Preach 6.30 TRINITY / Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday 2019
pictures that I used in reflections in this sermon are all available online where linked. A few you need to search a bit at the location but any probs drop me a message! Also, as always these are sermon notes and may not be exactly what I said and there may be typos, sorry…
It’s Palm Sunday today, I’m sure you all know that, the start of Holy Week, where Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, in triumph, as we’ve heard. For many of us, if we are honest, this will be a normal week, perhaps a working week, we might not have the time to even consider that we are in Holy week or what it even means to us. But I think that if nothing else, at this time of year it’s a great opportunity to really think about the truth of our faith, the depth of it – and the unfailing love that was the fuel that led Jesus to the cross.
So this evening we’re going to take some time to start to consider and reflect on who Jesus is to you, in relation to some of the holy week themes.
No matter where you are at in life, you can be sure Jesus is with you in it.
I think Holy Week can be really helpful for that, in that Jesus experienced such a range of things in that one week.
Triumph and deep sorrow
Anger – righteous anger
He spent time with friends
He taught and he talked about love and its importance
He served his friends
He made himself so humble he washed the feet of his friends
And yet still a short while after one of his friends betrayed him in the worst way.
and he faced accusation and death
So in just this one week of his life he experienced a range of situations, extremes of life, emotions. So wherever you are at, you can be sure he understands. He is with you.
So as we think about who Jesus is to us, we’re going to look at some of the themes of Holy Week and maybe ask ourselves is there a particular point in the story of this week that resonates with us? A particular place or emotion where can we align ourselves with what Jesus went through in this week?
Or what emotion resonates with us most and how can we see Jesus in that?
And tonight we’re going to do this by looking at some images of artwork to take us through some of the themes of Holy Week up to Good Friday. And maybe within that, within the pictures, there might be something that causes you to think, or maybe you are challenged by, or Jesus might meet with you in a particular way.
So before we really get started, I want to encourage you to go with this. Now some of us are very creative/visual types, some of us are not, some of you might find this uncomfortable, for some our vision is impaired and we might ‘see’ each picture through an audio description, or in a different way, but within what you experience I want to encourage you to:
ask yourself of each image
what reaction it provokes in you?
what questions does it ask of you?
What is your first thought when you see each picture?
Some of these images you might find difficult, or you might not like them or they might provoke a reaction in you, so go with that.
With each picture we’ll have a short pause to just look at it first. just take a moment to ask yourself what are your initial thoughts, whatever they are, and go with them.
And here today we start at the beginning of Holy Week.
Jesus comes into Jerusalem in triumph. All who saw and were cheering, or waving branches were welcoming him as a king. It’s joyful, it is a celebration, they waved Palm branches and laid their cloaks before him on the ground.
But in a way we could think of it as a funeral procession.
And as we see at the end of today’s passage, triumph it may have been but there was sorrow too. Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
Luke 19 MSG
When the city came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you!
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because so many of them didn’t know God, they didn’t turn to God, they didn’t recognise who God was. and Jesus knows that a life without God is one lived in darkness and brokenness.
His tears shed for the pain of those living without him.
We might ask ourselves is Jesus triumphing over us right now? – Or perhaps there are things in us that might cause him sorrow?
What if he were crying over us right now as he cried over Jerusalem.
Tears of love, compassion and sorrow, shed for you.
What if Jesus were crying, like this (pic) in love for you…
Anger/ rage/ injustice
Almost immediately – Mark’s gospel has it as the next day – after This triumphal and yet sorrowful entry we see Jesus’ angeras he turns on the money changers in the temple.
And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves…
His anger fuelled as we read in this line:
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?But you have made it a den of robbers.”
3: Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger
This image is by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger – their contemporary interpretation on the clearing out of the money lenders… I’m not making any kind of statement with it, just for you to think!
The temple was a holy place, set apart for God, Where God resided and where God was worshipped. Yet Jesus saw the people’s use of it as unholy, as dishonouring to God.
His sorrow at lives walking in darkness (Palm Sunday),not knowing the truth of God, now turned here to anger.
Isn’t that so often the case with us? Our emotions and feelings lead from one to another?
Now, though, we know the temple is within us. 1 Cor 6:19 tells us:
do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.
What then, might we need to turn out from our own temples? Just as Jesus cleared the temple of the money lenders.
perhaps we direct anger at ourselves?
This holy week journey takes us to the cross and Jesus taking our anger, and our pain
But he does it in love. That is his motivation. Because he loves us.
Through the gospel narratives of this week, Jesus teaches widely, including perhaps one of his most famous commandments around love:
Mark 12:31 (paraphrase me)
the Lord is one
Love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind, and all your strength.’
‘…love your neighbour as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
What does love look like?
