Religion Magazine

Palm Sunday. Moscow 2022. Luke 19.28-40

By Malcolmdrogers

 I am sorry that I cannot be with you today. As you will have heard my father died on Tuesday, and I am very grateful that I was able to see him before he went to be with His Lord. Thank you for your prayers and support. 

Many of you will also today have just heard the news about the very sudden death of Kolya, our longest serving guard. Kolya has been at St Andrew’s for 19 years. He was one of the constants, and at the heart of the life of this community. He loved this place, and did over and above what his job required him to do. He also loved his guitar and singing - often giving visitors an impromptu concert. He brought so much joy, and I will miss both him and his ‘hallelujias’. We do commend him into God’s hands and pray for his family. I understand the funeral is today. 

There does seem to be so much loss and pain at the moment. 

We continue to hear of particularly awful things happening in Ukraine

And, although it is lovely to hear of one or two people returning, we continue to say goodbye to dear friends who leave.

Palm Sunday is traditionally a time to press the pause button on Lent and celebrate the coming victory of our King, before we plunge into the final days of the Passion of Jesus. 

It is the time when we celebrate, in anticipation, the end of - not a  but the war. 

It is the war that human beings, in our rebellion against God, fight with God.

It is the war which began when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden of Eden. It is the war which, as a result, has pitted man against woman, human against human, nation against nation, humanity against nature, and that even causes nature to tear itself apart. It is the war that is at the root of every war. It is the war which has brought destruction and suffering and death.

Today we anticipate the end of that war, the final victory of God over sin and evil and death.

Jesus rides into Jerusalem as its rightful King. He comes to bring God’s final ultimate rule of righteousness, peace and justice. 

He fulfils the prophecies that were written about him in the Old Testament. 

He rides on a colt, which has never been ridden. Nature bows before him. 

The people place their coats on the road - a way of saying: ‘we welcome you. We are your subjects’. 

And his disciples - and in Luke’s gospel it is his disciples - declare with joy all the things that they had seen: the healings, the casting out of evil, the water into wine, the calming of the sea, the feeding of the 5000, the raisings from the dead. 

And they bless Jesus: they praise him as the coming King who will bring in God’s kingdom where there will be no more lies, or fake news, or fear, or hatred and cruelty. Where each person will be able to live a fulfilled life, in peace and abundance. Where there will be no more suffering or death. 

When Jesus was born, the angels - the representatives of heaven - cry out ‘peace on earth and glory in the highest’. Now the disciples - God’s representatives on earth - respond and declare ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest’. 

In other words, as Jesus, God’s King comes to Jerusalem, God’s city, as its rightful ruler so heaven and earth are at last reconciled. They are at peace, and Glory comes to God. 

But of course it is not as simple as that. 

In the far distance one can see the blue sky, but immediately above us there are very ominous, scary and dark clouds 

There are hints of that in our reading.

Jesus has had to prepare in secret to make this symbolic entry. It is password protected: ‘the Lord needs it’. 

And there is opposition. The Pharisees tell Jesus to silence his disciples.

The icon on the front of our order of service today shows the triumphal entry. 

Jesus is being taken towards the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. The King is coming to reign

He rides on a horse (apparently in 16th century Pskov, they did not know what donkeys looked like). 

The children, dressed in white representing the saints, cut the palm branches and lay their coats on the road. 

The citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem have come out to welcome him with palm branches in their hands.

But in this icon there are also hints of darkness. 

Jesus is under a tree. In only a few days he will be nailed to a tree. 

The 12 disciples are huddled behind Jesus. Some seem to be urging them to follow him. Others seem to be saying, ‘go back’. 

And perhaps most significantly, Jesus - who is riding side saddle - has his back to Jerusalem, but his face is turned towards it. 

He does not want to go there. He is being taken there.

He knows that before he can enter into his glory, there will be terrible suffering and dreadful loss. Everything will be stripped from him: his clothes, his friends, his dignity, his life. 

But he is still willing to go there. 

Today, we stand with the disciples. 

We’ve left the old city. We have come through the cave of new birth in Christ. We can see the heavenly city, our ultimate home.

But we still have some way to go. It is across a valley - and we need to be prepared to follow Jesus across that valley. 

There will be moments as we journey when we glimpse the worship of heaven. We are surrounded by a great host of witnesses.

But we follow a Saviour who had to be nailed to a cross before he entered his glory. 

And it will be incredibly hard

There will be times when we are called to make costly decisions for Jesus’ sake. 

There will be times when we are led through loss and pain and suffering

But we are not on our own. Jesus is with us. He is ahead of us. His body is turned to us, but his face is set to the future. He leads us. We are following him. 

And we know that after the suffering, for those who persevere, there is the glory.

As we experience our own passion, and as this week we remember Jesus’ passion, so we also hold on to the fact that that Jesus is coming to reign, that heaven and earth will be at peace, and that glory will come to God

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