Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29
LUKE 19: 28-40

April 10, 2022 PALM SUNDAY

We turned on one of those online song playlists the other day and memories streamed as I heard these lyrics [1]I just want to celebrate another day of livin’, I just want to celebrate another day of life!”

Imagine if you will that you were a citizen of a small hillside town situated at the top of the Mount of Olives; you had a great view of the city of Jerusalem from your yard. You were busy getting ready for out of town family who were coming to visit for the Passover Feast. It was your annual tradition … family came to Jerusalem from all around remembering how God rescued God’s people from Egypt bringing them to the Promised Land. But it was family time … with some afterthought for God and church.

There were meals to be planned … debates about which football game to watch on TV … arguments over who would clean the house and making a list of the local tourist sites and restaurants to visit before the family left to go home.

But then somehow you hear that this Jesus fellow was going to be heading to Jerusalem just a short distance from your home. Jesus who had stood up against the Pharisee rule-setting religious leaders. Jesus whose message of love and healing seemed to fulfill what the prophets had written about. Jesus who actually cared for poor people and those with disabilities while eating with people the leaders taught should be avoided.

There had been rumors that the Pharisees and Sadducee leaders were trying to get the Romans to kill this young man. They feared that no one would follow their rule books any more because Jesus had taught that God considers loving God and loving all of the neighbors as the commandments to follow. But, today, you knew that the Roman soldiers were marching into Jerusalem from the Northwest, far from your home, and they didn’t seem to be bothered by Jesus.

So, you go outside and your neighbor’s family is walking towards the roadway to the Kidron Valley; the hillside road that leads past that beautiful Garden of Gethsemane at the bottom of the hill … they had palms in their hands and called back … “Are you coming? Coming to see Jesus?”

And, you ask why. In unison your neighbor’s family sings out “We just want to celebrate another day of livin’; WE just want to celebrate another day of life. We put our faith in the people but the people let us down but we turned the other way and we found JESUS!! The Son of God is shining down on us and He’s here to stay!!” And, you debate Jesus or TV, grill and cleaning the house.

So, friends … in the year 2022 are you ready to celebrate another day of living? Rather than putting your faith in the people … are you turning to follow Jesus Christ and say “I just want to celebrate!!! I just want to celebrate!!!”

And, today … I hope that each of us if given the opportunity would not be embarrassed by celebrating our faith in Christ and instead would be embolden to stand against those who want to make mere humans their gods whose words they hang onto rather than God’s Word and instead celebrate that you realize that Jesus Christ is alive … God has not vanished from the universe … the message of love .. the teachings of Jesus Christ .. the Light of the Holy is ready to shine out and resonate but we have to let the world know WE JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE!!! WE JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE!!! Having faith in Christ!!!

Our Psalm today opens up with an exhortation … a directive … something we should be aware of in our faith walks, “Give thanks to the Lord because He is good, because His faithful love lasts forever … Let Israel” but frankly this is for all of God’s people so “LET ALL OF GOD’s PEOPLE SAY IT … “GOD’s faithful love lasts forever! Let the house of Aaron say it GOD’s FAITHFUL LOVE LASTS FOREVER!! Let those who honor God say it … God’s faithful love lasts forever … LET THE FISH FAMILY SAY IT … God’s faithful love lasts forever .. let the church called St. Paul’s say it <<GOD’s FAITHFUL LOVE LASTS FOREVER>> … Let the Ski family watching us online say it …. Let everyone worshiping with us today say it … GOD’s FAITHFUL LOVE LASTS FOREVER!!

Why am I asking us to do this. … BECAUSE I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE ANOTHER DAY OF GOD’s LOVE!!! Don’t you? Are you tired of not “Rejoicing in the Lord always?” If God celebrates when one sinner comes home to faith … shouldn’t we be celebrating our rescue from our sins? I JUST WANT TO CELEBRATE ANOTHER DAY … because if our neighbors, friends, and family don’t think we celebrate our faith … if people around us see us with grim expressions on our faces when we claim to have found the answer in Jesus will they really be interested in joining us … in building up the church of Jesus Christ in the world or even making this small church in West Deptford a vital place of worship not just now but in 2030, 2035 and beyond … FRIENDS, we need to wave the palms … we need to show joy … we need to rejoice .. young and old and in between …

Today, after the Easter Egg Hunt, I would love to see 20 cars with windows rolled down shouting HOSANNA JESUS LIVES … waving palms as we deliver palms to Ruth’s home, Edi’s home, Janet’s home, Rosie’s home … it only will take a few minutes but will you join in … with joy?

