Palm Sunday Sermons

palm donkey view

Hosanna! Hosana! Hosana! Yada, Yada, we’ve heard it all before…

Jesus: Human or Divine?

Marching in the Wrong Parades

On Palm Sunday, An Inconvenient Messiah Parades Into our Midst

Jesus Sets Us Free to Save Ourselves

Jesus is still up there on that ass making a mockery of our hopes for a Messiah! 

Palm Sunday Sermons

palm donkey view

Jesus: Human or Divine?

Marching in the Wrong Parades

On Palm Sunday, An Inconvenient Messiah Parades Into our Midst

Jesus Sets Us Free to Save Ourselves

Jesus is still up there on that ass making a mockery of our hopes for a Messiah!

 

On Palm Sunday, An Inconvenient Messiah Parades Into Our Midst

palm sundayI wrote this sermon years ago, when I’d first given up theologies which required a subscription to the notion that humans fell from grace and need a Messiah to save them. It’s funny how we cling to ideas about what it means to be human as if centuries of human evolution have no bearing on who and what we are. The illustrations in this story come from an old shoebox of clippings; they do not cite the source, but the name Ed Riegert is scribbled in the margins. Ed was my homiletics professor. He used to encourage us to keep a file of stories that we might tell. That old shoebox has long since been replaced by a hard-drive. But the shoebox still draws me back from time to time. This sermon was a first attempt to move beyond notions of atonement that paint a picture of humanity I no longer cling to. Perhaps it will be helpful to those who are beginning open themselves to a new understanding of who Jesus is.

For previous Palm Sunday sermons click here, here, or here

There was once a man who suffered from various illnesses for a very long time. This man had seen countless doctors who over the years had performed countless tests on him and had prescribed lots of medicine. But, the man’s condition did not improve. This man even tried home remedies to make himself feel better. He drank herbal teas, and took mega-doses of vitamins along with his prescriptions. But still he did not feel any better. Then one day the man heard about a doctor who was said to be an outstanding diagnostician. So the man called the doctor to make an appointment and even though the doctor was booked for months in advance the man was delighted when the receptionist managed to fit him in. As the date of his appointment drew near the man was excited by the prospect of finally getting to the bottom of his problem. At last, he would find out just what was wrong with him and in no time he was sure that this brilliant doctor whose praises were sung by one and all, this doctor would be able to cure him. The day of the appointment arrived. After the doctor had thoroughly examined the man and had reviewed his tests, she sat down with him and she said, “My friend, you are not a healthy man. But you can be well again if you will only follow my advice. What you need to do is lose about sixty pounds, get involved in a regular program of exercise, and eat more grain, fruit, and vegetables. You don’t need to take any more of the medicine that has been prescribed for you and you don’t need all those vitamin pills.” When the man heard this, he was indignant. He demanded that the doctor prescribe some new medicine for him, possibly some experimental drug not yet on the market, which would cure his illness. The doctor smiled patiently and repeated her advice. “You don’t need medicine,” she said. “You need to change your lifestyle.” The man simply cursed the doctor and stomped out of the office. For the rest of his sickly life, he told everyone that she was a quack who didn’t deserve to be called a doctor. Continue reading

Jesus Sets Us Free to Save Ourselves: a sermon for Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11

palm brsIn our parish, on Palm Sunday our liturgy stays with the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Trusting that our members will join us on Good Friday, we have not adopted the practice of rushing to the Passion of Christ. This allows us time to linger over our Hosannas. Our worship began outside with the reading of Matthew 21:1-11, followed by a procession of palm waving, hosanna cheering congregation. This year I changed the first reading to the story of Jacob’s wounding during a wrestling match with God in Genesis 32:22-31, followed by an feminist interpretation of Psalm 118, and the Gospel text John 12:12-15. I am indebted to Michael Morewood’s book “Is Jesus God” for the inspiration behind this sermon and to John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg’s “The Last Week” for the historical details. 

For previous Palm Sunday sermons click here, here, here, or here

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us! Save us! Save us from who? Save us from what? Save us for what? What is all the shouting about?

