Luke 24:13-36

The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 

22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

In this time of pandemic, of “stay at home” orders, it seems like walking in the neighborhood has increased 10 fold!  I know it has in our neighborhood.  Folks want to get out, it’s good to process walking and getting some of that angst worked out from being cooped up.  I think our dogs have been walked 100 times!  It also releases some endorphins, makes us feel better, and is healthy.  And, on days when the sun is out, gives us vitamins!  

Our lectionary passages finds two of Jesus’ disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.  We can relate to them.  They want to get out, they need to get out.  They have been isolated, disrupted, and their expectations crushed.  They need to work it out and were walking to a destination.

Richard Rohr, the Catholic priest, writer, and speaker has some good insights on this walk to Emmaus:

“Not knowing what else to do, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple were now wandering home, trying to make sense of it all. 

They were suspended somewhere between loss and possible gain, grief and possible joy, profound human suffering and perhaps some kind of redemption, dashed hopes and maybe daring to hope again. They were wrung out—emotionally, spiritually and physically. They had been powerless to prevent the events of the last days, and they were powerless now to do anything to change their situation.

The road from Jerusalem to Emmaus was the road between the now and the not-yet.

Although they were probably not aware of it, these disciples were in what Richard Rohr calls “liminal space”—a particular spiritual position where human beings hate to be, but where the biblical God is always leading them. The Latin root limen literally means “threshold,” referring to that needed transition when we are moving from one place or one state of being to another.

Liminal space usually induces some sort of inner crisis: you have left the tried and true (or it has left you), and you have not yet been able to replace it with anything else.”

This passage is particularly helpful for us today.  Doesn’t it seem like we are in this “liminal space”.  We have been disrupted, some more than others.  Yet, God has been with us in this moment.  We may be disoriented, we may feel lost, we may want to go back to “normal”, but then we realize that we cannot.  We have crossed a threshold that was handed to us.  We must grow and move towards a new “normal”, and that new normal has to be good for everyone in some way.  

In this moment, I am so grateful to have our church as “walking partners”.  We are having some amazing conversations!  

Our early March church council meeting before “stay at home” restrictions and guidelines were announced.

Along comes another walking partner in our story.  At first the disciples don’t recognize him, but as they share, and as Jesus moves into sharing a meal with them, it dawns upon them, this is Jesus and they are filled with emotion.  

Friends, as we walk together, aren’t we often surprised that as we sit, as we listen, as we share life together, slowly, but then suredly, along the way, we see Jesus!

This past week, on a Zoom call with Ron and Trish, Trish said something that was beautiful.  As we shared about the Zoom calls, she said that it was so good to actually see folks face to face.  So often, in our sanctuary, because of the way it is set up, we have to look forward.  That’s not a knock on the building, it’s just the way it is…it’s a great building and we all look forward to being back in it.  But, in this season, we have the opportunity to “see” one another, and in the process, see God in each other…just like we sing every Sunday when we are in the Sanctuary.  

In our story, Jesus goes on to give them peace.  

It’s hard to be at peace with everyone.  Peace is a rare commodity, especially when we look at events in the world around us.  As I watched events unfold this past week again around protests and other things that are dividing us, I couldn’t help but to wonder if peace can be possible.   

Yet, we are called to peace.  I am amazed at folks like Martin Luther King who were able to work towards justice while rejecting violence and seeking peace.

We also experience a lack of peace within ourselves.  We are filled with self-doubt, insecurities, and a sense that something is simply not right.  We often look around in a state of discontent that can lead us to question who we are and to wonder if there is something more.  Sometimes that discontent can lead us towards growth if handled in loving community with God and others.  But, oftentimes that discontent left on its own leads us to despair.  

We live in a society that often values a certain rugged individualism.  When we look at each other as individuals, we can make ourselves and others isolated, rather, we should look at each as persons created for community.  This individualism often has a “me first” and has an attitude of getting ahead before the concerns of other.  Our lack of seeing others as persons can cause division within our families, even our churches.  And, we certainly see a lack of peace, and even civility, in our political discourse as a country.  Having said that, it’s remarkable to see in these past few weeks how this particular church enjoys a great deal of peace within its community, which was present way before this pandemic hit us!  This is something that we should cherish and make sure we take care of. 

