Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Read Text Luke 19:28-40—Imagine with me the choir singing the two songs that frame Jesus’ ministry. You enter the cathedral, you walk down the middle aisle, and in the choir loft, the chancel, on my left you have Heaven singing— on my right, you have the earth respond.

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!

 

Luke 19:38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

The Heavens say, “Peace on Earth” The earth echoes back, “Peace in Heaven”
The chorus of angels sing, “Peace on Earth” The choir responds, “Peace in Heaven”
As the antiphonal chorus resounds all around us, we hear Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29 ringing in our ears. Can you hear it?

Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. This is the moment the second choir begins singing.

This past week Laura and I have been entertaining our 5- and 3-year-old grandchildren. Our three-year-old granddaughter, Emily, is enchanted by the movie Encanto. I went to iTunes to buy the soundtrack which has several tracks that have no words. The score is mostly made up of background music. Emily asks, “I want Family Madrigal, ” whenever one of those tracks plays.” Or “We Don’t Talk about Bruno.” Whomever Bruno is.

  • Imagine again with me that we are on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus began this journey to Jerusalem in 9:51. All along the road, on the way to Jerusalem, can you hear the choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom he favors!”?
    • The story of Jesus on the road even begins with the Sons of Thunder wanting to call down lightning down on the Samaritans. Can you hear the choir singing in the background?
    • Do we hear the background music as the parable of the persistent widow or Good Samaritan is told?
    • Do we hear the background music when Jesus meets the rich man, the ten lepers, Zacchaeus, or the blind beggar?

The triumphal entry lives for just an instant.  Palm Sunday will soon turn to Easter Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem will lead Jesus to the temple and the cross—The longest week in the Christian Year. All four Gospels spend more time on this one week than any other aspect of Jesus’ ministry.

  • The last week begins in Matthew 21.
  • For Mark, it begins at chapter 11
  • John starts the story even earlier at 12:1.
  • And here, the last week begins at Luke 19:28.
  • And the second choir begins their song, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

And Pharisees say “STOP”! They demand the choir stop their singing – “Do not proclaim peace.” You see, peace is a political word.

  • Are they afraid for Jesus’ own safety as in 13:31 where you have a small glimpse of compassion? Maybe.
  • More likely, they were afraid of Rome, and that the disturbance in the city might call down retaliation.

And Jesus responds, “the Stones Would Cry Out if the choir is silenced!”

  • Some things simply must be said. The church must always proclaim peace.
  • The disciples are expressing the ultimate truth. In Jesus Christ, PEACE is proclaimed in the heavens and on the earth.
  • Peace is proclaimed as humanity is reconciled back to God.
  • Peace is proclaimed as the strife and fighting between peoples of every tribe, language, and nation is established.
  • Peace is proclaimed when our own heart finds the peace the passes all understanding.
  • Truth cannot be silenced.
  • God will provide a witness of peace though every mouth be stopped.

So, the chorus keeps singing, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

The story takes a dramatic turn. A twist in the story occurs when we least anticipate it. Just after Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for saying “Silence the choir!” Jesus now stops the choir himself.

So, when to road finally reaches Jerusalem (Luke 19: 41-44) Jesus weeps and both choir lofts are silent. Jesus sees a Jerusalem that will not see peace. Jesus sees Jerusalem that will not recognize God’s visitation. The chorus proclaims peace, but Jesus weeps for there is no peace.

The choir sings peace, but there is no peace, and the choir has stopped singing.

  • Like a boy on the playground who scrapes his knee. “Mommy, blow on it!” But she washes his knee with soap and water. “Mommy, blow on it.” And she takes the iodine and treats his wound.
  • Peace, Peace, but there is no peace.

Jerusalem

  • At Jerusalem, the visitation of God is rejected.
  • Jerusalem will call for Jesus’ blood.
  • Therefore, Jerusalem will be besieged by enemies. There is no peace.

And Peace is hidden…

  • In the midst of tensions all around, for example, pandemics and the war in eastern Europe—peace is hidden. The invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder that fears dark realities beset us. The threats represent real opponents to peace.
  • In the midst of tensions in marriages, wars within our own families, cultural wars, political wars, school board infighting, and political gridlock—peace is hidden.
  • In the midst of foreclosures, mounting medical bills, unemployment, and all sorts of financial unrest—peace is hidden.
  • And even here at church where we also experience a lack of peace. Church history is filled with stories where the church participated with the hiding of peace more so than the proclaiming of peace.
    • But our age is not the only age. You could look at almost any age and see how fear and death have reigned. Fourteenth-century Europe, for example, experienced devastating famines, waves of pillaging mercenaries, peasant revolts, religious turmoil and a plague that wiped out as much as half the population in four years. The evidence suggests that all this resulted in mass convulsions of anxiety, a period of psychic torment in which, as one historian has put it, “the more one knew, the less sense the world made.”[1]
    • Fears and anxieties press all around us. As an author once described America, “we are in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.” National Institute for Mental Health reports— nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder each year; over 30 percent experienced an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes.
    • Generalized anxiety disorder, per the DSM-5 list of symptoms, includes the rise to both restlessness and fatigue; both lapsed concentration and profound tension of the muscles. In this conflicted state, the mind and body team up to deprive the sufferer of sleep and induce irritability.
    • Peace is hidden!
  • Jesus rides on a colt, not a horse that is 16 hands high bred for battle, but a colt that had never been ridden before. Even though peace is hidden, Jesus rides a colt through it all. [2]

Listen. Do you hear the choir? It is reaching a crescendo in Luke’s story. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Palm Sunday is a day when the songs are about peace on earth and peace in heaven. BUT Palm Sunday ALSO remembers the day when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because he finds no peace.

Lent is a season of waiting.

  • Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is the longest week of the Christian Year.
  • Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.
    • Early in the week there are several encounters in Jerusalem and the temple where Jesus’ authority is questioned. Jesus cleanses the Temple, witnesses the widow’s mite, and is questioned about taxes.
    • Luke’s winding road through Jerusalem takes us to an Upper Room on Thursday. We recall the Last Supper and the Washing of Feet. Thursday is a long day. Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is betrayed and arrested, Peter denies Jesus. He is betrayed and arrested. He experiences two trials and is sentenced to death.
    • But the longest night of the Christian Year is Friday.
    • Afterwards, you have the long night of silence of Saturday. I cannot imagine the choirs singing.

Will there be peace on earth? Will there be peace in heaven? Will the choirs ever sing again? We will have to wait until next Sunday. But until then, we come to the table.

Until next Sunday, may the peace of God be with you all.

[1] Some thoughts and insights about the phrase “Age of Anxiety” come from the web, for example, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/its-still-the-age-of-anxiety-or-is-it/ and https://newrepublic.com/article/153153/age-anxiety

[2] “Halfway down the Mount of Olives, there is a small chapel in the shape of a teardrop. It is called Dominus Flevit (Latin for “the Lord weeps”) It is the traditional location where Jesus wept over the city. Pilgrims gather there to share the Eucharist as they move toward Jerusalem. As they view a city still divided, with people of different faiths squabbling over the same real estate, they pass the bread to the words, “this is my body, broken for you.” Then they share the cup of wine, saying, “this is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.” It is a moment to recall the great cost of reconciliation, as God sent Jesus into the world to [bring peace]. Sometimes we are clueless when it comes to peace. However, for those who continue to share the body and blood of Christ, it is common to say, “the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” How does each of us respond? With the words, “And also with you.” William G. Carter, “Luke 19:28-40,” Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol 2, pg. 156.