Printable PDF: 3-28-2021 Palm Sunday Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Palm Sunday/Confirmation ~ Mark 11:1-10
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” 4They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
HANDS OF PRAISE
In your opinion, what would be better? A two-hour worship service or a twenty minute worship service? If I announced a two-hour worship service today, I imagine I would see you move to the edge of your seat, sit up straight, and say, “I’m all ears Pastors. Preach!!” Or if I announced a twenty minute worship service I imagine you might slouch in your seat, kick the pew or chairs in front of you, look at the clock on your phone, and mutter, “We only have 8 minutes of church!” It has happened that a worshipper told me, “That service was too fast!” I don’t remember who said it, but you don’t forget a complaint like that.
Some people think church is boring, and some people are afraid that heaven is going to be one endless worship service. They think that when ‘we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun,’ we will still be singing from the new hymnal published 10,000 years ago. They say there will be no fun and no games. No Xbox. No fishing. Just singing and speaking, sitting and standing, over and over and over again like here in church.
Today is Palm Sunday, one of the greatest days of worship for the whole year! It’s not only a day when we join in praise for God, but it’s also a day when we learn how to praise God. We don’t only praise God by coming to church and singing some songs and saying some prayers. Today we learn how we can praise God all day, every day with hands of praise.
All the Palm Sunday praise of Jesus Christ took place outside of God’s house, the temple. Some of the greatest praise took place before the people began moving their lips. The first praise came from the obedient hands of the disciples. Jesus asked them to go and get a colt, a young donkey. Jesus told them they would find the colt tied up in the town ahead of them and they should just take it. If anyone said anything, they should simply say, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.” Not only did the disciples do what they were told without question, but the men to whom the animal belonged would also raise their hands in praise by giving the colt to Jesus without question. The obedience of the disciples equals enthusiastic praise of Jesus.
Our world does not give Jesus that kind of praise. They question why God and his Word have a right to tell us what to do at all. They would question why they have to go to church when they feel just fine without it. They question how God can send troubles into our lives and still claim to love us. They accuse the Bible of favoritism when it names man the head of woman and woman the helper of man. They question why men and women can’t live together without marriage and they question why men and men or women and women can’t be married and enjoy biblical approval from God. And in our weak, sinful condition we may have some of these same questions as well. But believers praise God with their obedience. Believers confirm their faith not only by acknowledging what they have found to be true from their study of God’s Word in front of an assembly of other Christians, but by living their faith every day in every place and in every way as God gives them strength. Believers don’t just pray, “Your will be done.” Believers obey so that Jesus’ will is done on earth. That is praise. That is worship which pleases God.
We worship and praise God with obedient hands. We also worship and praise God with generous hands. The crowds on Palm Sunday were not tight with their praise of Christ. They were generous with their material possessions. One person happily gave the use of his donkey. The disciples took off their own cloaks and put them on the donkey on which Jesus rode. Many people took off their cloaks and put them on the ground so that the donkey on which Jesus rode would not get its hooves dirty. Still others, having nothing else to give, cut down palm branches and spread them along the road. They all gave Jesus the royal treatment without this king ever issuing a royal tax.
How is your giving to Jesus? Are you giving Jesus the royal treatment of generosity? And if you are, does your giving feel like a voluntary gift or does your giving feel more like a mandated tax? Money is a touchy subject because it’s hard for our hands to let go of money. Money is valuable to us. We’re protective of money and rightfully so. Money buys us everything we need. Money is our food and our home and our transportation. Money also buys us pleasure, things we enjoy. We run into problems with money, though, when we start to think of our money as OUR money. Earlier in this service we easily sang, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” but living that truth is more difficult. “Mine! Mine! Mine!” is not only the mouth of a two-year-old. “Mine! Mine! Mine!” is also the tug we all feel on our hearts when it comes to our possessions.
January 31st was an important date as a congregation. January 31st was commitment Sunday. On January 31st we challenged ourselves to be more generous with our giving to the Lord for 10 weeks. Today is week 9, and the difference is noticeable. Our money counters tell us our congregational giving in the month of February was up 36% from last February. That’s $20,000. Remember in February 2020 we still had every row open and we still passed the offering plate, but this year we are voluntarily giving Jesus the royal treatment. The Gospel is working in our hearts and God is still providing for physical needs and on Confirmation Sunday we have some new people with envelopes. Now when I was a kid, I don’t remember ever not having church envelopes. I’m pretty sure when I was a baby, I went home from the hospital with church envelopes. I can double check with my father today, but I’m pretty sure the nurse asked my father, “Did you bring a car seat? Do you have your diaper bag? And don’t forget to take home your son’s church envelopes.” Here at Grace, church envelopes come with Confirmation, and our prayer at Grace is if you are generous with your gifts and your allowances and your minimum wage jobs, you will also be generous when God blesses you with greater blessings.
Praise God with hands of obedience, with hands of generosity and with hands of proclamation. The proclamation we hear on Palm Sunday was more like what you would hear at a basketball game than a worship service. “And now starting as Savior from Nazareth in Galilee, the God-man Jesus Christ.” And the crowd goes wild! “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Give me a “J”, “E”, “S”, “U”, “S!” “What does that spell?” “JESUS!” I say, “Jesus,” you say, “rules” “Jesus”! “Rules.”
We have every reason to cheer on Jesus this way. No one was ever more obedient than Jesus, and Jesus was obedient for us. No one was ever more generous than Jesus, and Jesus gave his life for us. And no one has ever spoken or shouted better words than our Savior Jesus. This week we will hear Jesus say to us, “This is my body given for you…This is my blood poured out for you and the forgiveness of sins.” This week we will hear our Savior shout with all of his strength, “It is finished!”
I don’t exactly know what we will all be doing ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun.’ Will we forever be singing from the choir loft, or will we be free to go fishing or participate in other activities we enjoy here? I don’t know what we will be doing, but I know this. Whatever we are doing 10,000 years from now, we won’t be wishing that we were doing something else. And the same can be said as we confirm our faith in the truth of God’s Word here on earth. “Blessed are YOU, dear Christian, when YOU come in the name of the Lord.” Let people see your positive, ‘can do’ attitude. When there’s trouble, pray. When there is opportunity, be a part of the solution. Encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ and let your encouragement be seen and heard by those who are outside the body of Christ. Perhaps they, too, will be saved. In all you do, praise the Lord. In your obedience, in your giving, in your proclamation, praise the Lord. Worship him with endless praise. Amen.