A Sermon by Rev. Victor H. Floyd
Luke 19:28, 35-40
[Jesus was] going up to Jerusalem…Then they brought [a] colt to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if my disciples were silent, the stones would shout out.’
A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.
“Palm Sunday” by Joy Cowley
No donkey this time
But a borrowed Honda 550.
Jesus riding into town
With a black leather jacket,
Jeans frayed at the knees,
And L-O-V-E tattooed
On the knuckles of his right hand.
Those who saw him
Said his smile was like the sun,
Warming shadowed corners
And causing the way to blossom
Those who saw him told
Of all the light left over
To be taken home and set
In eyes, in hearts
And at windows for strangers.
It was like a miracle,
The rest of us missed it.
We were in another part of the city,
Waiting for the Messiah.
Jesus and that Donkey Meets Joseph and that Coat
Today, our Lenten journeys lead us all to Jerusalem—ancient, bustling Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover, when the Jews, including Jesus and his disciples, celebrate the age-old story of freedom from slavery in Egypt. In our tradition, we reenact our own festival of liberation and call it Palm Sunday. We find our places in the drama the Christian church calls “Holy Week” and buckle our seatbelts for the bumpy ride ahead.
The Holy Week Narrative
Today, Jesus’ passion becomes unstoppable. He enters town not as messiah, not as savior, not as Christ but as Rabbi Jesus, the rabble rouser whose egalitarian morals and practices threaten to destabilize both church and government. The unstoppable quality of this week’s drama will be borne out this Thursday at our Journey to the Last Supper and Good Friday’s service of choral music and darkness, the solitude and desolation of Holy Saturday, and then—well, tune in next week…spoilers! As you just heard Vanessa read from Luke and Cal read from the back of a Honda 550, Jesus made sure that his entry into Jerusalem was a teachable moment: irony writ large. Shouldn’t the messiah arrive in a chariot or, at least, on a steed?
The way we perceive Jesus’ public witness on Palm Sunday is crucial to our understanding of Christianity. Jesus, savior of the world, ambles into town, weighing down a donkey, and not even a proper donkey, a baby donkey. His ancient Near East outdoor liturgical performance art demonstrates that true power shall never belong to the ostentatious; true power shall reside in humility. The unwashed mass is here to greet him. Palm branches fan the air that we share with Jesus. Fifteen chapters ago, in Luke 4, Jesus goes to temple and reads aloud the Isaiah scroll, announcing the mission of his public ministry,
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
[So that the very ones who are exploited,
detained, and brokenhearted]
will be called trees of righteousness,
planted by God, to display God’s glory.
When we wave these branches we fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. “We are here for you, Jesus! God’s trees of righteousness! Call us your own! And Hosanna: save us we pray!”
Comparing Luke 19:28-40 & Genesis Chapters 37, 39. 41
In every way, Jesus is the hero of this day—not in a Captain Marvel, Aqua Man, Wonder Woman sense—not a fictitious superhero but a real-life, historical, once-in-an-age hero. Before Jesus, our faith had other heroes: Noah, Moses, Miriam, Joshua, Leah, Queen Esther, King David—heroes all, but today, our youth ensemble is about to present the story of a younger hero: Joseph, not the Joseph of Joseph and Mary fame but a much older story from the 37th chapter of Genesis, written about six-hundred years before Jesus.
There are many similarities between the Palm Sunday story and the Amazing Dreamcoat story—such as coats. Coats symbolize a whole person, with the agency and power of a well-integrated individual. Coats are used like a sacrificial red carpet for Jesus, but Joseph’s coat is a symbol of his father’s love and his brothers’ jealousy. Joseph’s brothers and Jesus’ Pharisees seem to have a good bit in common, too: insecurity so acute it leads to betrayal and violence. Both Joseph and Jesus are prophets, and this threatens the systems of unearned privilege in Joseph’s family, just as Jesus’ stands in opposition to the exploitation of the Roman Empire. Jospeh’s brothers have him thrown into a pit and left for dead; Jesus’ Pharisees (antagonistic religious authorities) collude with the local Empire hacks to have Jesus crucified on demand by us, the same fickle crowd that waves palms today, and, like Jospeh in the pit, we leave Jesus for dead sealed in a tomb, but tune in next week…spoilers!
Introducing the Musical
Now, if there are children who’d like a front row seat, we have plenty of room down here. As the cast goes to places, I am going to brag. At this church, these children may grow into the people God made them to be. We have not made their life plans for them. We want experience joy in God’s house, and if they choose to pursue a career in ordained ministry, we will support them fully. We want these young people to know we love them, we are pulling for them, and that they are unstoppable. In the name of the Anointed One: Amen.
[The children and youth ensembles of Calvary Presbyterian Church (USA) lead worship performing a half-hour version of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.]