Two millennia ago, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, when Jesus mounted that donkey it was pretty clear who needed saving from who; it was clear what they needed saving from and it was fairly clear what people longed to be saved for. The people longed for freedom: freedom from the brutality of their Roman rulers, freedom from the ravages of poverty, freedom from the strict oppression of their religious authorities, and freedom from the fear of illness and death. Life among the conquered peoples of first century Palestine was cruel, oppressive, impoverished and filled with fear and suspicion. Whatever hope of deliverance there was all too often false hope. Among the oppressed there are always calls for revolution and the conquered people of first century Palestine had seen more than their fair share of wanna-be saviours.  Some of their young people had fallen prey to the incitement of the Zealots and in youthful, exuberant, impatience had taken up arms against their Roman oppressors. Some of their neighbours had betrayed their own people and taken up whatever crumbs the Romans were offering, sold their souls and become collaborators, lining their own pockets at the expense of their own people. But far too many people had given up and given in, settling for whatever life they could eke out under the cruel regime hoping against hope, that someday, someone, somehow would come along and save them from the horrors of life. And so, they longed for the good old days; The days when their people and not the Romans dominated the land, the days when one of their own was king. But not just any king, they wanted a king like David; a king who would ride at the head of their army full of pride and power and conquer all their enemies. The elders, the wise ones, pointed to the past and heralded David as a Messiah; an anointed one; anointed by God to lead the people. How they longed for such a messiah to rise up among them and lead them; lead them to victory against all their foes and save them from their miserable existence. One by one, they’d hear these wanna-be messiahs, these trumped up saviours, call the people to rise up. But they knew, with each successive saviour, there was no hope that they could triumph over the mighty Roman army and so over and over again, they hunkered down, waiting and watching, longing and hoping for the one who could save them. Continue reading

Jesus Sets Us Free to Save Ourselves: a sermon for Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11

palm brsIn our parish, on Palm Sunday our liturgy stays with the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Trusting that our members will join us on Good Friday, we have not adopted the practice of rushing to the Passion of Christ. This allows us time to linger over our Hosannas. Our worship began outside with the reading of Matthew 21:1-11, followed by a procession of palm waving, hosanna cheering congregation. This year I changed the first reading to the story of Jacob’s wounding during a wrestling match with God in Genesis 32:22-31, followed by an feminist interpretation of Psalm 118, and the Gospel text John 12:12-15. I am indebted to Michael Morewood’s book “Is Jesus God” for the inspiration behind this sermon and to John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg’s “The Last Week” for the historical details. 

For previous Palm Sunday sermons click here, here, or here

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us! Save us! Save us from who? Save us from what? Save us for what? What is all the shouting about?

Two millennia ago, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, when Jesus mounted that donkey it was pretty clear who needed saving from who; it was clear what they needed saving from and it was fairly clear what people longed to be saved for. The people longed for freedom: freedom from the brutality of their Roman rulers, freedom from the ravages of poverty, freedom from the strict oppression of their religious authorities, and freedom from the fear of illness and death. Life among the conquered peoples of first century Palestine was cruel, oppressive, impoverished and filled with fear and suspicion. Whatever hope of deliverance there was all too often false hope. Among the oppressed there are always calls for revolution and the conquered people of first century Palestine had seen more than their fair share of wanna-be saviours.  Some of their young people had fallen prey to the incitement of the Zealots and in youthful, exuberant, impatience had taken up arms against their Roman oppressors. Some of their neighbours had betrayed their own people and taken up whatever crumbs the Romans were offering, sold their souls and become collaborators, lining their own pockets at the expense of their own people. But far too many people had given up and given in, settling for whatever life they could eke out under the cruel regime hoping against hope, that someday, someone, somehow would come along and save them from the horrors of life. And so, they longed for the good old days; The days when their people and not the Romans dominated the land, the days when one of their own was king. But not just any king, they wanted a king like David; a king who would ride at the head of their army full of pride and power and conquer all their enemies. The elders, the wise ones, pointed to the past and heralded David as a Messiah; an anointed one; anointed by God to lead the people. How they longed for such a messiah to rise up among them and lead them; lead them to victory against all their foes and save them from their miserable existence. One by one, they’d hear these wanna-be messiahs, these trumped up saviours, call the people to rise up. But they knew, with each successive saviour, there was no hope that they could triumph over the mighty Roman army and so over and over again, they hunkered down, waiting and watching, longing and hoping for the one who could save them. Continue reading

Jesus is still up there on that ass making a mockery of our hopes for a Messiah!

