Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,[a]
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
    he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.

Matthew 21:1-11

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

“I love a parade???”

Harry Richman has probably said it best when he sang

I love a parade;
The tramping of feet,
I love every beat
I hear of a drum.
I love a parade;
When I hear a band
I just wanna stand
And cheer as they come!

What do you think of when you hear the word – PARADE?

  • St Patrick’s Day Parade – Chicago
  • Chinese New Year Parade – San Francisco, California
  • The Rose Parade – Pasadena, California
  • Philadelphia Mummers Parade – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Thanksgiving Parade – New York 
  • 4th July Parade (Independence Day)
  • The Saint Paul Winter Carnival – Saint Paul, Minnesota
  • Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • New York City Pride Parade
  • Inaugural Parade – Washington D.C.
  • Mardi Gras – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade – Washington D.C, 

Today is Palm Sunday-the day of a parade into Jerusalem–the day when hope rode into town. Revolutionary Hope. Maybe, more hope than we want. It was Passover, which was such an important event, we can be sure all the rulers were in Jerusalem. It was the custom for the people to go out to the gates of the city to greet their arrival, and was certainly the custom of the rulers to make an entrance. It was a parade, of sorts.

King Herod usually stayed away from Jerusalem, but he had to be in town for these festivities. We know he was quite wealthy, so you can imagine the entourage that accompanied his arrival. All the king’s riches paraded by.

Pilate, the Roman governor, preferred to stay on the coast in Caesarea, but he also had to be in Jerusalem for the celebration. This was particularly important since Passover was an event that celebrated the liberation of the Hebrews from the oppression of Pharaoh. Pilate knew the zealots would again use this moment to protest the oppression of Caesar. Pilate hated zealots. So, he road into town demonstrating who was in control. The Roman procession was always so dramatic. The great golden statue of an eagle led the way. It was followed by the pennants and battle flags of Rome. Then came the trumpeters, soldiers, cavalry, and the terrifying chariots. Usually, at the end of this parade, there would be a group of prisoners in chains. Maybe Pilate dragged behind him a few zealots left over from last year’s protest.

Craig Barnes, Princeton Theologian Seminary president, said that he grew up near New York City where parades were only meant to entertain people. He still remembers being a child standing on the sidewalk, watching huge inflated animals bob down the street. By contrast, he states that Washington, D.C. is known more for its demonstrations and protests. When people take to the streets in the nation’s capital, they are not trying to entertain anyone. They are trying to make a statement.   A parade with a purpose.

Ancient parades were more like the Washington variety. They had a determination and made a statement. When Herod and Pilate arrived into town, one with the symbols of wealth and the other with the symbols of power, they were saying, this is why we are in charge. We are holding what is important. About that at least, they were right. They were holding something very important.

Over the past two weeks, we are seeing what is really important in our life.  we are, also, realizing how interconnected human beings are – whether we live in China, Spain or America.  As we have watched the world come to a standstill and people sheltering in place, we can agree that money is critical to the future of the world. Even Jesus would agree with them. He talked about money and power all the time, called his followers to be good stewards of it, and believed it was so important that it ought to be shared. As we see the unemployment rate jump to 3 million – Don’t tell folks money and power are unimportant! That has always been the favorite line of the wealthy. Since they have convinced themselves money is unimportant, it doesn’t matter if they hoard it. Jesus is clear about this: things like money and power are important to the future of the world. The only question is how do we use what we have for a world of good? If you count on it to save your own life, it will destroy you and the world. If you use it for things that make a difference in the world, then you will find your life.

Herod and Pilate were both addicted to collecting all the money and power they could get. Herod was a puppet king of Caesar. And Pilate, was Caesar’s political appointee, which meant that they were both beholding to someone else for all that they had. All their decisions and energies were spent trying to get a little bit more wealth and power.

As they parade by, Herod and Pilate tell us to get all of this that we can. Strive to get more. Strive to make your own dreams come true. Strive to make life more comfortable. Strive to protect yourself from an unknown future. Strive, strive, strive. But it is never going to be enough. Wealth and power when hoarded are narcotics. The more you have, the more you crave, and every day you spend in fear of not having enough.

For all their striving, in the end, how do we remember Herod and Pilate? As the crucifiers of the world’s real hope. They killed the man who warned us, “‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

There are so many bills, so many reasons to be afraid you will not have enough, so many uncertainties about the future. How do we get over the fear that makes us addicted to power and wealth?

