"Holy Imagination" Palm Sunday Sermon by Vicar Sarah Kretschmann
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
Proclamations of Hosanna for this Palm Sunday strike me a little differently this year.
In years past, I have been filled with the joyful meanings of this phrase. “Hooray for salvation!” “It's coming!” “It's here! Salvation! Salvation!”
But the true meaning of this Hebrew word much more aptly captures the feeling of our present moment for me. Hosanna, a transliteration of two Hebrew phrases used in today’s Greek text from Mark means literally, “Please save us.”
Please save us.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like many of the pleas I have lifted up in prayer this past year.
Please save us.
Save us from this pandemic that has claimed so many lives and left so many in hardship and fear.
Save us from the terror of gun violence.
Save us from norms of oppression and discrimination against people based on their race, religion, sexuality or other identities.
Save us from the loneliness of social isolation and distance from those we love.
Hosanna, Save us, God.
The crowd who gathered as Jesus entered Jerusalem would have had their own Hosanna pleas. Living under Roman occupation still grieving a failed revolt in the midst of high political tensions, life must have been full of trials, heartaches and fears, just as it is for us.
But in our first gospel for today, as the crowds yelled out “Hosanna, save us!,” they saw their answer in front of them.
They saw an unlikely savior riding into Jerusalem on a colt. They saw Jesus giving them a brief window into the true kingdom of God. A kingdom that values and uplifts those who may not look like the kings we imagine.
What would an answer to your Hosanna pleas look like? What do you imagine or have you experienced the inbreaking kingdom of God to be like?
I imagine a kingdom where all receive the care that they need.
I imagine a kingdom where violence is not the answer.
I imagine a kingdom where we see all our neighbors as beloved children of God.
I imagine a kingdom that is a community of love.
In the second gospel for today, the passion story, we see the harm that can come when our imagination, our faith in the new vision of Jesus fails us. When we fail to see what could be, what should be, and only see the world as it is.
But as we travel through the Palm Sunday text, we get a glimpse of what radical imagination can help us imagine.
Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem is entirely unlike processions for kings and important figures of the time. He rides into Jerusalem on a colt with a stream of followers from villages along the way in place of an army to show his power. For a moment, Jesus shows all those who gather laying leafy branches and cloaks along his path the world that is possible.
A world with unlikely leaders. A world without violence. A world where the outsider is celebrated. A world where the lowly are lifted up. For a moment, the crowd at the first Palm Sunday was able to imagine a new world, to put their faith in the possibility of a new kingdom together.
I challenge us today to learn from the Palm Sunday gatherers and through the radical message of Jesus, what it is to imagine, at least for a moment, a new world. A world where we care for those who others have forgotten. A world where we value those who don’t look like kings or those who hold earthly power.
As we enter into Holy Week with whatever Hosanna pleas feel most urgent for us, I pray that we will be able to honor the “save us” cries with an imaginative view into the inbreaking kingdom which is and will be revealed through Jesus this Holy Week. Amen.