I have always loved Palm Sunday and Holy Week, ever since I was a young child. I remember going to worship on Palm Sunday with my mother and brothers. We were in Sunday school from 9 to 10 then we would help clean up the rooms moving tables and chairs and folding up the retractable walls that separated the rooms. Then we would go upstairs to the sanctuary where my mother was in the choir. My friends, brother, and I would get handed our palms before worship and then the fun would begin. We would whip each other with the palms and try to see who we could touch if we stretched out our palms far enough. This is the reason why the palms are always handed out at the end of service in our church. I always imagined Palm Sunday as being like a parade and full of joy and fun just as I experienced on the Palm Sundays of my childhood. Unfortunately, I think I missed the real message of Palm Sunday for many years. Palm Sunday is really about the Hosannas.
What are some of the words that come to your minds when you hear the word “Hosanna”? For some people it will be joy, celebration, Easter, and Christ. But the Hebrew word for Hosanna actually translates to “Save Now”. The people who thronged into the streets to catch a glimpse of Jesus riding into Jerusalem weren’t just parading around. They weren’t worshipping Christ. They were seeing him as a sign of hope and asking God to save them from their struggles, from all that they could not control. They were asking and inviting God to touch their lives, their nation, and their communities to inspire hope, resiliency, love, healing, and wholeness where for many poverty, illness, and hardships abounded. Yes there was joyousness to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem but the joyousness comes out of the extreme need of the people, out of the hope that Christ’s image offered.
For Jesus, this was the beginning of the end for him because he knew that many of these same people would, in just a short period of time, turn on him and bring about his suffering and death which is perhaps symbolic of the suffering of humanity throughout time. For Jesus, he knew that he was offering the people hope and that his eventual death would offer the people something more lasting than hope; faith. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted as saying this as he was led to his death in a Nazi concentration camp, “This is the end, but for me the beginning of life”. Suffering and need is part of life but it is not all there is to life with faith in God, with the presence of God, there is so much more than pain and suffering. There is so much more than worry and stress. There is salvation by God’s hand, there is purpose in our experiences that can bring others comfort and faith. So this morning instead of bringing in the holiday season on a high triumphal note. I would like to ask that we bring in the holiday season in much the same way as that first Palm Sunday, with the request for salvation, with the request for the presence of God, with the request for healing. And with the faith and hope to know that God is with us marching into our lives offering the same peace, healing, love and wholeness that Christ offered as he rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday.
For Christ it was the end of his life, for us this Holy Week comes at a time of great change, but there is a new beginning on its way. There is hope offered if we only cling to our faith, to our God, as Bonhoeffer did in his last moments. Palm Sunday is about so much more than a parade into an already crowded city. It is about so much more than just a visual announcement that Christ is the savior. It is about God’s response to a people in need. We too are a people in need and God is responding to our prayers, to our cries of Hosanna.
So, remember that our scriptures say the people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” They were appealing to Jesus the son of David to help them. They were appealing to the heavens to offer them something more than what their current lives were offering. They had hope and faith that the chosen one of God could offer them something more meaningful. And the events of that first holy week shows us that Christ still offers us something more meaningful than what this world can provide. He offers us support, wholeness, comfort, healing, and love in a world that can sometimes be entirely too harsh.
So this week turn to Christ. In your troubles, in your worries, join with the people and welcome Christ, raising your concerns and your needs, singing your Hosannas. Sing them out without fear, without embarrassment and know that God hears us and that God is working to answer those pleas. Search for his answers; search for his comfort, and on Easter morning feel the hope of new life springing up in each one of you.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 20th century. Quote from as he was being lead to execution.
 Matthew 21: 9, NRSV.
(Based on Isaiah 50: 4-9a and Matthew 21: 1-11)