Liturgy of the Palms: Psalms and Gospel Passages – The Lord Comes!

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalms 118:1-2)

Today we look at the scripture passages, the Psalms passage and the New Testament passage, that are the Liturgy of the Palms. The palms are the branches that were used to cover the street when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. And this psalms passage has become associated with that event.

Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” (Verses 19-20)

As I consider this passage, I am reminded that of the focus and theme of this year, confession, penance, and forgiveness. And that three step process is the way to righteousness.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” (Verse 21)

It is during the season of Lent that this progression of confession/penance/forgiveness has significance, although I suspect that I will find ways and means to bring it to our attention later in the year. And that it is through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that brings the righteous we want and need. Of course, there are those of authentic belief who may see other aspects of Jesus that have more significance for them. That is the beauty of Jesus’ ministry, that it contains something for everyone, if they would but look for it.

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Verse 22-23)

Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem was a time of celebration; the spirit of the moment caught hold, and Jesus was sought after and revered.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Verse 24)

But Jesus and his ministry was more than celebration and accolades. And in the days that followed, a more somber note was injected into Jesus Christ’s ministry.

“Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!” (Verses 25)

That is, however, pondering for another day – not today.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.” (Verses 26-27)

Today we welcome Jesus Christ to his rightful place in our world, and in our lives.

You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Verses 28-29)

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.”
(Luke 19:28-34)

“The Lord needs it.” Ever since I first read this passage, and was old enough to understand it, I marveled that those simple words were enough for Jesus being given leave to take this colt. As I considered these words again, it occurred to me that in the same simple but compelling way we need the Lord.

Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” ( Verses 36-40)

Let us, beloved reader, not be silent either. Let us shout out our praises to the Lord, and confess our need of our Lord. Let us this day celebrate the coming of our Lord to us. Selah!

NOW THEY ARE HIDDEN . . . Missing out on the revelation

“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19: 42b from Luke 19:28-44 )

We, meaning humanity, sometimes have a brief window of understanding something. In the blink of an eye all the signs and clues come together and we glimpse something that we had never seen or understood before. And then the instant is passed, and we are back at seeing things dimly through a frosted glass. Jesus said of Jerusalem and all those people that made Jerusalem what is was, if only they had seen and understood what was presented to them, but they did not.

Have you stopped to consider that picture, that tableau of Jesus entering Jerusalem? All the answers to all the question that humanity has ever had, riding in on a white donkey. All the times we have wondered “Why?” and the only person or being who could ever answer that question was RIGHT THERE!! And the people of Jerusalem never knew it!

And as much as we might seek God, as much as we might try to find Christ, we will never be close enough to ask the Divine all the questions that churn up inside us and the answer with our own ears. It is to weep. Which Jesus did.

May you gentle reader store up all the questions that you might have, and then wait patiently until the day when Christ comes again and all things that are now hidden will be revealed again. Selah! And shalom for your day.

HOSANNA! . . . . For this new way of being!

“Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it … Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:7, 9 from Mark 11:1-11 )

It is not mentioned in this excerpt, but the colt that Jesus rode on had never been ridden before. Verse 2b says, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden.” To me this symbolize that Jesus is not only approaching his mission in a new way – on a colt instead of charging horse. But on a cold that no one else has ever ridden because Jesus’ way is totally new . . . and different. We touched on that in the commentary “Be my followers . . . Be Different”.

How then do we reconcile this with the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”? Does this mean that all the other prophets, both Old Testament and New Testament era, did not come “in the name of the Lord”? Or perhaps it is this Jesus come not only representing the Lord but is in fact the Lord? If all other prophets were only human interpretations of what they thought God would be – white charger powered – then Jesus is the true God incarnate coming as approachable and mild on a new colt.

I do not know about you gentle reader, but a gentle Messiah on a virgin colt would have much to teach about right relationships based on compassion, justice based on humility, and shalom based on accessibility. Shout Hosanna when your Lord God approaches you. Selah! And shalom for your day.

HEAR AND FORGIVE – In this place, and all other places

“And hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; may you hear from heaven your dwelling place; hear and forgive. “ (II Chronicles 6:21 from II Chronicles 6:12-42 )

“Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord” (verse 1) and said, among other things, the verse above. In the generations that came after Solomon, and the priests that officiated before the altar of the Lord, I imagine there were many who said this exact type of thing. And I am sure that God heard everything, and forgave. But there was one in the history of God and humanity who prayed this with more power and authority asking not only for forgiveness for the people Israel but granting it as well. I am talking of Jesus. And this is Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus came into Jerusalem to save Jerusalem from itself, and to save all of us.

Solomon, in his dedication of the Lord’s house that he built, prayed for all the people of Israel, including all sorts of circumstances that prayer might be offered. I do not mean to lessen what Solomon said, or the grace and mercy that he was asking for concerning the Lord’s people. But Jesus made a bigger impact with his prayers. Solomon prayed for the Israel that was then, the altar that was there, and the circumstances under which the people lived.

Jesus prayed for, and wept for Jerusalem; a city of people who (“people” meaning the societal encompassing perspective) needed a Savior, but would ultimately reject the Messiah Jesus. But Jesus prayed for more than just Jerusalem, for Jesus foresaw what would come in the future, and knew that the need for him, – for the God-self – was wider, broader, and deeper than anything Solomon in all his wisdom foresaw.

Yes, let us remember Solomon as a wise king who gave much to his people, and much to those who read what he is said to have written. But let us also remember this day as the day that Christ came to Jerusalem – but came for more than just that time and place. Jesus comes to us, as he came to Jerusalem, triumphant but gently in order to weep for us, forgive us, and save us. Shalom for your Sunday!