Well, one year in Jerusalem, there was a third parade. Jesus of Nazareth, who had been rumored to have performed some pretty amazing miracles, had just raised Lazarus from the dead. The Gospel makes a point of saying that a crowd of people showed up to meet Jesus when he arrived into town, because they had seen and heard about what he did with Lazarus.

Here was a man who could raise the dead! This is what completely frees us from the addiction to wealth and power. The reason we strive for these things is we think that with them we can prevent the loss of our dreams, health, relationships, jobs, and all the things that make up a life. But the message of Jesus Christ is that the way you get over your fear of losing your life is not by collecting more money and power, but by going ahead and dying to this life. Die to having the life you expected. Only then will you be able to receive life as a grace.

Cheap grace, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is grace that does not bid you to die. Costly grace asks for everything: your money, power, dreams, family. Everything, and especially your ability to be moral and religious. Give it all up. Give it to Jesus so that you can discover a whole new life, that is finally free to use everything you are holding for stewardship. Otherwise you are going to waste life worrying if you will lose things that you certainly will lose. Trust me on this: one hundred percent of all people eventually lose their jobs. One hundred percent lose their marriages. One hundred percent lose their loved ones, their health, and their lives. One hundred percent of our bodies will eventually return to dust. You are not going to beat those odds, no matter how much wealth, power, or righteousness you collect. Whatever it is that you are afraid of losing, you will lose. So why do you want to waste your fleeting days worrying about when it will happen? Get it over with! Choose today to die with Christ, that you may spend the rest of life receiving his sacred mystery day after day.

Scripture tells us that when Jesus heard about the plot on his life, he went to the wilderness with his disciples where he was safe. Everyone wondered if he would dare to come to Jerusalem for the Passover since there was a warrant out for his arrest. So on Palm Sunday when he arrived at the gates of the town, it was as a fugitive revolutionary. The crowds knew this, and when they saw him, they began to shout out, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”

Realizing that the crowd did not understand that he was not Herod or Pilate, according to the Gospel, it was then that Jesus grabbed a donkey to ride into town. John even tells us it was a young donkey. A little donkey. What kind of conquering king rides into town on a little donkey? One who is free. He is free from the addictions to power and wealth, and he is free even from the expectations of the crowd.

There is nothing more addictive than the crowd. Every day you face a crowd of expectations. There is a crowd at work, at school, and maybe even in the church. The crowd tells you that they need you, that they are counting on you, that it is up to you to give them what they want. They will be so happy with you, if you just do what they want. We have all fallen for that line time after time. So now, in addition to wealth, power, and self-righteousness, we can add popularity to our list of dangerous narcotics.

Jesus was free even from the people he came to serve. He had already died to every fear and rejection that the world uses to intimidate its leaders. And that is the reason he could save the world. Seeing this, the Pharisees said to each other, “See, you can do nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him.”

You cannot make a difference in an addicted world if you yourself are still addicted. But if you were to return tomorrow to your part of the world as one who was truly free in Christ, free from addiction and free from fear, you would be pretty distinctive. In fact, if you were free from fear, you would be revolutionary.   And you would be ready to participate in a new kind of parade.  A parade with all those revolutionary followers of Jesus Parade.  Now what would that kind of parade look like?  

I recently heard about a parade free of fear and showed God’s love.  Susannah Jaremko turned 3 on Saturday, when the rain soaking the region seemed to aggravate the forced isolation of the coronavirus pandemic.

So on Sunday, some friends decided to try and brighten things up.

One by one, at 3 p.m., congregants of the First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights — where Jaremko’s mother serves as pastor — drove by Jaremko’s house to wish her a happy birthday, waving, cheering, with some even throwing out cards or gifts.

Her parents, Eliza and Kyle Jaremko, said they were touched by the gesture, and by the ability to see so many of the people they have not been able to catch up with during social distancing. Eliza Jaremko said she has been preaching to an empty sanctuary while streaming services live on Facebook.

Even from a distance, then, they found it refreshing to be surrounded by their friends — and fun to have a unique birthday celebration for their daughter.

“There were more people there today than I’ve ever had at a birthday party,” Kyle Jaremko said. “And just for a moment, I kind of forgot about what was going on around us, and it was just really about her and her church family and friends.”  That is the kind of parade that Jesus wants us to have – a kingdom of God – celebrating birthdays – giving thanks celebrations – recognizing that we are free from the world’s addictions and focused upon sharing Christ’s call to love God and Neighbor.

Commentary provided by Chris Palmer, Matthew Rich, John Buchanan, Craig Barnes and Scott Hoezee