As we embrace who we are in Jesus and identify with his example and live in obedience to him, we can experience true peace.  A peace that passes understanding.  We will also be able to extend that peace to others and work towards peace.  We may not be able to control what others do to us or to others or the circumstances around us, but we can live in Christ and strive to respond to others as Jesus would.  

After Jesus’ death and resurrection he appears to the frightened, lonely, desperate, insecure, and hopeless disciples, along the road, and in their hiding places.  They have just seen Jesus crucified, their hopes are dashed, their lives are threatened and they have locked themselves up in a room.  

Jesus came to the disciples and he comes to us today, having overcome everything, even death.  We can live into this season with expectation, or a hope for peace within ourselves, others, with God, and in the world.  Shalom.  God has made everything new desires for us to live in peace.  Not only does Jesus give us peace, Jesus is our peace as he is present with us. 

Friends, may we live in God’s peace and be peacemakers, may we live in God and abide in God as God lives in us.  


John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Breathing Prayer: Before you read this, try this: sit up straight in your chair, feet squarely on the ground. Close your eyes and take in three deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, out from your mouth. As you breathe in, ponder this thought, “God is relationship as demonstrated by the Trinity and fills every molecule, atom, etc. of space. You are breathing in the Presence of God that transcends time, space, history, etc.” As you breathe out, think of this, “you are letting go of whatever is inside of you into God. God that fills every nook and cranny of this world and in your body…release to God whatever is inside of you, things that you can give words to and things that you cannot give words to. Let the good and the bad flow out.” As God takes it and gives it back to you, be reminded that you are good, you are loved, and you are valued and connected to all things, all people, and to God’s Presence.

I’m sure we have all heard the expression that something beautiful or scary or amazing to see can “take our breath away”.  We have probably also experienced moments in our lives when we’ve attempted something like riding a roller coaster at King’s Island, or jumping into a cold lake, or maybe experiencing the birth of a child where it “took our breath away”.

Perhaps we have also had moments in our lives filled with fear or anxiety, times where we feel like our breath has been taken away.

Or maybe we are like the writer of this song, “Breathe (2 AM)” that says:

There’s a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout ’cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again

Click on this link to listen and watch a video of this song: https://youtu.be/FcvXr-9XtgA

We maybe feel trapped in situations that we feel like we can’t get out of on our own.  We feel caught and out of breath and in need of a “light at the end of a tunnel” or maybe out lives are like being underwater and we need to get to the surface for some air, to breathe.  We get caught in these moments and wonder “what’s next?”  And, can we handle what’s next?  We need help, we need to be rescued, we need to breathe, we need to find life, true life.

I think that’s especially true during this time of “stay at home” orders, of a pandemic.  We need time to “breathe”.  

Our text this morning has a lot to do with moments like this, moments in our lives when we need to breathe, breathing that brings life, and not just any life, but life as it was meant to be lived…no matter where we find ourselves in history.

Right after Jesus’ death on a Roman cross and resurrection from the dead.  Jesus appears to his disciples.  As we mentioned last week, it’s not every day that you see someone raised from the dead, they were disoriented, lost, so I imagine they were a bit overwhelmed, in shock, and wondering what was going to happen next.  

The disciples are in a state of fear.  They were locked in a room, afraid of the same folks who had just crucified Jesus and fearful that they would be after them as well.  They were literally in a “stay at home” quarantine out of fear for their lives!  They were wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel of fear that they were experiencing, the uncertainty was overwhelming, not sure what to think about what’s going to happen next.  The room was shut, and probably the lives of those disciples were in a state of being shut down from fear. There was probably a war of emotions going on within them.

Into this room, this state of anxiety, Jesus appears and has the greeting “Peace to you”.    The word “peace” in this context is a common word, but in this context, it meant the world to the disciples.  They needed what Jesus was giving.  

