Good morning. Welcome to Palm Sunday at Lincoln United Methodist Church, the church of Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras, the church of La FuerZa Juventud – and first of all the Church of Jesus Christ.
We have been walking with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem – and now he has arrived at his destination. He enters like a King – but riding a humble donkey. As Jesus has been making his journey he has confronted the hypocrisy of the rulers and the unjust laws that punish the poor. Yet he has also been teaching his disciples, those that follow him – and us today – to purify themselves, to purify ourselves, and get rid of that selfishness and hypocrisy of the rulers - which is also in ourselves.
Our own journey this year has been leading us forward from the darkness that descended when Trump was elected. Trump stirred up the hatred of the white supremacists and brought fear in our community. They say that shopping is down 40% in little Village because people are afraid to go out to shop since the raids there.
In December we witness again the presence of the Virgin of Guadalupe as our ancestors did after they were conquered and enslaved by the Spaniards. We witnessed the birth of Jesus and heard the prophets proclaim that a savior had come. We wanted him to be our savior too.
Then we walked with Jesus and our hope and our courage began to be renewed. We began fighting back – against the deportations and against the fear that paralyses. Our journey let us this week to Washington DC where the U.S. citizen children with undocumented parents confronted the powers of the nation with their testimony, their songs, their tears and their laughter. We recall from scripture that, when Jesus came to turn over the tables and occupy the temple, what really infuriated the temple authorities was the children.
When the children began shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the priests were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise ?’ And there in Washington this week were the young people with their testimony, speaking the truth of this nation’s hypocrisy and evil doing, in the halls of the nation’s power and authority!”
Were the children of the undocumented not there giving all of us hope and courage?
But let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus enters Jerusalem on a humble donkey. The people have heard about his latest miracles. He raised Lazarus from the dead! He made Blind Bartemaeus see! As we discussed last week, these miracles were accomplished through the faith of the people and the miracles gave them a stronger faith. So as Jesus entered, the poor of Jerusalem turned out and welcomed him like a king, throwing down their coats and palms on the road before him. That is why we celebrate this triumphant entry as Palm Sunday!
Now I want you to remember that Jesus was organizing the people so that they would regain their faith – as we are trying to regain our faith. So Jesus did not just walk into the temple. Instead he called on the prophecy to enter Jerusalem on a humble donkey with thousands welcoming him and walking with him. Haven’t we tried to do this in our own struggle? We didn’t just go to ICE. We came in our numbers, mobilizing the youth!
I am sure that the Priests and the Romans watched and discussed this entry because it showed the support of the people, the longing of the people for justice – for the righteousness of God in their lives!
Now when Jesus was in Jerusalem he went to the temple. He overturned the tables of those who were charging money at the temple. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’
Now when Jesus marched into Jerusalem it was the crowds with their palms that alarmed the Priests and the Romans, because the people were no longer controlled by fear and intimidation and hopelessness. Now Jesus stayed in the temple and returned to occupy it for several days. He healed the lame and the blind that came to him – and he taught the people about the way of righteousness and he showed them that God was with them.
So the priests confronted Jesus. “By what authority do you do these things?” they asked. Listen to how Jesus responded.
“Jesus replied, ‘I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know.’ Then he said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
Why did the reply of Jesus shut them down? They were unable to answer because they were afraid of the people who were regaining their courage, their hope and their faith right before their eyes!
So if Jesus was restoring their faith and their courage why did he have to die? Why would he have to be arrested and humiliated and crucified as the Romans and the priests sought to discourage the people?
When Jesus enters the city on this Palm Sunday, the people cry “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Listen to the words the people spoke. They saw Jesus as the son of the historical king of their nation, when they were proud and independent. I remember that in one demonstration before ICE the young people held up a sign that said, :Make America Mexico again!” Like the poor of Jerusalem, they believed that Jesus would restore their independence from the Romans and the puppets the Romans chose to rule them.
