Palm Sunday, Year C; April 13-14, 2019
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 19:28-40
We’d get up early and prepare for the big day—getting dressed, packing the lawn chairs, raincoats or jackets or—If we were lucky—the sun hats and glasses. We’d load up in the car and head over to downtown Waco to meet up with Mammaw and Pappaw (my mom’s parents). They lived near the parade route, so they would already be on site with their bread-truck-turned-camper, where Mammaw was cooking breakfast for us. (My little sister and I loved that the kitchen in that camper was just like a grand playhouse—but it worked!) My brother was in the high school marching band, so he was already there in uniform, lining up in between the floats. My sisters (up until they also joined the band) and I were dressed in our green and gold, ready to cheer on the Bears on this glorious occasion—the annual Baylor University Homecoming Parade!
Oh, what a parade it was! The fraternities and sororities and service clubs all stayed up all night prepping floats, each trying to outdo the others while slamming the opposing football team. The equestrian club’s ride at the end of the parade was my horse-loving-sister Judy’s favorite, and I think Janet loved the chance to see the live bear mascot when he was led by, maybe drinking a Dr. Pepper. Me? I have always loved princesses and ball gowns, so seeing the homecoming court and the other beautiful co-eds done up to their finest, wearing Homecoming Mums with green and gold streamers, sitting on their floats or riding in fancy convertibles always gave me a thrill. And, of course, we couldn’t wait to laugh with the Shriner Clowns and their crazy car that drove backwards, and the candy the groups tossed our way were special treats. We’d stand and sing when the National Anthem was played, and we’d sing along to the Baylor Line and the school fight song, cheering with the cheerleaders while they did their incredible stunts. And we did it all as a family. My, oh my! What a day it was each year, that parade.
Do you have a favorite parade you remember being a part of or watching? What stands out in your memories?
I can only imagine the thrill of the surprise parade the people in Jerusalem received that first “Palm Sunday.” (Ironic, this year, calling it Palm Sunday. St. Luke’s version doesn’t mention palms, or branches of any kind. Just coats. We don’t even have a “hosanna” in this gospel. But why quibble. Palm Sunday it is!) These pilgrims are simply gathering for their annual Passover festival, making their offerings at the Temple, gathering with families to remember the night when God set them free from their Egyptian oppressors. They wouldn’t expect to see a parade—crowds? Yes. A grand show with the entrance of a king? No. However, they got into the spirit of the event fast enough. A guy riding on a colt, with cloaks under him and people throwing their coats on the ground so even the feet of his ride don’t get dirty? Oh yes, they know those signs. And they are so eager for a new leader, for someone to set them free from these Roman oppressors like Moses set their ancestors free so long ago. Plus, they have indeed heard rumors about this teacher Jesus, with the miracles and awesome stories that show God in a new light. Maybe he IS the one to save Israel! Yes, strike up the band, cue the dancers, it’s time for a parade! “Here comes the king!” “Here comes the king!” “Peace in heaven is coming to us!” “Here comes the king!” What a story they would have to tell their families! They were THERE when it happened!
Oh, but the local authorities were not as happy about this show, even worried about getting in trouble with the Romans, or possibly God! “Teacher,” they commanded, “shush your followers! Stop these cries!” And I just love how Jesus responds: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” In other words, Jesus is King, and no manner of shushing will ever change that fact.
Yes, Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. And today we celebrate his triumph. Now, we in the know understand this isn’t the whole story at all. We’ll be back on Thursday night to remember how he gave us the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and was stripped of all he had for our sakes. We’ll come back on Good Friday to hear the horrible story of what it cost for God to take away our sins to save us. We’ll be back next Saturday for the great Vigil—to walk through the whole story of the Bible in just a few minutes so we see why that horrible Friday really is a Good Friday, leading to Sunday morning and the empty tomb. We know this celebration today is not “the big one,” but that does not undo the celebration. If we don’t shout out the story, someone or even something else will, because Jesus is the King—our King, our Lord, our Saviour, our God, the One who came to live love in the flesh for us.
My friends, this is no ordinary parade we celebrate today. Our parade doesn’t need floats or clowns or princesses, and the battle being waged isn’t between football teams. This parade reminds us that the battle is for eternal peace and life, with our king fighting that battle over death and sin, even, as in that timey-wimey way of God-time, the victory over death has already been won! No wonder we need a celebration! Our parade reminds us that God loves a good party, like that miracle of turning water into wine, like the Easter Egg hunts we do to celebrate life, like the shepherds running out to tell the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth!!” See how that cry is echoed in our lesson today? Instead of Hosanna, the crowd cries for peace. However, sometimes, too, this parade is the quiet kind, weeping with joy while Jesus rides into our hearts to change us, to take control of what we struggle to manage, to give us rest when we think we must work. When Jesus rides on in majesty, it may not look like the Macy’s parade, but it is something amazing—a parade that changes the world.
Therefore, I say we should let those poor stones rest, because we have something to shout from the rooftops! Jesus is our King, come to save us and set us free, come to love us with an everlasting love. Let us tell that story to our friends and neighbors. Let us use this week as a chance to invite someone to come and get to know this king personally. If you have not been baptized, perhaps this is the best time to think about letting God claim you in the waters of life forever. And we can all use this day to invite Jesus to march into our lives and take charge of any areas we have not given over before. So, let us praise the savior together! Ready? “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.
Rev. Terri Luper Church
Our Saviour Lutheran Church of Warrenton, VA