Here is a short sermon. I may go back to it later and add bits - but this is the gist
Readings will be:
Mark 11: 1-11
Isaiah 50: 4-9a
Philippians 2: 5-11
Mark 15: 1-39
So Holy Week begins.
There are many events we will be led through this week. From today’s praise of Palm Sunday, through the more muted celebration and remembrance of the Last Supper, then the utter desolation of Good Friday, the strange sense of waiting which is Holy Saturday, and finally to Easter Sunday and uncontainable life and joy.
We have a lot to remember, a lot to celebrate, and many emotions which we might feel at different times.
It can feel like a strange roller-coaster. From the height of Palm Sunday, down to the depths of Good Friday, and back up again as we celebrate resurrection. Our worship might mirror the life of Jesus – laid down to be given back: placed in the tomb and rising to new life.
But today is about more than the celebration of the events of Palm Sunday: we have heard the gospel of the palms – but we have also heard the gospel of the passion. We are faced with a number of paradoxical statements about who Jesus is:
The Messiah – come to die rather than to rule
The King who is Servant of all
The one who suffers and yet is the beloved of God.
We are faced with Palms and Passion.
Perhaps this paradox is best expressed in the cry of the crowd “Hosanna”. We are used to thinking of this as a cry of praise – something like “Hooray!” – but the original word in Hebrew “Hoshana means “please save” or “save now”. The crowd are not just happy that Jesus is among them, they recognise that in Jesus there is the prospect of salvation, the hope of God with them.
Some of you know that I had a 5-day Lenten break last week, which meant that I missed the final session of our Lent course, which took the theme of ‘Hope’. I’m told it wasn’t an easy session, and I’m not surprised.
There are many dangers in talking about hope: we can fall into a slough of despond, where we realise how tough life is sometimes, and how hard it is to have real hope for the future given the difficulty of the present; or we can go to the opposite extreme and “hope for the best”, or as the Boy Scouts used to say “whistle and smile in all difficulties”. But true hope lies somewhere between – or maybe beyond – those extremes.
Hope looks suffering squarely in the eye, it doesn’t resort to the language of “never mind, it’ll all turn out all right” or “mustn’t grumble”, hope acknowledges that help is needed, that life can be tough.
But hope cries out ‘Hosanna’ – pleading for salvation, looking to God for help, not simply crying out into the darkness and the lonely void.
Hosanna: save now, please save, save us Lord…
There is no point in crying out unless there is the hope of being heard, being answered, actually being saved.
Palm Sunday shows us God with us in Christ – not in the frantic echoes of triumphant hoorahs, but humble, seated on a donkey, and calmly and deliberately going to suffer and to die.
On the roller coaster of life and in the roller coaster of Holy Week, God is with us – suffering servant, king on a cross, dying and living.
Here is the one who gives us the hope of salvation by staying with us throughout it all.
Here is the one to whom we cry “Hosanna”.
Here is the one who comes to us in bread and wine.
Here is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – to save us.
Thanks be to God. Amen.