Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
12:00pm Fellowship
Pastor Rev. Sue Wenner
Secretary Donna McDonald
Office Hours: Tu-Th 9am-12pm

April 05, 2020 Sermon - Palm Sunday

This Sunday is a celebration for us. We like that celebration. We like to see Jesus triumphantly coming into Jerusalem. As I mentioned in the prayer, we sometimes use that to deny what is coming this next week to Jesus. You know that part of my theology is that Jesus is the Son of God willing to come to live our lives, in our real world, with all its uncertainties, and with all its diseases, and with all the angst that we find in our world today: the struggles between religion, and faiths and governments throughout the world.

Jesus' world wasn't any different. In this picture that we see in Matthew there's another picture that's behind this moment when we see Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We know part of that story was that the disciples (if you remember from last week's Gospel lesson) were in fear of Jesus' life. He had been telling them that He would die, but not to worry because God would raise Him from the dead. The disciples knew that the Jews were going to stone Him when they had been in Jerusalem before because of what He was doing.

After the raising of Lazarus from last week everyone knew what the Sanhedrin had finally determined: this is the end, we have to get rid of this man Jesus.

The other part we don't see in this story of Jesus' life is that Jesus is coming in through the Eastern gate riding on a donkey. Being that Son of David coming to be the prophet who has proclaimed God's presence to the people who were hurting, who needed to know that God loves them. He had shown Him them through His ministry that God's presence was with them, to heal them, to feed them, to love them, and to bring them to the knowledge that God's presence and God's love have not forsaken in them.

But coming through the Western Gate of Jerusalem inside of the city at the same time was Pontius Pilate who was the governor of the region, who was the the governmental authority of Rome for them. His intent was to bring the law and order and power of Rome into Jerusalem during this festival time of Passover.

Many, many Jews were going to be gathering for this amazing festival of Passover, of freedom and oppression, of coming out of Egypt, that story from the Old Testament. And Pontius Pilate was coming to keep order with legions of soldiers and the power of Rome backing him.

So there was an intent by Pontius Pilate that there would be absolutely no uprising from these Jews in Jerusalem during this time. Pontius Pilate was riding a war horse, it wasn't any sort of humble entrance, it was an entrance of: we have the power, we will use the power, and we will not put up with anything, you will abide by Rome.

So we have these two scenes: on one hand, they're singing a song of hosanna, highest hosannas to God and God's kingdom. On the other side of the town, coming in, is the Declaration : worship Caesar as God; and only Caesar as God.

With these two pictures of leaders coming into Jerusalem we know eventually they will meet and clash. In Roman times, Rome had no intentions of losing. Jesus, on the other hand showed us that it will be by God's power; that God is present with Him.

Jesus declares that He will trust God, just as we have to trust in God's care and God's presence with us in our lives. That's what makes Jesus so important, as far as I believe, in my theology, why Jesus is so important to us, because He lived our lives, our real lives, what we encounter in our world. Jesus having to trust God as a human being, Jesus felt disappointment, He felt fear, He felt pain.

Jesus was willing to be the Messiah that God called Him to be. Had He chosen otherwise, had He chosen to use the power of God to protect Himself against what was to come, we would not know that God has power even over death; that a resurrection has been promised to God's people. That's important for us to know, that God has a future for us even beyond what we call "our death", that we can trust God with our very lives, with our very souls, and all that we are, that God will be faithful to us from everlasting to everlasting.

You need to know, this is one of the hardest weeks that we encounter in the Gospel lessons of the Easter story. When I started my ministry I was struggling between; do we do the the passion story of the entire week and Jesus dying on the cross, or just Palm Sunday? One of my older and wiser colleagues said to us: "You know some people cannot encounter the gravity and the sorrow of this week. They can't go through Holy Thursday where Jesus is arrested and put on trial, and spit at, and flogged. Nor can they handle the crucifixion because it's too much for their souls to handle that their Savior, their Redeemer was put on a cross and died."

We handle this week of palm Sunday as a triumphant entry, that Jesus is the Messiah, the one anointed by God, to be the redeemer of God's people, to show God's love and presence in bad times. Some can only encounter the risen Jesus who says "I am here, I am present, Rome was not successful in killing me and getting rid of me, I am still here."

That is our hope. That is what God has promised to us in this week, and this is the first time that I have gone through that week with you, because I honored my older colleague who said some people can't handle that, but for us this day, facing the crisis that we are facing in our nation, and in the world, seeing all the deaths tallied whenever we turn on the news or the TV, I think we need to know that Jesus' message and ministry revolved around this real world, with all its illnesses, with all its deaths, to proclaim God's faithfulness to us, that there is a resurrection, that God has victory even over death. Even over anything that we can encounter in this world.

We have been given God's promises that nothing in life or death will ever separate us from God's incredible love in Christ Jesus our Lord. That's why I chose for our benediction Isaiah 12. You need to know that this is one of my favorite passages.

I keep making them into cross stitched wall hangings, which I give away whenever I encounter someone who is really going through a difficult time in their lives and needs to know that God's presence is with them, that God is our salvation. The verses starts out with "Surely God is our salvation; we will trust and not be afraid."

For me that has always been a touch-stone of hope. That God has not forsaken us and never will forsake us, no matter what life brings our way.

You have been reminded that Jesus Christ is your Lord; that you are God's servants; you are loved, you are forgiven, and you are empowered through the Holy Spirit to live as God's faithful ones in this world.