They also believed that “He came in the name of the Lord! Hosanna to the highest heaven!” These same words were spoken by the children in the temple and that so infuriated the rulers and made them afraid. Yet Jesus did not come as a King. He came on a humble donkey in a poor man’s clothes. Jesus is trying to restore their faith that God is with them and trying to get them to live a righteous life – and to show them in this way they can survive the empire.
Remember that Jesus has predicted accurately that soon the people will be dispersed throughout the empire – and to Rome itself. They will have to survive in Diaspora in hostile lands where they are discriminated against and treated as criminals. He is preparing them. Through his teaching he has given them a way to sustain their faith and their unity – and he is planting these teachings as seeds that will grow and renew a people of God.
Remember he has told his disciples “That many will come claiming to be a savior” but that “the Kingdom of God is among you!” Now they call him “King” and they are relying on him to save them. Yet he is teaching them that God will be with them if they have faith, if they receive the Kingdom in each other, between each other. They believe that Jesus is performing miracles but he keeps teaching them that “Through your faith you are healed!”
We are always in a struggle with our own selfishness – even though it is the walls of selfishness that keep us from establishing the Kingdom of God among us. We look to someone in authority to solve our problems. We ask first for ourselves. Yet what did the authorities of the temple and the Romans fear? Was it not the people, restored in their faith and unity with each other that they feared?
Was it not the children, praising God, unafraid of the authorities, dancing in the temple, dancing in Washington DC, that made them afraid?
In the next week we will relive the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. We will remember the instructions of Jesus to the disciples at the last supper. And then we will celebrate Easter when Jesus rose from the dead to wakl among us.
I will tell you that Jesus was like a seed, that after he was buried in the ground he rose again like the seed rises to become the corn, to become the people of God. We will celebrate communion on Easter as the time when the people take communion to affirm that they have indeed become the people of God.
Some of my friends in the movement want to interpret the Resurrection written about in the Bible as just a symbolic representation of the people gaining confidence and rising up in resistance. Others of my friends in the churches want to say that the Resurrection proves that Jesus was the Son of God – and that he will come again to save us.
As for me, I believe that the miracles happened – because I have seen them keep happening. I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, dead and buried and on the third day he rose from the dead. I also believe, as he taught, that the Kingdom of God is amongst. I believe that he gave us the practice of prayer and the Word, of communion together and the presence of the Holy Spirit, so that we could be renewed each year, each day, in our faith as the people of God. I believe that Jesus is here with us now and that only our lack of faith, our own selfishness and fear which prevents us from realizing the power of the Kingdom of God amongst us.
And yet I know what Jesus taught, that it is the faith of the children that defeats our enemies. I know what Jesus taught, that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God.
Today we celebrate walking with Jesus as a king, waving our palms as we welcome him into the city; we celebrate Jesus as he occupied the temple and defied the authorities. This week we will listen to his teachings at the last supper as he shows us how to keep our union with God and with each other, teaching us to love each other, to be willing to sacrifice for each other.
And this week we will shed tears as we remember the betrayals of his disciples and the cruelty with which the Romans treated him. We will see with broken hearts his crucifixion – and we will feel his resurrection among us on Easter Sunday.
We have come a long way in our journey since the election of Donald Trump – and the setbacks he has brought to our movement and our security. We still have more miles to walk to defeat the fear that Trump and his men seek to plant in our hearts – through their rhetoric and their arrests and their deportations.
But we are walking the Way now and nobody will turn us around!
In the next few weeks, as we continue to organize our sanctuaries and defend our people, we will also return to organizing the children’s campaign because of what Jesus has taught us.
We are not afraid.
It gets dark in the night but the sun always comes up in the morning!
We are not afraid of the crucifixion because we have already seen the
God is with us! His Kingdom is among us!
And his power and righteousness never ends!
The Holy Scriptures for the Sixth Week in the March to Jerusalem
Matthew 21:6-11 Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 21: 12-17 Jesus at the Temple
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise ?”
Matthew 21: 23-27 The Authority of Jesus Questioned
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.” Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.