Why do I love Palm Sunday so much?
Well, to begin, it stirs up all kinds of pleasant memories from my childhood and that is always nice. But I would have to say the main reason I enjoy it is because it marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring for me. I know it isn’t the literal day on the calendar that we transition from winter to spring, but it definitely marks a shift in my thinking when I expect to wake up to singing birds and the very soon beauty of flowers bursting through the thawed soil.
Palm Sunday is a celebration declaring new life, hope and triumph. Jesus has arrived as the King of Peace in Jerusalem. We are invited to join the throngs of people 2000 years ago lifting our voices with our greatest needs. The Triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a belief that there is a deliverer. It is a united belief that no matter what burdens, pains or fears held us captive yesterday there can be a better today. It is a confidence that there is a light that will conquer darkness coming over the horizon!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
An accurate paraphrase could be:
Save Us Jesus!
You are the ONE God sent to deliver the Eternal Kingdom promised to David.
You will save us with the power of heaven!
It is a simple expression of desperation and faith. It is trusting that the one who hears the cries is the one that can meet the need. But a couple of key components at work here are honesty and humility.
This Sunday we will gather together to corporately lift our voices in confession and redemption. Our hearts and minds will be invited to bask in grace and freedom. Hopefully you will be able to be a part of our Palm Sunday worship. But today I want you to consider a personal encounter with the King of Kings coming to you wherever you are reading this.
Time and distance do not diminish the power of Jesus to be the only one worthy of our “Hosanna!” cries today. What is it for you?
· Emptiness or despair?
· Destructive behaviors or attitudes?
· Prisons of affirmation or approval addiction?
· Wasting your life on…?
Jesus has come for you! Not only is He able to save you, but He already knows from what you need to be saved. He is the long-awaited answer for you and for me. Don’t pretend anymore. Bring all your joys and all your sorrows. Bring your triumphs and your tragedies. You need to bring it all – Hosanna JESUS! Here I am.
I never struggle with procrastination.
I always do the main thing instead of being distracted.
I will flee from temptation immediately, so I won’t ever fall.
I perfectly put other’s needs before my own every time.
Bottom line – I always do what I should and never do what I shouldn’t!
Unless you are a liar, you will join me in confessing the above declaration is a bit wishful thinking. I am not saying that we all struggle with exactly the same manifestations of self-control, but the truth is that we all struggle in one way or another to live a consistent life. This reality is one of the ways that God invites us to look upon each other with a loving attitude of grace and humility.
Far too often, Christians have perpetuated the lie that we are the ones who have our acts together all the time. Don’t get me wrong – sin is not okay, and God has given us the power to withstand any sin that comes our way. But we are not that good, and we are invited to daily rejoice in being saved by grace. I remember personally the feeling of being crushed or the temptation to pretend I was better than I really was in my high school years. We fell into the trap of talking about “How much better my behavior is now that I am a Christian” rather than “How much better life is walking with Jesus.”
They may sound similar but notice the difference in where the emphasis is placed. Am I focused on me or my God? Am I celebrating Jesus and His gifts or am I celebrating and exalting me? The focus on self has always driven humanity into hiding, pride or despair. It is only in “dying to self” that we truly find a healthy perspective on self-control. After all, look at the context of our Fruit of the Spirit passage.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
This is all about being guided by the spirit of God while at the same time giving up the focus on “self” while connecting to being crucified with Christ. Self-control comes moment by moment as Christ meets us through faith. But it is also built and strengthened as we grow deep in God’s Word, developing new habits through seeing God’s faithfulness as we step out into a life lived by faith.
Self-control is really about living a life of worship, trusting God’s way to be best! It is agreeing with God and resting in His perfect love.
It is still a bit weird to me that I can speak into my phone and immediately gain answers to questions. Sometimes the answers are dead on and other times – not so much. Yesterday I asked my phone, “What is the opposite of peace?” The answer my phone spoke to me in the Australian accent I chose was simply “WAR”. At first, I thought this was a very incomplete answer but then I started thinking about it and you could make an argument that it is actually quite a comprehensive answer.
When I broaden out the possible ways that “war” could be understood and then apply it to my life it becomes quite insightful and accurate as an antonym. Peace has been absent in my life when a war is raging in one way or another. Here are a few examples of what I mean.
· One war that we may have in common is the opposition of the world and our culture with being a follower of Jesus.
· War could describe the power struggles or misunderstandings with other people.
· It could be circumstances or expenses that are declaring war on my confidence that I have things under control.
· Raging war could describe any force, concern or process that makes my soul anxious.
I could go on and on with this list as you more than likely could as well. It isn’t hard to begin to gain an appreciation for how difficult a true and lasting peace is to come by. This is an area of personal struggle for me. I can remember times of rest and peace, but they always seem to be interrupted.
For instance, I can remember the peace I felt walking with Barb through Hyland-Bush Lakes Park on our 25th wedding anniversary. I was enjoying God’s great gifts of nature and my wife – ahhh, PEACE! Can’t you see it in my face?
But then comes sickness, paying taxes and my tendency to try and control all kinds of things for pretty decent reasons really. I mean it isn’t that I am trying to do evil things – it’s just that I don’t want to live by faith. I want to create my “peace” instead of trusting God’s peace no matter what comes my way. I want every day to be a walk in the park as opposed to an occasional “walk in the dark” believing that God’s light will always be enough. I want the easy peace, instead of the deep lasting peace of God that Paul is talking about.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The peace I truly crave isn’t something my circumstances or personal preferences can drum up. The peace that lasts and conquers all comes from outside myself. It is a peace that invades my life through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. This is the lasting peace that will always win out!
Pastor Nick Mundis