We need to hear again, that this world does not have the last word; that to know that God is still at work in our world; that for times such as these, as people of faith, we are called to preach the good news always, using words when necessary; that just when it seems hopeless, like the darkness has won, like it is all too much, the Kingdom of God will always find us.
April 1, 2023
Palm Sunday Sermon
“Measure Your Life in Love”
How Do You Measure the Life of A Woman or A Man?
Matthew 21: 1-11
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
Matthew 21: 1-11
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Palm Sunday Sermon on Matthew 21: 1-11
This past Thursday afternoon, when I sat down to write this sermon, I wondered why the Spirit of God was so quiet. Unlike my usual times of prayer and sermon writing, there was no connection. There was no urgency from the Spirit to bring forth the Word of God. There was only silence. There were only a lot of words crossed out on the pages set before me, but there was no sermon coming forward. So I decided to step away and try again later. I decided to wait upon the Lord to bring the message we needed to hear rather than rush through to complete a task.
I share this with everyone because sharing the Word is not something I take lightly. So for me to be authentic to my calling, I need to tell where I am on my faith journey. Over the last few days, more like over the last few weeks, I have been struggling. I have been struggling to find the Light of God in the midst of the darkness, a darkness which is closing in on us more and more every day, a darkness which is threatening to overtake us. Like many of you, as I watched, as I continue to watch the ever increasing images of brokenness and hurt becoming our present reality, I have wondered, I continue to wonder what Word I am supposed to bring this morning, especially in the midst of a darkness which goes against the very shouts of joy we raise in our Palm Sunday celebrations. How am I supposed to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God when in reality, I was wondering where God was in the midst of all this?
You see, normally our tradition is to begin Holy Week strictly with a Palm Sunday celebration. Unlike other churches who do Palm to Passion, we are strictly a Palm Sunday kind of church. No starting with shouts of joy only to end the service with shouts of sorrow. No starting the service by waving of the palm branches only to end by waving away Jesus as we deny him as our Savior. No, it is our tradition to do strictly Palm Sunday celebration, to wave the palms, to shout Hosanna, to celebrate the coming of the Lord.
Yet this year, to me, it feels like our shouts of joy are empty. Unlike in years past, they are not reminding me that our God is still at work in our world, that our God is answering our pleas. They are not reminding me that our God is working to bring healing and wholeness to all of God’s children.
Instead, these shouts of joy are ringing falsely in my ears. They are too bright. They are too noisy. They mask the shouts of lament my heart is making this morning for all of God’s people. And as a preacher, as a person of faith, I’m not sure how I, how we proclaim that the Kingdom of God is coming when I’m not, when we are not even sure where God is in the midst of all this brokenness and hurt that is filling our world right now.
I know I am not the only one asking these questions right now. On Friday, that seemed to be the running theme on all the preaching blogs I follow. All of us preacher types were hoping that people way smarter than us would give us the words to say this morning, words which would make everything better, words which would make everything not so real. Or if they couldn’t do that, then at least give us permission to pull out an old sermon and preach it instead, but nothing like that came forward.
Which brings us to now. All I can say is that as a minister charged to bring the Good News to the people of God, I cannot and I will stand before you with any easy answers. I will not stand before you with empty platitudes or quick fixes to any of this. Because that really doesn’t help anything. Pretending that bad stuff is not happening in our world right now only allows us to mask our pain, to mask our fear. It only allows uncertainty to continue to guide us in all that we say and do.
I had thought about changing our text this morning to something more relevant to the situation happening in our world right now. Only to be reminded by the Spirit that in the time of King Herod, in a time of uncertainty and fear, a time in which the governing systems were ruled by power and might, Jesus was born. And the Spirit didn’t stop there. It also reminded me that in the time of Pontius Pilate, who was an agent of the Roman Empire, in the time of Pontius Pilate, the Prince of Peace came riding into Jerusalem on a colt as an agent of the Kingdom of God.
I realized that was why I needed the shouts of joy this morning. I needed to hear again this week, we needed to hear again this week, that this world does not have the last world. We needed and still need to know that God is still at work in our world. We need to hear that for times such as these, as people of faith, we are called to preach the good news always, using words when necessary. We need to know that just when it seems hopeless, just when it seems like the darkness has won, just when it feels like it is all too much, the Kingdom of God will always find us.
It will break into our world. It will break into the darkness. It will meet us where we are, centering us in the presence of our God. Today, the Kingdom of God finds us in our uncertainty, finds us in our fear, finds us in need of hope, by riding in on a colt, ushering in the light and love of God for all of God’s people. Today, the Kingdom of God is inviting us to shout for joy once more. Just like it did all those years ago for the people of God.
The promise of Palm Sunday is that The Kingdom of God finds us in the darkness. It will always transform our shouts of lament into shouts of joy. It will always find us in our fear. It will always transform our sorrow into acts of hope and love. If we take nothing else from today, know this: The whole purpose and point of Palm Sunday is to remember…to remind ourselves that God has worked in the past to save God’s people and God will do so again. God has never ever left God’s people in the darkness and God is not about to start now. God will always bring us back to life.
Today, in spite of the world trying to rob us of our joy, as people of faith we will celebrate. We will celebrate the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We find this strength, we find this courage, not because of who we are but because of whose we are. We are children of the most powerful and loving God who came down to earth, who became one of us, and who comes to us again today, riding into Jerusalem to save us from ourselves.
For times such as this, as people of faith, in spite of the darkness, we will celebrate. We know that now and forever more this world will not and does not have the last word. Only God does and right now, our God is riding into Jerusalem on a colt, saving us from the ugliness of this world, bringing healing and wholeness for all of God’s children. In the time of Pontius Pilate, in the time of school shootings, unfair laws and distorted justice, Jesus comes.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, April 2, 2023 – Palm Sunday Sermon on Matthew 21: 1-11.