Thursday, March 29, 2012

Palms and Passion

Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey. He came to the cheers of a crowd ready for a coronation. They waved palms and cried out "Hosanna. Hosanna. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord." Hosanna. Somebody told me we need more hosannas.
Saying Hosanna and waving Palms is a powerful way to reinforce our faith in Jesus and even to connect with the hope and joy of the crowds who greeted him in Jerusalem. The Jewish people hoped for a great leader a savior Roman oppression who'd make everything right. Jesus, prophet and healer, fit the bill. 60 years ago most churches gathered the week before Easter to remember Palm Sunday and the hope.

Today we sing hosanna and we remembered the hope. But 60 years ago retelling Jesus' Cross was set aside for Good Friday. That was the day to remember and pray about the cross. Over the past 6 decades something has changed and the cross has moved right to the very center of our Palm Sunday. We still remember the procession and the adulation of the crowd; but we also come face to face with the cross.

Some people will rightly ask, “Why?” After all there's something wonderful about praising Jesus and remembering the Hosannas as he came into Jerusalem. Why would we want to hear about the passion on this day too? Why not wait until Friday? Freedom, true freedom, comes for us through the cross of Jesus Christ. St Bernard of Clairvaux said,

if we would have Christ for a frequent guest, to fill our hearts with faithful meditations on the mercy He showed in dying for us, and on His mighty power in rising again from the dead. To this David testified when he sang, ‘God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same; that power belongeth unto God; and that Thou, Lord, art merciful (Ps. 62.11f).
The cross is where everything starts over. Its the place where before we can start over we have to see ourselves—our pride and our sins put to death—with Jesus. Bernard wrote on,
And surely there is proof enough and to spare in that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and ascended into heaven that He might protect us from on high, and sent the Holy Spirit for our comfort. Hereafter He will come again for the consummation of our bliss. In His Death He displayed His mercy, in His Resurrection His power; both combine to manifest His glory.
We look at the cross today not just to be dower and down hearted. We look closely at the cross so that the joy of Easter might start to grow in us. We look at the cross knowing how the story ends and how God ripped that ending apart. It's real for all of us. And so too is the hope we have in Jesus.

Luther wrote of the Passion
We say without hesitation that he who contemplates God’s sufferings for a day, an hour, yes, only a quarter of an hour, does better than to fast a whole year, pray a psalm daily, yes, better than to hear a hundred masses. This meditation changes man’s being and, almost like baptism, gives him a new birth. Here the passion of Christ performs its natural and noble work, strangling the old Adam and banishing all joy, delight, and confidence which man could derive from other creatures, even as Christ was forsaken by all, even by God.Martin Luther, vol. 42, Luther's Works, Vol. 42 : Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1969)page 11
We look on not to drop into despair but to reach up to hope.

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