To Risk a “Hosanna!”
The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams – March 24, 2013- Palm Sunday
One of the challenges of this service is how quickly we move from one story to the next. We move from shouts of “Hossana!” to shouts of “Crucify him!” in a matter of minutes and I know that by now there are more than a few heads spinning out there, not to mention hearts. We shifted from a celebration to a trial, and from a parade to an execution in less than one half hour. And so I want us to slow us down a little; and I want to help us back up a little. Because I think the story we heard before we even entered the church is important too. And I don’t want us to lose it. Now I promise that will preach on the crucifixion this week; we have a whole day and an entire service dedicated to that whole piece of story – on Friday, so you’ll hear more about that then.
But for now, back to the “Hosanna.” The reason I think that story is so very important has to do with the hope that was being expressed in the people’s cries. Think of everything they brought to that day. They had been witnesses to the breaking in of a kingdom – blind people had been given sight. Loaves and fish had been multiplied. Captives of sin and oppression had been set free. And in this gospel a child had even been raised from the dead. These people were beginning to put the pieces together and starting to believe that this man, Jesus, was the Messiah, the one for whom their people had longed. And so they lined the streets leading into Jerusalem. They spread their cloaks and they waved their palms and they shouted “Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
And that hope is something that I don’t want us to miss out on this morning. Now we know that they were a little off in the specifics of how this was all going to play out, but that’s OK. Besides the point of Palm Sunday is not that “there was this group of people whose hopes were ultimately dashed.” I think that hearing these stories the way we do on Palm Sunday (moving so quickly from the triumphal entry to the cross) potentially conveys that message. We tend to get a sense that they were excited and then they were devastated. Period. And while there’s an element of that trajectory here, that’s not really the point. Because this isn’t a story about losing hope. It’s a story about discovering a hope the magnitude of which, and the method of which, nobody had even imagined possible.
This is a story about hope beyond hope where the Palm Sunday people were on to something, based on the teaching they had received and the faith that had been kept alive among them. They knew what they were looking for – the actions, the qualities, the challenges and the healings that would be the kingdom of God. And so before there even was a resurrection to lean into, these people helped open that door of hope for themselves and for others – they not only witnessed the good news Jesus, they shared it and they helped others believe that the coming of the Messiah was playing out right before their eyes. The beauty of the people of Palm Sunday was that they trusted that salvation was coming to them, and because they proclaimed that faith and because they shouted it out and waved their palms, there were a whole lot of people watching just to see what it was that God would do and how God would do it.
And so I want to give them credit today in a way that we don’t always manage to. These were the people who kept the door of hope open – and given that Jesus life was at risk, theirs was too. This wasn’t just a holiday parade remember – they were cheering on the one whom the religious authorities were already seeking out to arrest and kill. And so by publically hoping, they were also publically risking in all kinds of directions. Risking not only their own disappointment but their own arrest and even their lives.
Now keeping that door open is our job too. And the stakes are almost always lower than that for us – so we have no excuses for not doing it. And truth be told, we are called on to do it all the time. Prior to death – either ours or someone we know and love – we are called to witness to something we have not yet seen fully seen, something we have not yet fully grasped, something of God that we believe is at work among us whose details are beyond us. We are called to do it when we stand up in our church or our community for something we believe is of the Christ. Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, protecting the particularly vulnerable in our world. The pattern is the same – just like the Palms Sunday people, we have seen healing happen, we know that loaves can be multiplied, we believe that something more than what we see is possible and so we wave palms and shout Hossana! and cheer on the Body of Christ as that Body rides on not necessarily in majesty but certainly in hope.
As a people of faith we must always be willing to risk a “Hosanna! or two, or two hundred, or more. May it be our feet, our hands, our bodies,our stories that prop the door of hope open knowing that ultimately hopes are not dashed through the gospel; they are transformed by a God who rolls away the stone and opens the doors forever.