day 1987, attended by 2000 people. Whether contrived or natural, to be an "April Fool" is to embrace the surprises and new experiences of Spring.

 There is no better day for Palm Sunday to fall upon than April Fool's Day. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is a classic "April Fool" experience.

First, the two disciples Jesus chose to go "borrow" that colt in Bethphage must have been waiting for Jesus to say "April Fool." But he doesn't. Instead Jesus seriously instructs his disciples to go and commit the first-century equivalent of "grand theft auto." "Borrowing" a valuable animal, a pristine, unbroken young colt, was frowned upon and punished in first century Palestine as seriously as horse-thieving was in the Old West.

Jesus' suggested "get out of jail free" card sounds like another "April Fool" - just say, "The Lord needs it." Yeah. Right. That will work. But . . . it does!

 Jesus and his disciples were observant, pious Jews who knew their scripture. His disciples knew the significance of their master riding a young colt into Jerusalem. This was a statement of kingship, of deliverance, of prophetic fulfillment. It is then with great anticipation and expectation that Jesus' disciples decide to disrobe. They bare their arms and back, they lay their cloaks, the garments that most physically identify who they are, down upon the roadway, creating a cushioned path for the skittish young animal bearing their master. What April Fool's was this, what April Fool's were they for stripping down and looking undignified and under-dressed, in order to honor a scriptural image of the messiah.

The disciples surely envisioned that such a significant, majestic entrance into the holy city could not help but lead to great success. Surely Jesus chose to enter the city in such a significant, royal, messianic manner because he was planning some sort of popular uprising, or some extraordinary display of power. This Passover Week was obviously going to be a scene of great success. April Fool...

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 There Is Still Hope

 The reality is that, if we figure to survive in this world, we had better have hope. The ancients knew that. Do you remember Pandora? Mythology has her as a lady endowed with every charm...the gift of all the gods. She was sent to earth with a little box which she had been forbidden to open, but curiosity finally got the better of her...she lifted the lid and out from that box escaped every conceivable kind of terror. Pandora made haste to close the box up again, but it was too late. There was only one thing left...HOPE. That was the ancients' way of saying how important hope is. Even when all else is lost, there is still hope.

This was what had sustained the Israelite faithful from generation to generation. This was what energized the crowd along Jesus' parade route that day.

David E. Leininger, Sunday's Coming!

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What Is Good For Us Is Hidden

 Martin Luther often spoke of this aspect of the theology of the cross, concerning how God works in a hidden way through contrasts. In a series of lectures that Luther gave in 1515 and 1516 on the Book of Romans, he wrote: "For what is good for us is hidden, and that so deeply that it is hidden under its opposite. Thus our life is hidden under death, love for ourselves under hate for ourselves ... salvation under damnation, heaven under hell ... And universally our every assertion of anything good is hidden under the denial of it, so that faith may have its place in God, who is a negative essence and goodness and wisdom and righteousness, who cannot be touched except by the negation of all our affirmations."

Martin Luther had one more observation about why God operates this way - under contrasts and opposites. In another of his sermons, he put it this way: "He thrusts us into death and permits the devil to pounce on us. But it is not his purpose to devour us; he wants to test us, to purify us, and to manifest himself ever more to us, that we may recognize his love. Such trials and strife are to let us experience something that preaching alone is not able to do, namely, how powerful Christ is and how sincerely the Father loves us. So our trust in God and our knowledge of God will increase more and more, together with our praise and thanks for his mercy and blessing.

Otherwise we would bumble along with our early, incipient faith. We would become indolent, unfruitful and inexperienced Christians, and would soon grow rusty."

Mark Ellingsen, Preparation and Manifestation, CSS Publishing

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Save Us

 When we wave our palms and boldly cry out, "Hosanna," do we dare imagine what we really want God to save us from? Save me from anger. Save me from cancer. Save me from depression. Save me from debt. Save me from the strife in my family. Save me from boredom. Save me from getting sent back to Iraq. Save me from the endless cycle of violence. Save me from humiliation. Save me from staring at the ceiling at three a.m. wondering why I exist. Save me from bitterness. Save me from arrogance. Save me from loneliness. Save me, God, save me from my fears.

In viewing Palm Sunday from that angle, we can begin to see the potential for some real depth in this celebration, for embedded in our quaint pageantry is an appeal to God that originates in the most vulnerable places inside of us; and it bubbles, almost beyond our control, to the surface. "Hosanna." "Save us." Please God take the broken places that will tear us apart and make them whole. We beseech you, God, jump into the water and drag our almost-drowned selves to shore. "Save us." "Hosanna."

 Scott Black Johnston, Save Us
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 Creating Turmoil

In his book The Freedom Revolution and the Churches Robert Spike recalls an incident from the early years of the turbulent civil rights movement. Flying out of Jackson, Mississippi, Spike overhears the conversation of a Catholic sister, sitting across the aisle from him, with her seat companion. The sister is lamenting all the unrest in Mississippi, and she complains about the "outside agitators," the students and church leaders who have come to her state in support of civil rights, certain that their presence is provoking violence on the part of white racists. "I do not question their dedication, nor even the rightness of their position," said the sister. "But surely it is a bad thing to create turmoil by stirring up people who feel differently." As the sister talks, all the while she is nervously fingering a cross hanging around her neck.

 There's a tragic irony in the sister's words and actions, not unlike that of the first Holy Week. For the one whose cross the sister holds most dear, Jesus, would never have taken the risk of going to Jerusalem and proclaiming a new way of living, would never have confronted comfortable patterns and ultimately endured the cross, had he followed the sister's philosophy.