They had to be overwhelmed in seeing Jesus, but Jesus’ physical presence was also comforting.  Our passage this morning says that they rejoiced and they were strengthened by having seen the Lord.  

Jesus gives a charge to those disciples, an imperative command.  Just as the Father had sent Jesus to the world, Jesus was now sending the disciples out from behind shut doors of their lives towards an expansive way of living and into a crazy world desperate for hope.

Then, something happens, Jesus breathed on them.  This word “breathe” in this passage is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 where God breathes life into humanity, giving us life.  Jesus is in effect saying that he is the Son of God, God in the flesh, giving life to the disciples.  Jesus was not only bringing peace to the disciples, but breathing life into them.  The verse goes on to say that Jesus gives another imperative, to receive the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was breathing the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, God’s presence on to the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, the unifying power of God would bring the disciples together, giving them confidence and power to overcome the world.  

The word for “spirit” in Hebrew is the same word for breath and wind.  Do you remember the strong winds that rocked our city this past week?  Well, God’s Wind is stronger and blows everywhere, filling every space. It has been with us before time, before history, it was and is and will be…it exploded out from the Big Bang and is every expanding, finding residence in humanity and ultimately fully in Jesus, who then breathes it out either literally or metaphorically to the disciples and to the world.  

The disciples needed to breathe in the breath of God.  The breath of God that brings life and the power to forgive sins.  Verse 23 in this passage can seem troublesome at first, does it mean that we can forgive others’ sins?  No, it is an affirmation that if we receive the Holy Spirit and abide in Christ as Christ abides in us as stated in John 15:4, then the work of the Holy Spirit which brings the forgiveness bought by Jesus Christ’s actions on the cross, is exhibited through us.  It is the power of God at work within us as we recognize God through Jesus Christ.  

In verse 24 of this passage, we see that one of the 12 disciples, Thomas, wasn’t around to see Jesus the first time he appeared in that room.  8 days later though, they are hanging out and Jesus appears.  It’s interesting to note that these same disciples who had just been blessed by Jesus showing up and breathing on them are scared and locked up in that room again!  Yet, Jesus breaks through the walls again, literally and metaphorically, the walls of their lives that they had built up…gives them a peace blessing and then addresses Thomas.  Thomas wants more tangible evidence, so Jesus gives it to them.  Jesus doesn’t want to shame Thomas, this passage isn’t here to give reference to Thomas’ unbelief, but it’s here to give hope to those who haven’t seen.  Thomas must touch deeply the wounds of Christ, to feel deeply the body of Christ.

Friends, we have to also experience our woundedness, deeply. In so doing, we can become healers, as Henri Nouwen states, “wounded healers” for those around us.

The writer of this passage is also giving a direct address to those reading in verse 31 that these things have been written for you…for us.

Friends, we may be living in fear, in anxiety.  We may have just witnessed Jesus’ very resurrection in our lives…we may even have lived our lives in expectation of God’s faithfulness to us.  Yet, here’s Jesus…appearing before us, walking through any barriers that we may be hiding behind.  Calling us out of the four walls we’ve enclosed ourselves in…giving us himself, breathing new life into us, and calling us towards the next thing…a full life with him!   Thomas and the rest of the disciples were living in fear, in disappointment.  They were tired.  Yet Jesus came to them, and comes to us…he invites us to know his scars, to touch the pain that has been inflicted upon him…to believe that he is God and is here with us now.  Friends, with this belief, with this faith, we can change the world…even if we are in a state of quarantine…God’s Spirit will flow through even the thickest of walls we build!  


John 20:1-18

The Resurrection of Jesus

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.


  1. John 20:11 Gk lacks to look
  2. John 20:16 That is, Aramaic

It’s Easter morning, we are here for many different reasons.  This church has gone to extraordinary measures to have services and other options online…and even a short drive in on this Easter morning. We’ve asked other clergy, community leaders, and so many folks in the church on if this is the right thing to do.  There has been lots of back and forth and here we are. 

