Introduction to the Celebration
- Psalm 118, a song of thanksgiving as a victorious pilgrim enters Jerusalem and the temple;
- Zechariah 9:9, 10, where the prophet paints a picture of God’s chosen one coming to save his people.
You can meditate on the story from the point of view of Jesus: when have you experienced someone – perhaps yourself – making the choice that Jesus made? You can focus on the crowds instead: how does it feel to welcome someone (an experience or a reading) that clearly comes “in the name of the Lord”?
The climax to the story in verses 10 and 11 is significant too: this is the kind of thing that happens when God’s messenger enters a city.
We have all sinned
In contrast to us, God is loyal, steadfast and completely dependable. Fortunately God’s love for us is not dependant on our positive response to him. God’s love for us in Christ is unfaltering. Jesus died ‘for our sins’ (1 Cor 15:3). In doing so, he emptied himself totally for our sake, and for the sake of all people of every time and place — although his self-emptying also includes the Incarnation (see Phil 2). Thus he brought us life on the cross even though he lost his own life there. In the face of human betrayal he proved that God’s love for us is endless.
who have chosen the way of nonviolence,
– Gandhi and his successors in India,
– Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement,
– Nelson Mandela,
– Caribbean people who resisted slavery and colonialism by peaceful means.
They have been for the modern world Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
Like him they fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah,
coming to the children of Zion with humility,
banishing chariots and horses and all the bows of war
and proclaiming peace to all.
It is through people like these that your empire will stretch from sea to sea,
from the River to the ends of the earth.
Lord, we thank you for the times that you sent us someone who transformed our lives:
– a great leader emerged in our nation or church community;
– our family life was disintegrating and a counselor brought us all together;
– we read a great book;
– a friend gave us back our courage.
We felt a great joy, like the people when they saw Jesus entering their city,
we welcomed this messenger who came in the name of the Lord,
and cried out “Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
that like Jesus we may come to the end of our lives
faithful to what you have called us to be,
and enter Jerusalem as he did,
knowing that we come in your name and welcomed by all the saints.
Send them leaders who will come to them humbly as Jesus did,
banishing chariots and horses and the bows of war
and proclaiming peace for their nations,
so that their people may come out in great crowds
to celebrate and shout with all their hearts,
“Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heavens!”
Lord, we pray for the Church. Often we are tempted to enter the modern world with the methods that prevail there,
putting our trust in money or advertising or threats.
Help us, like Jesus, to deliberately choose our way,
concerned only that we are fulfilling the prophecies
and that we seek the blessings of those who come in your name.
rejecting horses and chariots and all the apparatus of earthly power
and identifying rather with the lowly.
Naturally the whole nation is in turmoil,
but when people ask, “Who is this?”
the crowds can answer truthfully,
The iron stove glows red with fire,
3. Fr. Munachi
Maybe you have those questions, too. All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check.
Whichever, that's your donkey.
Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his. The original wording of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples is proof: "If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkeys, you are to say, 'Its Lord is in need.'" [Max Lucado, And the Angels were Silent, p. 54]
We need to answer 5 questions today:
5. "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, describing Jesus' betrayal, His trial, 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 our life. Our 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.
I read about one of the fastest growing churches in the world, with branches in 32 countries already. It is called the Winners Church, and according to its leaders, it lives by a motto that comes from America's religious culture. Here's the motto: "Be happy. Be successful. Join the winners." People flock to that kind of church, I guess. But it all depends, doesn't it, on how we define winning? I wonder what kind of church you would have if your motto were "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant." Or about this one for a motto, "Those who want to save their lives will lose them and those who lose their lives for my sake, will find them."
Surprising and inevitable. Palm Sunday and the events of Holy Week are both surprising and inevitable. The truth is that we are not completely sure what to make of Palm Sunday...