A Sermon for PALM SUNDAY

jesus donkey“THERE ONCE WAS A MAN WHO suffered from various illnesses for a very long time.  This man had seen countless doctors who over the years had performed countless tests on him and had prescribed lots of medicine. But, the man’s condition did not improve. This man even tried home remedies to make himself feel better. He drank herbal teas, and took mega-doses of vitamins along with his prescriptions. But still he did not feel any better. Then one day the man heard about a doctor who was said to be an outstanding diagnostician. So the man called the doctor to make an appointment. And even though the doctor was booked for months in advance the man was delighted when the receptionist managed to fit him in. As the date of his appointment drew near the man was excited by the prospect of finally getting to the bottom of his problem. At last, he would find out just what was wrong with him and in no time he was sure that this brilliant doctor whose praises were sung by one and all, this doctor would be able to cure him. The day of the appointment arrived.  After the doctor had thoroughly examined the man and had reviewed his tests, she sat down with him and she said, “My friend, you are not a healthy man.  But you can be well again if you will only follow my advice. What you need to do is lose about sixty pounds, get involved in a regular program of exercise, and eat more grain, fruit, and vegetables. You don’t need to take any more of the medicine that has been prescribed for you and you don’t need all those vitamin pills.” When the man heard this, he was indignant.  He demanded that the doctor prescribe some new medicine for him, possibly some experimental drug not yet on the market, which would cure his illness.             The doctor smiled patiently and repeated her advice. “You don’t need medicine,” she said.  “You need to change your lifestyle.” The man simply cursed the doctor and stomped out of the office.  For the rest of his sickly life, he told everyone that she was a quack who didn’t deserve to be called a doctor.

ONCE THERE WAS A WOMAN WHO was in serious trouble with the law. This woman had run up all sorts of debts, and in desperation she had embezzled some money from the company where she worked. The Company found out and was now pressing charges against her. The woman was beside herself with worry.  She didn’t know where to turn until a friend of hers told her of an outstanding defense attorney who seldom lost a case. The woman called the lawyer immediately, and he agreed to see her. She was delighted and relieved.  “At last,” she said to herself, “I have a lawyer who will get all these charges dropped. Then I’ll be able to get on with my life.” But when she saw the attorney and explained her situation to him, he shook his head and said, “What you did was wrong, and you may have to spend some time in prison. After you’re released, you’ll need to get into an ongoing program to pay off your debts. You’ll need to get a steady job and repay the company the money that you stole. If you do all this, you may be able to get your life back together again. The woman was outraged at the attorney. She expressed her dismay in no uncertain terms, “I don’t need you to give me a lecture, I need you to defend me against these charges and get them dropped. And with that she dismissed the lawyer, bad mouthed him all over town and resumed her search for an attorney who would do for her just exactly what she wanted.  Continue reading

Marching in the Wrong Parades – A Palm Sunday Sermon

A sermon preached a few years ago after having read “The Last Week” by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg and “Jesus for the Non-Religious” by John Shelby Spong. These two books are invaluable tools for anyone presuming to preach during Holy Week! 

For other Palm Sunday Sermons click here

palm donkey viewI love a parade. So, I find the details of the parade on that we celebrate today fascinating. In their book:  The Last Week, New Testament scholars John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, point out that the parade that heralded Jesus entry into Jerusalem wasn’t the largest or most spectacular parade in town during that particular Passover season.

Back then, Jerusalem was a destination hotspot—a tourist town. The city’s population swelled from 40,000 to 200,000 during the holidays and Passover was one of the busiest holidays. Crossan and Borg point out that there were two processions into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. One, we know well and commemorate today with the waving of palm branches. We remember a peasant riding a donkey, accompanied by his peasant followers coming from the north into Jerusalem.  Continue reading

PALM SUNDAY SERMON – An Inconvenient Messiah

Palm Sunday Sermon Audio  here

Palm Sunday Worship Bulletin here  to be printed double-sided