I’m not sure how history will judge this particular moment in time, this time of pandemic and our collective response to it personally, locally, nationally, or globally, but I do believe that we have been called and given a gift of this moment in time to be together in some ways, even while maintaining physical distance, and to be reminded that Jesus carrying us and forgiving us in this race we call life.  We come to hear the story once again that Jesus has risen and is rising up in us and in this crazy world we live in.   

With this season and in other seasons, we come to Easter morning and are filled with some internal conflict, some questions.  This season of lament, more than ever.  How could God allow this pandemic to happen?  Is it punishment? 

Other questions that we may have had for a long time are:  How could God let his Son die on the cross, how could God allow this to happen?  Why didn’t God the father  do the dirty work instead of sending his son?   

Jesus did not go to the cross to appease a vengeful heavenly and seemingly distant parent.  Jesus was nailed to a cross because he challenged a system that excluded many, while maintaining a status quo that kept some on top of the proverbial heap…yet, those on the top and even many of those on the bottom were not living the full lives that God desired, that God created us for.  Jesus came and demonstrated radical inclusiveness and called us into lives filled with freedom, love, purpose, and deep Presence with others and with God.  Jesus invited us, and still does, to deeper lives that are good for us and for others.  What does it mean to truly love everyone, including ourselves?  Oftentimes we settle for the status quo, even if the way we are living isn’t working, it’s what we know.  We live in fear and anxiety at times and that fear and anxiety can lead us into making harsh decisions or having opinions shaped that do not lead to deeper life or understanding.

Challenging the system, asking different questions, resisting labels, and living life in a deep sense of relationship and friendship to all, lead to Jesus’ death.  A violent and humiliating death, and a lonely death. Everyone deserted him except for his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John. And, in that moment on the cross, Jesus was lost…he had no hope or certainty for a resurrection.  He didn’t know where this was heading, only that he was facing his deepest, darkest moment. He cried out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, a psalm of lament.  Many of us today have been disoriented by this pandemic.  We feel lost.  We are in a season of lament, of not knowing.  Yet, it gives me comfort somehow that God is in this lostness with us, because God has gone through lament and even death with us.

Yet, here we are on Easter morning.  What did we just share with each other?  What phrase?  Christ has risen!  Christ has risen indeed!  Jesus’ love for us, Jesus’ promise of a full life filled with purpose and presence could not be kept in a grave.  As CS Lewis says, there was a “deeper magic” at work. Love won.

Mary finds the tomb empty!  She runs to tell the disciples, they go to the tomb and find it as she said…but, they go home…the easter reality had not yet risen up to their consciousness, their awareness.  They didn’t know what to do.

But, Mary, she’s overcome by grief…she stays, she is weeping.  She embraces her lament and disorientation and sits with it at the empty tomb. And, then she sees this man…she thinks he’s the gardener, but he gently says her name once more, and she recognizes the voice of her friend!  Then, the joy of Easter possibility, Easter imagination, Easter reality rises up within her!  

What happens next?  Well, the story gets out, the new reality sets in, people begin to see Jesus and to experience new things.  Life as we know it is never the same, and it becomes filled with imagination, new possibilities, strength, confidence in the face of incredible odds.  Something begins to form in these early believers that moves them to change the world, starting with their own awareness.

Friends, we are all here this morning and are a part of this ongoing story of Easter.

This Jesus is inviting us to join together as a more loving and radically inclusive community marked by our identity in Jesus to go the distance in the hard, but worthy and beautiful work, together, of loving ourselves, loving others, and loving God.  

Friends, John ran to an empty tomb…Jesus could not be found and his friends were a bit lost, disoriented, not knowing what was going to happen next. Friends, I love this story, as you know, I’m an obsessive runner! Some of the best runs that I’ve had is when I’m lost, exploring, curious, and excited to see what I will find around the corner.  We may be in a lost season, we are running in the wilderness on trails that have no markers, but, we are not alone, may we trust where God is taking us, that the risen Christ is on this journey with us, and that this risen and universal Christ, is running with us, and ahead of us, and behind us as we live into God’s story that is rising up within us!

Sound good?  Christ has risen!  

Click or go to the link below for the Rob Bell Video on Resurrection!



Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.[a]This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

        and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Have you ever had an expectation of something big and then it did not turn out the way that you had anticipated? Or something happens, like a pandemic?

In my role as a pastor, I have the privilege of officiating weddings from time to time.  Of course, not right now during this time of “stay to shelter” and “social distancing”.  But, they are usually great moments in the lives of those getting married.  The persons who are in attendance at weddings are usually family and friends who are genuinely excited for the couple.  One of the best moments of a wedding is the processional.  The wedding attendants proceed in, the music is playing, then everything changes…oftentimes with the change of music, or simply a nod or motion by the minister.  Everyone stands and all eyes are on the bride as she walks in.  

Yes, for me, it’s a privilege to be witnessing that moment and to enter into the celebration with all who are present.  

Rich and Deb’s wedding with the good Reverend (and friend) Jim Simpson!

Of course, after the processional, there are some serious life altering words that are shared.  A commitment is made.  After the ceremony, there is usually a party, a honeymoon, and then life.  Sometimes that life is up and down, hard and joyful at times.  Decisions are made, people change.  Life happens.  Sometimes life prevents those commitments from being fulfilled.  Oftentimes the marriages don’t go the way that folks entering into those commitments hoped they would.  People get disappointed, let down.  Sometimes even filled with despair.  

Of course, there are also stories where folks get through some of the hard times.  But, through it all, life together can bring deep growth and joy, it will also bring scars and pain.  

And, yes, whatever the outcome in a marriage, or whether ones gets married or not, there is always something deeper going on, something beautiful, something worth seeking out eyes to see, ears to hear.  

This is palm Sunday. 

We commemorate this day by waving palms and singing “hosanna”.  According to Scripture, Jesus entered Jerusalem the week of passover to celebrate this occasion with his disciples.  

In the other gospel accounts, we read that Jesus rode in on a white donkey.  The writer of Matthew is mentioning this to give us a picture that Jesus was not on a warhorse, not coming to establish they type of earthly kingdom that folks in Jerusalem thought they wanted.  Common folks such as merchants, clergy at the time, or others would ride donkeys.  The symbolism is that Jesus is like one of us and comes to bring peace, not war.  It was also prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey in the old testament.

The people of Jerusalem were gathering from all over the countryside to come to Jerusalem to celebrate passover.  They had heard about Jesus and the miracles he had performed, some were curious, most were hopeful, they were caught up in the festive atmosphere.  They welcomed Jesus with shouts of hosanna, which literally means “God save us”.  The people of Israel were under Roman occupation, they wanted to be liberated and free to live as they thought they should.  They were hoping for this Jesus to deliver them.  They probably were enslaved by even deeper things within their own lives, their way of thinking that prevented them from being the people they wanted to be…and, as is often the case in history, placed their trust and hope in an idea of a person or were transferring their hopes and dreams on to this person, rather than dealing with their own issues.  

So, they waved palms, symbols of expressions of joy, even the coins at that time would have had inscriptions of palms and the words the “redemption of Israel”.  Again, different ideas of what that meant.  They welcomed Jesus and Jesus entered into the moment with them.  

Jesus knew that things were probably not going to go so well in a few short days.  Yet, just like when we come to a wedding, we know life isn’t going to be easy for the couple getting married, yet, we celebrate and we know that something deeper, somehow, some way, is happening or has the potential of happening.  Much like life these days, we don’t know how pandemics are going to turn out, we are doing all that we can to “suppress the curve”, “maintain social distance”, and be safe…we are looking out for one another as best as we can.  

And, in the midst of this disruption, hardship, death, and life, we find moments to celebrate.  We are being reminded that life isn’t easy, yet there is joy in the suffering.  

Today is not only known as “Palm Sunday”, but it is also known as “Passion Sunday”.  We have Easter coming up on our calendar.  We know that in order to get to resurrection, we must pass through loss, struggle, and even death.  It is a struggle, we suffer…the very word “passion” means to suffer or struggle.  

Back to our story.  