Last week I talked about finding Jesus. I asked you to remember Christmas but more importantly I asked you to remember you and your relationship with God and Christ. To reconsider how Jesus rescued you from the danger of the world … or as our song of the day would say, “We put our faith in the people but the people let us down but we turned the other way and we found JESUS!! The Son of God is shining down on me and He’s here to stay!!”

And, friends … those who gathered on the hillside had seen the living Jesus … Jesus in action but we are here today because we recognize the truth of faith. Were you excited about getting the palm in your hands today? To wave it? The psalmist wrote, “Open the gates for me so I can come in and give thanks to the Lord!! I thank the Lord because You are my saving help!! The stone rejected by the builders is now the main foundation stone!”

Jesus the building block of faith … the source of salvation … the loving gift of God.

The one who enters in the Lord’s name is blessed!! The Lord God has shined a light on us!” And, Scripture directs us … “Lead the festival … You are my God I will give thanks to You! You are my God … I will lift You up on high!!”

So, I say that I just want to celebrate!!! God’s faithful up love lasts forever!!! “Give thanks to the Lord because He is good …. Because His faithful love lasts forever!!

Now, your neighbors back in the day may have been rushing to the hillside to wave palms and shout hosanna’s with the disciples but just as in our days when religious rule setters and power-focused leaders attempt to shame those who say love all of your neighbors there were the Pharisees in the crowd and they were screaming STOP …. STOP … this is WRONG. We read that they even told Jesus to “scold His disciples and tell them to stop.”

And, Jesus replied … “I tell you, if the people of faith were silent, the stones would shout!”

In this year 2022, it would appear that the Christian church and people of faith have decided that silence works; stones should speak … that allowing the power seeking wealthy divisive tele-preachers and politicians to tell us how to live matters more than the Gospels. The loving message of Jesus Christ day after day seems hidden more than ever and we are afraid to be joy-filled … we are embarrassed to invite … or even admit.

The Christian church grew from a few into a global church not because people cowered behind walls … but the people at Pentecost seemed so joy-filled that the neighbors thought they were drunk. The early church grew because people knew people who had seen Jesus alive and well after the cross … Paul wrote the church in Corinth, “He was raised on the third day and He appeared to Peter and the 12 and then to more than 500 at the same time”. They shared the word … they celebrated the Risen Christ even in the face of jail or worse because they knew the truth.

So, as we enter into Holy Week … can we invest some of our time for God in worship? You know make the sacrifice of a tv show or two or getting up early for Holy Wednesday Communion or traveling to church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday for worship? We have two Easter services here because we are hopeful that many of you will be inviting friends and family to come with you in joy and celebration to worship God on the day when Mary discovered the empty tomb and then rushed to declare to the disciples behind locked doors that HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>>

That truth alone makes me want to celebrate but then … friends, as someone who lost his faith and got it back, it is God’s love for me and for you that I truly celebrate. As the birds sang this morning … as I watched the sunset near the shore on Friday night … as I watched the smiling happy face of my grandson again … I CELEBRATE the fact that God is not hidden … that the God who created the universe has chosen to love each of us but God gives us the choice to return that love with a celebration of joy or we can dismiss God’s love or attempt to hide our knowing that God loves us through Jesus Christ.

So, as Holy Week begins, who are you? Are you a faith-filled person ready to rush to Jesus just as those did along the hillside leading to Holy Week’s emotional rollercoaster but with the knowledge that once we make it to next Sunday all will be good … are you ready. To wave the palms for Jesus today … to pause and share in the Holy meal during the week … to weep on Friday knowing God’s love for us took Jesus to the cross and then to be filled with awe and worship on Easter morning! Are you sharing with others?

Friends … I just want to CELEBRATE ANOTHER DAY OF LIVING … LIVING with JESUS CHRIST as MY PERSONAL SAVIOR … I hope you want to join in the celebration with me and then join in the PALM PARADE at 1130 this morning as we visit some of our shut-in’s who would love to be with us today and give them a palm to wave. AMEN

[1] CELEBRATE recorded by Rare Earth; Songwriters N. Zesses & D. Fekaris; Jobete Music, Inc.

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