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Monday, April 2, 2012

Palm Sunday: From Cheers to Jeers

We had a wonderful Palm Sunday worship service yesterday.  So much joy, anticipation and excitement contrasted with what the week ahead involves for Christians worldwide.  Doug led the kids in a wonderful Hosanna celebration during our children's time, the sanctuary looked great with the added decorations and the hymns and songs that enabled us to shout Hosanna helped us grow closer to the reality of what we were lifting up on this Sunday.  
Sometimes it's hard to know what note to hit on Palm Sunday.  We've been in the season of Lent, where we've been trying to help people reflect more intentionally on the ways in which we miss the mark when it comes to serving God yet also draping everything against the backdrop of Christ's incredible gift of forgiveness and redemption.  So here comes Palm Sunday with its parade and palm branches and hosannas.  For a brief moment we cast aside the heaviness of the season and rejoice in our savior king.  But the donkey upon which Jesus rode reminds us of his humility and perhaps points to the further humiliation he will receive in just a few short days.  The way in which the crowd turned their cheers into jeers points to how fickle humanity really can be.
And so the final leg of our journey toward the Easter weekend commenced with a day of a worship which celebrated our Lord's entry into Jerusalem, but gathered us around the communion table where we considered the sacrifice where it all culminates.  Here's my prayer from yesterday.  May your journey through this holy week be one of humility, awe, and thankfulness.  

Loving and Gracious God,
We are here today, singing our praise, shouting Hosanna, giving you all glory, laud, and honor. We rejoice in our ability to proclaim you as the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We love to recreate the energy and emotion of that first Palm Sunday, when you entered into Jerusalem, on a humble donkey, surrounded by the joy and exaltation of a people who were thrilled to be in your presence. We long to taste the palpable conviction that even the rocks and trees were going to praise you that day, regardless of the disappointment this brought to the authorities. And so today we join the throngs that shout out to you, lifting you high, offering you our praise, giving you the glory that is deserving as the Son of God, our Savior and redeemer.
And yet, it is also here that we come to grips with the duplicity of our praise. Even as we praise your name as Savior and redeemer we subtly admit that we need to be saved from our sin, redeemed from our ungodliness. We cannot deny the reality that the joy of your parade into Jerusalem turned so quickly to pain that signaled the sacrifice of your own self.  And so let this day also remind us that while our expressions can quickly go from cheers to jeers, your faithfulness and love remain true.  When we bring you our highest praise, you humbly serve us. When we turn away from you, and cast stones, or deny your existence, and hurt you with our less than Christ-like actions, your action remains the same: unconditional love coupled with unrelenting forgiveness for our sin. Lord, this humbles us. And so dear God, as we head into this holiest of weeks, may we be mindful of the things in our lives that need to change. May we confess with humility those areas where we hold tightly to what we want and offer our lives to you as readily as we offer our shouts of Hosanna today. Lord, may we see in the giving of your life the power to give ourselves to others in love.  When life’s struggles sear our souls or sacrifice strips us of hope, strengthen us with your spirit that strode into Jerusalem to face death even as palm branches were strewn before your path and the crowd cried “Hosanna in the highest.”
Lord, today we offer you our humble praise and ask that by the power of your spirit we be led through a meaningful holy week ahead, where we honestly grasp what you have done for us on the cross and seek to yield our lives to you, knowing that the power of your love and redemption can indeed transform our very being. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.