Mission Statement: The Lutheran Church of Our Saviour desires to be a community of Christians whose faith is active in love.

Upturned Expectations 

April 10, 2022
Palm Sunday
John 12: 12-27; 19: 16b-22
God’s grace and peace be with you and within your hearts this morning.

We’re making a bit of a jump backwards today.

The past two Sundays we heard how the chief priests and religious authorities have maneuvered Pilate to send Jesus to his death by crucifixion. This morning, the lectionary composers have us hitting a bit of a pause in the story and looking back.

If John’s Lenten story were a movie, today’s passage would serve as a flashback … taking listeners back a couple of days to bring context to how Jesus got to the point in the story where we left him last week and introducing a bit of irony in the bargain.

Word comes to the people that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem from Bethany where he has raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. It’s where Mary had anointed Jesus with an abundance of nard.

The news spreads quickly … the people who witnessed Jesus’ life-giving act continue to offer testimony to others … and the word keeps spreading outward. Even visiting Greeks want to see Jesus and approach one of the disciples with their request.

There is a sense of hope … a sense of impending change … in the air. 

The person that the people believe will change their lot in life … the king who will transform the world … the one who will deliver them … will be arriving in time for the Passover festival.

It’s cause for celebration.

Children are sent to climb the palm trees that dot the landscape and told to gather palm fronds … maybe even instructed to get as many as they can carry.

Jesus and his disciples make their way up from the valley. The people rush out of the city’s gates and line the side of the road.

Excitement begins to build … the crowd lets out a roar as the group approaches the city. The branches wave in the air and are thrown onto the road.

John is the only gospel writer who mentions palm fronds being part of the celebration. 

Traditionally, palm branches were a symbol of life and this celebration was suitable for the arrival of a victorious king or a visiting dignitary.

The people seem to recognize Jesus’ kingship … they just don’t fully grasp the royal claim that’s being made … they don’t understand the type of kingship that Jesus represents … or the type of kingdom being offered. 

Jesus came to speak truth to power … to Roman power and to the religious authorities who wielded control over the people. That truth is where new life is made possible. 

That only became understood after Jesus is crucified. 

Clearly, Jesus is a different kind of king for the people … certainly different than the one they expect. They expected a revolutionary … a miracle worker … who would overthrow the status quo … one that would ease their lot in life.

They were right … just not in the way they expected. 

The people cheering in the crowd certainly didn’t expect Jesus to lose his life on the cross a couple of days down the road … I doubt they would be cheering so loudly if they did. 

But the crucifixion is a moment when Jesus brings life out of death for the sake of others … it’s a moment that carries the divine gift that we call grace.

I love scholar Craig Koester’s description of Jesus’ suffering and death and what it models for us:

“The gift of oneself … one’s love … one’s all … that’s what kingship looks like and that’s where life is given.

“Where love reigns, that’s where life reigns.”

A loving … life-giving … self-giving God in the person of Jesus is not what those celebrating at the roadside expected.

Today we are invited to consider if God’s presence in our lives is what we expected or to consider our expectations of God?

When we sing praises or call God into moments of our lives … when we wave palms … or in the case of today’s service … socks and underwear … what expectations do we carry? 

Is it heart-felt or does it ring a bit hollow like it does with the crowd’s shouted Hosannas?

As we near the foot of the cross, perhaps we can name what gets in the way of our letting God be God or the ways we try to confine God’s presence … to restrict the reign of love.

Are our expectations … our service to others … stuck in the past … to the way things have always been?

Do they keep us from being fully self-giving?

Maybe we should expect something different … something with the potential to be more life-affirming.

As we mark Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem and the beginning of the final portion of the journey to the cross … as we celebrate our return to gathering in-person for worship … perhaps we can drop all our previous expectations and just look for ways to bring life to others through sharing the unconditional love we receive … by journeying to and with the people left behind or pushed aside by the powers of the world … through hate … or fear … or greed.

In the inclusive moments when we do this, the reign of love is more fully realized … new life is made possible … and the world … with all its expectations  … are transformed through grace … and all are made new. 

Hosanna! 

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

AMEN

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