man in black leather jacket

Palm Sunday Sermon

Sermon text: Luke 19:28-40

The other day I was standing in line at the store, stuck behind a man who had many, many opinions.  On this particular day he had opinions about the price of gas.  Perhaps you’ve noticed, but fuel has been quite expensive.  Even though the price has been sliding down in recent weeks, that was not enough for this particular individual.  The opinions were flying, including some rather heated comments toward our current president. 

On the one hand, I get it.  We like to have someone to blame and the price of oil certainly has the power to impact our cost-of-living expenses.  One of the other hand, I don’t get it, especially when you leave your large SUV idling in the parking lot when your inside shopping.  Perhaps that’s effecting your miles per gallon.

I felt badly for the woman behind the cash register, who, as I recall, really didn’t invite this conversation about fossil fuels.  She was simply minding her own business when this impromptu lecture began.  I could tell that she really didn’t want to be in this conversation.  She did not care about the book this man was reading.  She did not care about the problems he saw in the world.  And she really didn’t know what to do with his parting comment that, “Elections have consequences, and this election there’s going to be hell to pay.”

That prophetic line from the man in line made me grin.  I don’t believe there was anything wrong with the sentiment, but at this point in life, having voted for my fair share of winners and losers, I’ve come to realize something about pinning your hopes and dreams on elections.  Whatever expectations you have in place are not going to be met.  Your winner is not going to be the savior of the nation.  The other person’s winner is not going to be the antichrist.  No matter our lofty or lowly expectations of our elected officials might be, there is going to be a gap between expectations and reality.  And that disconnect will undoubtedly cause some grief.

When I look at today’s Gospel text, with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday, and then flash forward to Friday’s story of the Passion, I see similar elements at play.  We have stepped into a world of high expectations.  We have stepped into a world that is energized by possibilities and rekindled hope.  But that high will be short lived.  Ultimately, the same people who welcome Jesus, who sing songs of praise and throw cloaks and palm branches before him as if he’s a king will shout out for his crucifixion because Jesus’ didn’t meet their expectations.  There is a disconnect between what they want and what God wants.

The crowds expect big things from Jesus.  They welcome him as a king.  They praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen.  They say, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  They are overjoyed and overwhelmed at the prospect of ushering in a new king and a new kingdom.

This is the king who will lead Israel back into an age of peace and prosperity.  This is the king who will overthrow the wicked tyranny of the Romans and wash clean the stains of the Greeks, Persians, and Babylonians.  This is the king who will make life better for every Jew.  He will be the savior of the nation.  The anointed one to bring back favor on God’s chosen people.

These are high and lofty expectations for a group of people to have.  These expectations are built on the foundations of freedom, justice, and the perception of God’s will.  These expectations are energizing enough to whip up an entire city into a lather, powerful enough to further heighten the anxiety of the Roman soldiers who are already on high alert because of the influx of pilgrims to Jerusalem during the festival of the Passover.

These are lofty goals… and Jesus will not meet them.  He will not meet these expectations because they are shortsighted.  They are limited.  They are incomplete.  Jesus does not meet these expectations because his eyes are set on a far different and greater set of expectations that have been set by God.  The people will not recognize the work that is being completed.  They will not understand that the actions of Jesus will far outweigh their nationalistic aspirations for a new king to overthrow the Romans.

This crowd of people singing praises to God and shouting Hosannas will turn because there is a disconnect in expectations.  The crowds, their list of objectives is here.  And God’s, his are here.  The people want Jesus to build a kingdom that encompass Israel, and Jesus wants to build a kingdom that will encompass all of creation.  And because of this disconnect, the sweet hosannas will turn into demands of blood.

I wonder how often our expectations differ tremendously from the reality that is offered to us by God?  How often are we like the crowds?  When do we demand action that is here, when what God freely gives us is so much grander, and so much richer, that we cannot comprehend?

We live in a world that expects individuals to fight tooth and nail in order to succeed.  The reality and blessing that God offers is that we have been have been created in community to work, live, and succeed together.

We live in a world that demands an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  The reality and blessing that God offers is a world of reconciliation based on God’s own model of unmerited love and grace.

We live in a world that guides us by laws, of what we can and cannot do.  The reality and blessing that God offers are lives that are led by the Holy Spirit, who guides us to do bold works that are truly impossible without God’s help.

We live in a world that views weakness as something to exploit for gain.  The reality and blessing that God offers through the cross demonstrates that weakness is powerful enough to transform this entire world for the better.

We live in a world that says that youth and life are everything, and that there is nothing beyond aging and death.  The reality and blessing that God offers is that death has been destroyed, and that we will enjoy the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting with our God and creator.

Thanks be to God that our expectations and the expectations that the world demands are continuously overshadowed by God’s expectations.  Thanks be to God that the kingdom Jesus ushered in was for all and not for a few.  With loud hosannas and joyful songs may we always sing praise to God for the blessings and realities that are made available to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN

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