4: from the Madonna & Child Project by Kate Hansen
This painting is by Kate Hansen from a series of paintings called the ‘Madonna & Child Project’.
It portrays something of unconditional love – in a mother nourishing her child, here seemingly as Mary doing so for Jesus
Throughout the bible God’s love is talked about like the love of a parent…
Psalm 68:5: talks about God as a father to the fatherless
1 John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
Luke 13:34: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…
I love that imagery of a God who draws us to him, who nurtures us, who protects us, and it is this same love that lead Jesus to die for us.
Are we sharing the same motivation as Jesus?
Loving God with our all?
Sharing that same love?
spreading the love of God with those around us…?
PAUSE to next theme…
But love isn’t always easy for us is it? Loving those around us, loving our neighbours? It’s complicated, right?!
And we see that just as much with Jesus’ friends.
Later in the week,
In Matt 26:14 we see the first seeds of betrayal against Jesus:
Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?
Judas, one of those closest to Jesus, is the one who betrays him
With a kiss.
A kiss – something that is a symbol of love and affection and yet used by Judas it becomes a sign of betrayal.
How often do we let others down by our actions?
In fact here Judas is not the only one who lets Jesus down.
When Jesus is praying in Gethsemane, later after the Passover meal, the disciples fall asleep even though Jesus asks them to stay awake:
in Matt 36:38 we read him saying:
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow – you’d think they would get how important it is… but they let him down and they fall asleep, 3 times.
And then, Peter who says he will die for Jesus, denies knowing him 3 times. Matt 36:69-75
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
I wonder what it felt like for Jesus. Just hours before he’d been with them, his friends, chatting over a meal, Peter even expressing his lifelong support:
in Matt 26:33 he says – I will never desert you.
And now here they are a short while later, leaving him, denying him, betraying him.
But still Jesus goes to the cross, and dies for them in love…
The ultimate act of love and of service.
Because Jesus came to serve.
During the Passover meal which we remember on Thursday of Holy Week, he demonstrates that service again as he washes the disciples feet. It’s hard to put into words quite how powerful that is. They saw Jesus as their leader, a king, the son of God…
And then he took the position of the lowest of servants – the one who washed peoples feet as they came in from travelling on long dusty, dirty roads. It was the lowest and worst role anyone could do.
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.
6: Woman anointing Jesus feet. Source unknown
I don’t know who this picture is by, but it depicts the woman who appears in all 4 gospels in diff forms as anointing Jesus, in Luke anointing his feet with oil, then cleansing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair…
She is referred to as a sinful woman and yet here she serves Jesus in a truly powerful way, gifting him with a financially expensive gift of oil and personally expensive in her love and tears.
The depth of her emotion in this act of love and service is abundantly apparent.
How about us?
How do we serve Jesus?
Do we do so with such love and heartfelt devotion as this woman did?
Jesus’ heartfelt devotion to us led him to the cross in ultimate sacrifice.
A sacrifice for us.
He loves us
He takes our pain and brokenness
And he is with us in it, but ultimately he died for us.
Even though he knows we’ll let him down
Even though he knows we’re sinners
Even though he knows we cause him sorrow in our actions and our choices…
This picture is ‘Calvary’ by Stephen Sawyer
He says of it:
“We serve ourselves at the cost of others until there is only one unselfish person left who will intercede and sacrifice himself to endure our private hell…
Only God will share in the fullness of your sufferings and never forsake you.”
I was chatting to someone this week who said to me, I don’t think I deserve to go to heaven. I’ve done some bad things.
Truth is none of us are worthy. None of us are worthy of God’s love but God still loves us.
We’ve all done stuff wrong, we’ve all caused Jesus sorrow and pain.(point to picture)
But that’s why we need God’s grace.
And it’s there for all of us to choose.
Good Friday – the end of a week with extremes of emotion.
It seems like the end.
And yet we know the truth – Easter Sunday is coming.
Where we celebrate that glorious resurrection, and in that redemption for us
But for those around Jesus, they were at a point of not knowing – how did they feel then? thinking it was the end? Questioning all they had experienced.
Despairing may be?
I wonder if we have ever felt like that? Abandoned even by God? Despairing, in sorrow,
Know then that Jesus knows how you feel.
And the truth is:
When the devil says you cause people pain and sorrow, you cause God sorrow, Jesus says I love you all the same
When the Devil says, you are worthless, Jesus says you are worthy
When the devil says you are unloved, unloveable, Jesus says I love you so much I died for you
If the devil says, people let you down, you can’t trust anyone – Jesus says, trust in me, I will never let you down.
When the devil says you have nothing to offer, Jesus says you are precious
Jesus always says come into my arms, come into my kingdom, you are welcome, you are loved.
Sunday’s coming. That is what we have to look forward to.