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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

April 1st, 2023: Palm Sunday Sermon

“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God”

Since at least the 4th century, and universally in the Church since the 8th century, Christians have kept the Sunday before Easter as a memorial of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and a literal procession with palms that started in Jerusalem has spread throughout the world.

On Palm Sunday we have a shift in feelings. We take a moment, a pause on the road to Jerusalem and the events of the passion. We know that soon the journey will come to an end. We know what to expect during Holy Week because we have been here before.

We have followed the story of Jesus from birth through the call of the disciples, the healings, the teachings, the signs or miracles. We have joined with the disciples and the people that Jesus encountered in learning about the Kingdom of God. We have learned that Jesus was the new Adam, the new Moses, the one who would initiate a new covenant with God. Jesus brought new things.

Today is a day of celebration. We have heard the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We have heard the echos of the prophets who said there would be a Messiah. We have raised our voices in shouts of Hosana! We have waved palms like so many have done before us.

We take this time of celebration and we are joyous.

But we know what the week ahead will bring. The people who shouted on this day so long ago in adoration and faith in a Messiah who would liberate them from Roman domination will turn so quickly into people who shout Crucify!

But today we stay on the road a little longer. We note the contrast between a man who came with a few friends riding on a donkey and the Roman war machine with legions and horses and power. We will ask who truly has the power on this day?

The expectations of the crowd were running high. They had heard of this man who could do so many amazing things and hoped that he would bring change to their lives.

But as we are so well aware Jesus did not come to meet the expectations of the crowd. He came to bring change, but not the way many people hoped for.

In our Epistle for today we read from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This was sent by Paul and his associates to the Church in Philippi, an important Roman city in the mid or late 50’s. The letter stresses the joy of the Gospel despite trying times and circumstances.

The section we heard today is called the “Christ Hymn”. Some people believe that Paul adapted this from an early Christian hymn for his own purposes. It seems clear that this hymn was composed before any of our Gospels.

In this passage Paul is urging the Philippians to have the “mind of Christ”. The Church is doing ok, but things could be better. The Church could be more unified, stronger. Paul uses the Christ Hymn to address the need for the Philippians to live and work cooperatively to aim for the flourishing of the whole body. Paul wants them to cultivate an attitude of humility instead of ambition and desire for personal glory.

Look to serve others interests ahead of your own - this is the way to imitate Christ - to have the mind of Christ.

The Christ in this passage from the letter to the Philippians is clearly divine. But not what would have been expected. This man does not grasp for divinity but relinquished it. The hymn highlights the humility and the exaltation of Jesus. Implied in the hymn is the correlation between mind and action. The state of mind is central to faithfulness.

What is this state of mind to which Paul is calling us? A state of mind where we exemplify selflessness and a humble regard for others. Where we do not strive to elevate ourselves over another. We have the same mind that was in Christ when we resist self seeking models of power and when we renounce exploitation and indifference. We have the same mind of Christ when we treat one another with love and respect.

From his prison cell Paul urged the Philippians to let Christ’s way of thinking and acting be their guide. The example that would show them how to live in Christ. To have the mind of Christ.

As we enter Holy Week it is good to acknowledge that there are some strange elements to the story. The experience of Holy Week should contain the familiar story of Jesus and the events of these 3 days in Jerusalem with some confusion. Who can claim to fully understand a story so full of human nature and inconsistencies and divine mystery? In this week we are invited to consider what it means to live with mystery and to note that trust in Jesus is not the same as understanding the events.

Faith is demonstrated in relying upon God in our lowest moments.

Hope comes when we find that God is with us.

Love comes from our grateful hearts.



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