There were some though who didn’t enter into the festivities, they watched and criticized.  The religious rulers, those involved in the maintaining of the institutional temple worship had been trying to discredit Jesus, trying to gain the upper hand in discussions with him, attempting to validate their roles, the status quo if you will, by winning an argument, or by other means.  It’s easy to get frustrated with them, yet, we also know what it’s like to have anxiety over change, even if that change is going to be good.  The religious leaders may have known that their system wasn’t perfect, wasn’t sustainable, wasn’t good for everyone, yet it was the system they knew and they didn’t want to have that boat rocked.  Perhaps some of them knew that when something new comes along that it would require a certain time of discomfort and struggle…they wanted to avoid the suffering.  

They saw the crowds changing for Jesus, they saw the hope for something more in people’s faces and in their actions, yet they couldn’t enter in to the joy.  So, they began to conspire in even more sinister ways.

Jesus saw the injustices, Jesus also heard the deeper cries of the crowd for salvation, for hope, for something more.   Throughout the week between Palm Sunday and that dark Friday where Jesus was crucified, he spoke openly and honestly about deliverance, about the need for a God who was on their side.  Really on their side, not on their side for an earthly or temporal “win” but for the deeper things of life, the hard things and good things that produce a deeper sense of worth, of value, of forever permanence.

At the end of that week, the crowds turned on Jesus as the religious leaders stirred them into action.  Fear and anxiety overtook hope and the deeper need for love, change, and growth.  They, we, wanted to go with what we knew, rather than have faith and hope in something even better.  So, we killed Jesus, we experienced brokenness in our relationship with God, and with others.  

I know it’s easy to judge the folks in Jesus’ time.  To ask why couldn’t they see.  Yet, it’s a drama that’s played out in our lives everyday.  We put hopes in something or someone, and when life happens in ways that we don’t anticipate, we get disappointed, hurt, fearful, anxious, and may experience brokenness and despair.  We may even make unhealthy or unhelpful decisions that have dire consequences.

In our lives together at Fleming Road UCC and in this neighborhood and in our own families and some of our deep friendships, we have experienced weariness, tiredness, anxiety, and disappointment.  

As your pastor, I know that I will get tired, weary, disappointed, maybe even a bit anxious, especially in this time of disruption, of pandemic.  You will as well, and with each other at times.  

Yet, that’s not the end of our story, nor is it the end of the story with Jesus.  He was crucified.  But, there was something deeper going on in Jesus’ coming to us, his life, and even his death.  Jesus rose out of the grave three days later.  Jesus’ love for us was stronger than all of the disappointment, all of the weariness.  His love was deeper than our desire for an earthly king.  He overcame death and showed us that God’s belief in us, God’s expansiveness, God’s love for those on the margins, God’s desire for change, growth, and for a more just system…God’s pursuit of everyone and model of radical inclusive community, is stronger than anything in this world.  

This same God does not want us to be ashamed of our lives, ashamed of how we have reacted to our disappointments in life, but to realize the gift of growth, change, and relational presence God has given us.  To own our space and to celebrate with God what God has done for us and who believes in us.

That gives me, and all of us, opportunities for strength as our minds and hearts are inspired and renewed, by a God and God’s presence in our lives. 

I used the example of weddings for this conversation.  It is interesting as I reflected on this talk that we, the church or God’s people, all of us, are Jesus’s bride.  Jesus is the groom.  This metaphor is used in scripture.  God is standing at the front of the sanctuary, looking out at our lives, and sees us proceeding in and is filled with Joy.  As we’ve said in the past, God’s glory is wrapped up in our being who we were created to be.  The disciples didn’t get it as it said in this mornings passage, but they did get it after Jesus rose from the dead.  This gave them hope and a sense of purpose that they could face anything, that their momentary disappointment would give away to growth and a promise of even more beautiful things to come.

This same God calls us into deep community with God’s self and with others.  We will move through the throes of life, and our current situation, together, and we will see a future filled with promise, even as we live in the moment, present with each other!  We have a God who does save, who does give us a deeper hope and imagination than we could even imagine.  Makes me want to wave some palm branches and not just say God save us, but thank you God for saving us!