24 March 2013

There is no question that the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is one of the most profound depictions of God’s Reign in the New Testament. In contrast to the usual displays of military might, and the pomp and ceremony with which conquering monarchs entered the cities of their captors (as Pilate may well have on the same day from the other side of town), Jesus enters with humility, festivity, and peace, demonstrating the “upside-down” nature of God’s Reign. Nevertheless, this subversive realm is not easily stopped, as the Pharisees discovered.

May our Palm Sunday worship confront us with the challenging call of God’s subversive Reign.

READINGS:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
: A celebration of God’s goodness and faithful love, answering prayer, turning the rejected stone into the capstone, and inviting people into God’s presence.

Luke 19:28-40: Jesus rides into Jerusalem as the people offer praises. The Pharisees though are unimpressed, calling on Jesus to silence the crowd.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
The heart of the Palm Sunday celebration this year is God coming to God’s people in faithfulness and love. Jesus enters Jerusalem as the one who will suffer – this is the doorway to his passion – and in his suffering invites people into God’s grace and presence. And this arrival of God will not be resisted or stopped. It can only be received and enjoyed. It is interesting to note that only Luke includes the Pharisees’ plea for Jesus to ask the crowds to be silent, and Jesus’ response that if the people were to stop singing, the stones would cry out. It is most likely that the Pharisees were concerned for how Rome would interpret this procession and the songs the people were singing. The last thing they wanted was a revolution – for both personal and national reasons. But, Jesus’ response demonstrates Luke’s understanding of God’s salvation that comes in Christ. God’s Reign, which for Luke is the expression of God’s salvation, and the reality into which the saved are brought, is unstoppable. It is personal and social, and is as concerned with justice as it is with personal restoration and forgiveness. In proclaiming that even the stones would cry out, Jesus declares that God’s Reign will not be silenced by the powers that be, and that it includes and impacts the whole of creation. When God’s Sent One comes, the entire created order knows it and responds to it. In a similar way, we who witness this event again at Palm Sunday, are called to know and respond to the One who brings God’s irresistible Reign into our world.

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
GLOBAL APPLICATION: This week we are startled into seeing God’s Reign afresh, as the subversive, empire-challenging reality that it is. Even as the Pharisees try to silence the praises, and as the people fail to understand what they’re celebrating, Jesus just keeps coming, embracing the suffering to come, and manifesting God’s new way of being and reigning. The Reign of God continues to infiltrate our world; its message still being proclaimed and revealed; and the powers-that-be still try to silence it – with death if necessary. But, our call, as followers of Christ, is to refuse to be silenced. To continue to challenge unjust empires and to hold open the door to God’s Reign to all who will come, refusing to bow to the threats of factions, religious exclusivity or political expediency.

LOCAL APPLICATION: In every life and community, the Reign of God enters as a disruptive and invitational influence. It subverts every petty power-struggle, turf-war and personal empire that we might set up, and calls us to embrace this new self-giving, inclusive, God-connected way of being. The challenge for us is to take this message seriously, and strive, daily, to embody God’s Reign in every interaction, every decision, and in how we live together in community. When we allow our faith to be drawn into the service of political, economic, or even religious agendas other than God’s Reign, we are guilty of trying to silence the praise, and we find ourselves outside of God’s transforming purposes. The work of justice is done as much in the small unseen conversations and justice-supporting actions as in the big moments.

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
The King Is Coming
Calls For Allegiance
The UnKing

Hymn Suggestions:
All Glory Laud And Honour
Hosanna, Loud Hosanna
Rejoice, The Lord Is King
Ride On, Ride On, Majesty
Prepare The Way (Link to YouTube video)
Hosanna (Link to YouTube video)
Servant King (Link to YouTube video)
God Of This City (Link to YouTube video)
There’s A Light Upon The Mountains

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for Palm Sunday

Video Suggestions:
From Palms To The Cross
Peace On Earth – Palm Sunday
The Triumphal Entry
Hosanna (Jesus Christ Superstar 1973)

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