Palm Sunday 2021 Year B
Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Philippians 2: 5-11
St Mark 11: 1-11
I am John McCulloch the minister of St Andrew’s Jerusalem and Tiberias, and it is great to be with you today on Palm Sunday. Welcome, wherever you are joining us from.
In our gospel reading from Mark 11 we read in verse 7 onwards
7 Then they brought the donkey to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. 8 And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David
That comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus knew that to go to Jerusalem was to go to the place where he would confront the earthly leaders and powers of the day. He knew what the Romans did with all those whom it deemed as a threat. He knew that his message had been rejected by many of the religious and political leaders of the day, who felt threatened by his new kingdom of justice and love, of radical forgiveness where the prostitutes and sinners are invited to become heirs of the kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom was, and is, one that turns the power structures of the world on its head. One where the meek, the lowly, the poor in spirit are blessed, where the hungry are fed and the unclean welcomed.
The jubilation and exaltation of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem contrast with what is to take place later that week on Good Friday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem not on a mighty warhorse, but on a lowly donkey. He is not greeted by a military crowd wielding weapons and a show of strength, but with crowds of people waving branches.
Jesus knows that to go to Jerusalem is to go to the place of humiliation. The place of betrayal and abandonment, the place of death. But to go to that place with unconditional love and forgiveness, will unleash such transformational power, which we and our world so badly needs. So he goes there in self sacrificial love.
In our epistle reading from Philippians 2: 5-11
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ‘
In this great hymn we are reminded that we worship a God who does not remain in the safety of heaven, but who humbles himself and takes on human flesh. God does so to be able to fully identify with the human condition. He does so to be able to identify with our suffering. He does so to change humanity from within through outpoured love.
He emptied himself of all but love, and calls us to do the same. To empty ourselves of greed, to empty ourselves of our lust for power and approval, and measuring ourselves in the eyes of others. To empty ourselves from unforgiveness and bitterness, from fear and hatred, from a lack of compassion; for only when we have been truly emptied can we be filled.
Jesus walks the path of humility and service. He reveals to us what God is like. He embodies love, and knows that love and suffering are intertwined. To love means to be prepared to enter into the suffering of others. God, in Jesus Christ goes to the place of suffering, and through it brings about the hope and salvation of our world.
Jesus rides into Jerusalem knowing that he is ushering in a new kingdom. He is entering Jerusalem to be crucified like a common criminal, to be rejected, cast out, and humiliated.
And in going to the place of darkness and sin and violence, and not responding to those who crucify him, he teaches us a better way. He teaches us the ways of non-violence. Taking on the violence and hatred of this world and responding in love to those who crucify him, transformational grace and love flow out to the world. God incarnate embodies the new kingdom, in the broken and crucified body on the cross.
As we read in our lectionary Psalm 118:22 ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’ and in verse 26 ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.
God is building his kingdom today, and he calls each one of us to be a part of it. He calls us to walk in his footsteps, to carry the cross and be prepared to be counted with those who are condemned by this world, to stand with those who are crushed by powers bigger than themselves, to reach out in forgiveness even to those who wish to harm us.
For in so doing, the world is transformed as we are transformed. The anger and violence we carry deep within our hearts begins to disappear, when we welcome to King of love into our daily lives anew; when we allow ourselves to be renewed by his grace, so that we do not measure our lives by any earthly standard; we are set free, accepted and made whole.
Jesus entered Jerusalem embodying humility.
He calls us to follow his example.
To lay our lives down in the service of others.
To welcome our King who comes to us again this morning, inviting us to build his kingdom of justice compassion and love in such a world as ours.
Let us pray:
Still our anxious hearts, and fill us with your peace.
Lead us from death to life,
from falsehood to truth;
lead us from despair to hope,
from fear to trust;
lead us from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
our world, our universe.