Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby

Christ Lutheran Community Church

April 5, 2020 Worship Sermon - "Palm Sunday"

Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser

Scripture: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Matthew 26:14--27:66

Hosanna!  Hosanna in the Highest!

We began our service today shouting these words, echoing the shouts of the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem 2000 years ago.    We sing it every Sunday when we prepare to receive the Lord’s supper.  But did you know the word “Hosanna” means “Save us”?   When we shout “Hosanna”, we are shouting “Save us!”.  So, this Palm Sunday, our Hosannas echo not only the people of Jerusalem, but the cries of people around the world today: “Lord, save us!” 
          Lord, save us from a pandemic that is ravaging humanity! 
          Lord, save us from the grief of losing a loved one! 
          Lord, save us from hunger and economic collapse! 
          Lord, save us from the loneliness of isolation! 
          Lord, save us from stress and confusion and fear! 
          It seems like all humanity is crying out to some thing or someone for salvation.

We who shout Hosanna today are not so different from the people who greeted Jesus in Jerusalem.  We long for salvation, but we don’t have a clear sense of what that salvation might look like.  The people in Jerusalem were looking for salvation from a powerful king whose armies could lead them to victory over the Romans.  So, they didn’t recognize salvation coming to them in the form of a God of love… a compassionate God who suffers along with humanity.  We who shout hosanna today are looking for salvation in the form of a vaccine, an end to the pandemic, and a return to life before Covid-19.  I pray that a treatment for the virus is found soon, but salvation will have to be much more than a vaccine or medication: salvation will have to heal the brokenness of our society, the inequities and injustices that this pandemic is bringing to the surface.  We are still in need of salvation in the form of a God of love.

Like many of us, I have been using this time of quarantine to catch up on movies and TV shows that I haven’t had a chance to see.  I finally got around to watching the last season of Game of Thrones.  Spoiler alert: I’m going to give away the ending, so if you don’t want to hear it go get yourself some coffee and come back in a couple of minutes.  The climax of the series - like the climax of many epic stories - is a great battle, in this case a battle between the living and the dead.  After this battle, in which many lives are lost, the king of death is finally defeated, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.  But it’s not all happily ever after, because once the king of death has been defeated, then human beings start fighting against each other.  They are driven into war by hate and rivalry and suspicion of people who are outside of their group.  And the battle that erupts between these groups of human beings is even more devastating than the battle against death. 

What I think Game of Thrones is saying, and what I’m trying to say, is this:  we need healing of the human spirit just as much as we need healing from a deadly virus.  We need a human spirit in which love is stronger than hate or we will find another way to destroy each other once this pandemic has come to an end.  God came among us in Jesus Christ to give us that Spirit of love.  God came among us in Jesus Christ to heal our spirit and God gives us the power to be a healing presence for others.

The world desperately needs disciples of Jesus Christ right now, people who let the Spirit of Love guide them.  We are all under tremendous stress.  Fear and confusion grip most of us.  If nothing else, we’re cranky from being cooped up all day.  May the Spirit of Love guide you to be a healing presence in our world.