Friday, July 17, 2009

Palm Sunday

Finally brethren, what sort of things are true, what sort of things are good, what sort of things are just, what sort of things are pure, what sort of things are lovely, what sort of things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, glory to Jesus Christ.
Glory forever.

Come on up kids. Everybody gets to come up, little and big together, young and old, rich and poor.

This is the feast of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. This is the feast when we carry branches of palms of trees in our hands and holy Apostle Paul tells us today that we should thing about things that are pure, things that are lovely, things that are true. Kids, there are two groups of people in Jerusalem who you heard about today. And as Jesus came down the hillside riding on His little donkey – and do you know why He rode on a donkey? Because that’s how, when King David and his descendents ruled in Jerusalem, they didn’t ride into the city on a war horse because they were not men of blood, they were not supposed to be. They in humbly, meek and lowly, and mounted upon an ass’s colt. So Jesus was showing that He was the Son of David, as well as the Son of God.

When He rode into the city He rode down from Bethphage and camped on the hillside with thousands and thousands of people who had come for the Passover – maybe three million people were going to be in Jerusalem that next weekend. The city normally had half a million people living in it. Three million people would be there though. And of those three million people two and a half would be pilgrims. I don’t mean people in black dresses and black hats eating turkey, I mean people who had come for the feast. And as He came down that hillside the people who were camped there were people from Galilee where Jesus had spent most of His time. And in Galilee Jesus had worked many miracles, hadn’t He? He had given sight to the blind, He had raised up the dead children, and He had made paralytics to walk, He had given hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb. So the people knew about Him, and they started saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and they took down palms, which are a sign of victory. Palms stand for victory, okay? And they waved them and they said, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.” And a lot of the people in the city who didn’t know who Jesus was heard everybody else saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and they started saying it. “Hosanna in the highest! The Messiah’s come.” In other words, because the people who knew Jesus were enthusiastic, because they were calling out that Jesus was the Son of David, other people believed, ok? And some people said to them, “Here’s Lazarus! Did you know that yesterday Lazarus was in the tomb? He’d been dead four days. His body had started to stink and Jesus called his soul back to his body, He called him up out of Hades and He made him to live again.”

Now, the lesson from this is that if you’re a witness to Jesus, if you tell other people that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of David, because you know it, then they will believe too, won’t they? So if you be a believer in Jesus, if you behave as a believer, if you think upon good things, pure things, holy things, beautiful things, and you keep out of your mind ugly, dirty, nasty thoughts, if you close your mind to the icons the devil wants to put in there – icons of ugliness, and of sin, of hatred and of violence – and only meditate, only think about, good thoughts – the things Jesus has done for you – then you will be able to bring other people to Jesus.

Now in the city there was another group of people. These people also didn’t know about Jesus. They were Jews just like the Jews on the hillside. The difference was in the city the priests and the Pharisees said to the people, “This man is a big sinner. He’s a liar. He’s a fake. We need to kill him.” And so, one, two, three, four, five days later these other people who didn’t know Jesus either, instead of saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” would be crying out, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!” And also saying, “We don’t have God as our King. We have no king but Caesar,” and then even cursing their own children by saying, “His blood be on us and on our children!” because evil men told them evil things, and evil lies and evil images – injustice, ugliness, anger – those things filled their hearts, the hearts of the men who talked to them, and they spread their lies and their hatred to that crowd. And you know, there may even have been some people there on Holy Friday saying, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” who on Palm Sunday were saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” because you know there’s lots of people – not just kids – who are subject to – do you know what peer pressure is? Can anyone tell me what peer pressure is? You don’t want to do something bad, but your friends say to you what? Yes. Say it louder… (child answers) “Do it! We’re all doing it! Everybody’s doing that bad thing, so you can do it too.” And so those people were listening to whatever group they were with, and they changed from being people proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, to calling for His blood, because they didn’t have minds of their own, because their hearts and minds were not filled with beauty, with justice, righteousness, holiness, and purity. They were filled with ugliness, injustice, hate, bitterness, and anger, right?

Now today, I hope that all of you – every one of you, those who are listening closely and those who are playing with animals – that all of you will be telling the world that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of David, and bringing people to believe in Him, because there’s a big war going on, boys and girls. A big war. A war between God and His angels and truth, and justice, and holiness, and beauty; and the Devil and his demons and lies, and in justice, and bitterness, and anger. Who will win the war? God will win. The devil is just a punk. He’s just a creature of God who turned on his loving Creator. But that doesn’t mean the Devil won’t do a lot of damage before he’s through. This is what Jesus says about when he comes back again. He says, “The Son of Man shall surely return, but will He find faith upon earth when He cometh?” In other words, Jesus said there’s a chance that when He comes back again that no one living at that time will be a believer. That the Church will be trampled into the dust. That the only saints will be the ones buried in the ground. That there’ll be no liturgy, to priest, no bishop, no icons, no prayer, no temples. It is possible that on earth the devil can bring faith to an end. But there are soldiers on earth fighting to keep truth, and justice, and holiness, and beauty alive, to keep faith in Jesus Christ growing. And who are those soldiers? Any of them here? Raise your hand if you’re one of them? Yes, you raise your hand too. Because you were enlisted when you were signed with the sign of the corss in Holy Baptism as a soldier of Jesus Christ. You are part of His army, and your job is to fight against the demons, not with swords, or machine guns, or blasters or even lasers, but to fight against evil with prayer, with love, with thoughts of – lets say it one more time – beauty, and justice, and truth, and goodness, and love, right? Right Vladimir? Do you know what Vladimir means? Ruler of the world. That means that your name means Jesus.

Now carry your palms proudly. When you hold them up you proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God.

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