Joel D. Kline, What Did We See in Jesus?

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 The Tomb Is Easier than the Cross

In just a matter of days Holy Week takes us from the mountain of festive palms to the mountain of Golgatha's despair. And that is why we resist it so. I mean, do we really need the emotional rollercoaster of Holy Week? What's so wrong with just jumping from one parade to the next and skipping all the sacrifice and death stuff? What's wrong with simply moving on to the joy of Easter, with its white bonnets, Easter eggs, family, friends, big ham dinner, and of course the empty tomb.

Well, I think we know the answer to that. For starters, an empty tomb, at face value, is a lot easier to deal with than a dying, bleeding Savior on a cross. Add to that all the pain and suffering that comes with Holy Week, is it any wonder that the human tendency is to try and ignore the events of the week and simply move on to the Easter celebration? But as much as we'd like to skip Holy Week we know that the only way to Easter is through the cross. We know where the parade of Palm Sunday leads and we also know that we're part of that parade. That is to say, we know this intellectually. Our hearts are another story. Our hearts may be more in sync with the disciples and the fear and disbelief that led them to run away. It would seem that 2000 years later Jesus' disciples are still running away.

Jeffrey K. London, And When You Think It's All Over

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 Palm Sunday

What is Palm Sunday? Maybe another way to approach that question is to ask another question: what if the gospel story ended with Palm Sunday? Like the disciples, we maybe would like it if the gospel could conclude right here. After all that the disciples had been through, and with their own secret hope that Jesus would be a political success on whose coattails they would ride to prominence, the disciples looked at the Triumphal Entry and thought, "Now this is more like it!" They probably wanted to capture and bottle that festive atmosphere. It was rather like Peter's reaction to Jesus' transfiguration when Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus on the mountaintop. Peter piped up and said, "Let's build some tabernacles right here so we can keep this great thing going forever!" So also on Palm Sunday: if they could have hit the pause button on the remote control of life, this would have been a wonderful image to freeze frame.

The problem is that there is no salvation for anyone on Palm Sunday. The people cried "Hosanna," which means "Save us!" But given the world we are in, there could be no salvation from that kind of happy parade. That festive atmosphere, though in one sense befitting the true, deep-down royalty of Jesus as God's Son, still all that hoopla just doesn't fit our world. It doesn't address the problems that need solving.

And maybe at this time of war and carnage, of terror and multiple threats of violence all around us, maybe we preachers don't need to work very hard to convince anyone of this point. If we look back upon history, we see that human sin has resulted not in one long string of happy parades but rather in a series calamatis, one long and sad parade of calamity and sorrow. Instead of a festive throng, history shows us things like the Trail of Tears on which Native Americans tramped into exile. History shows us boat-loads of black people in chains, taken from their native country and brought to a place called "America," then paraded before potential buyers, not of their services, but of their very lives. History shows us long lines of Jews marching not in some victory parade but shuffling along toward Nazi gas chambers in Auschwitz. History shows us the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the death squads of Rwanda and Sierra Leone. These are the real parades of human history. Carnivals of sorrow, festivals of death.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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Palm Sunday April Fool's

 I was reading recently about a truck driver named Cornelius. Cornelius specialized in hauling animals, especially cows. He hauled live cows, and he also hauled dead cows that needed to be disposed of. Sometimes, however, he was hired to haul other varieties of animals.

One April Fools' Day he received a phone call. "I have a dead elephant for you to pick up in Los Angeles," said the voice on the other end.

"Yeah right," said Cornelius. "You aren't going to get me on that one!"

The guy said to him, "No, seriously, I've got this dead elephant I need for you to pick up."

Cornelius again said, "Look, I know what day this is. You aren't going to fool me today of all days!"

The guy was insistent that this was a serious call, but Cornelius was equally determined that he wasn't going to be the object of an April Fools' Day prank. He told the guy that if he drove all the way out to Los Angeles and it was a joke, he would charge the caller double plus a fee for the extra tow truck that Cornelius would require.

The caller agreed and so Cornelius drove to Los Angeles and, indeed, there was a dead elephant waiting on him. He wouldn't believe it until he saw it with his own eyes. I mean, getting such a phone call on an April Fools' Day would make you suspicious.

 Many who witnessed Jesus riding into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday probably thought they were witnessing an April Fools' prank. They had come out to see what they thought was the leader of a new religious movement, and quite possibly the long-awaited Messiah. They had heard amazing stories about this man about his feeding thousands of people with two fish and five small loaves, about his ability to heal, and even about his raising of Lazarus from the dead. Could this be, they wondered hopefully, the One they had long been awaiting?

 King Duncan

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Walking the Walk

Christ's commitment reminds me of a Japanese social worker who lived before and during the Second World War named Toyohiko Kagawa. Kagawa was a devout Christian whose faith caused him to have an extraordinary impact on the working conditions of ordinary citizens in Japan. He was so well thought of in that land that he came on a mission to the U.S. before the beginning of the Second World War to seek to prevent that terrible conflict breaking out. Even though he failed in this effort, he gained international renown for his Christian witness and selfless work.

Years later Kagawa was on a lecture tour to the United States. Two college students were walking across their campus after hearing him speak. One of them confessed that he was disappointed in Kagawa's simple message.

After some reflection, the other student replied: "I suppose it really doesn't matter very much what a man says when he has lived as Kagawa has lived."

That is true. In today's vernacular, it is more important that Kagawa walked the walk and not just talked the talk....