Matthew 21:1-11
1When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying 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. 3If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5“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.”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The 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!”
10When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

P:  Beaky and Munchie are joining me again today, as we gather on Palm Sunday for worship.

B: Munchie doesn’t seem very happy.

P:  I see what you mean.  What’s going on, Munchie?

M: Nothing.

B: O-------kay?

M: That’s the problem!  Nothing is going on!  Today was supposed to be my party!  Now no one else can come!

P:  Ah! That hurts, doesn’t it?

M: Yes!

B: Oh, yeah. I guess I’d be mad if it was MY party that couldn’t be…

P:  Are you sure about that?

B: Yes! Because MY party was full of people and balloons and games and… (Munchie slinks down) and…

P:  I don’t think this is very helpful, Beaky…

M: No, it’s not!

P:  And that’s not what I meant when I asked if you were sure about that.

B: What did you mean?

P:  I meant, do you really think that Munchie’s party can’t happen at all?

B: Well, no one can come…

M: And we didn’t get the balloons…

P:  And of course it isn’t a party without balloons, is it?

Both: No!

M: Well, maybe…

P:  Balloons weren’t even invented until about 200 years ago.  Do you think they never had parties before that?

B: Of course they had parties!

P:  Yes, of course they had parties.  In fact, they had a kind of party when Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey for the Passover celebration.

M: Yeah! Didn’t they have some kind of cheer?

B: I know they put branches down in front of him to keep down the dust!

P:  Yes, they did. They put down branches and they shouted Hosanna, which is a word of praise and celebration.

M: But it was kind of a party, wasn’t it?

P:  Yes, it most certainly was.

B: …and without balloons!

P:  You know, if I don’t have a balloon, I might use a wadded up piece of paper as a kind of substitute.  I can see how many times I can bat it up into the air without letting it hit the ground, just like I’d do with a balloon… it’s just a little harder because it goes faster.

M: Like this? (demonstrates with wadded ball of paper)

P:  Exactly! Someday, you will be able to have a party like you were expecting.  But remember, God is always here with us, and God will help us to help others in whatever way we can.

B: I can help Munchie make more fake balloons! (crunches paper in mouth)

P:  Just be sure you each keep your “balloons” to yourselves!

M: Yeah… (pulling away a bit)

P:  Let’s pray. Thank you, Jesus, for being with us, especially when we feel lonely.  Help us to see your love, and to share that love in the best ways we can, every day.  Amen

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The church often argues, did you know that? We proclaim the peace of God, but we argue about things like the color of the carpet, where to aim the projection, which candles to light when, and what kind of music to put in the worship service.  Today, people are even arguing about gathering together for worship, when that is a prime way of spreading the virus many of us can’t overcome.

But that’s not the argument that inspired my bringing up the fact that we argue!  That argument is what we do on the Sunday before Easter.  In my memory from the time of my childhood, we always celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  When I got to seminary, many told me I was doing it wrong, that we were supposed to read the entire Passion story, particularly because so few people actually came to worship to observe that part of the story on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Since our Holy Week observations will be online this week, just like our Sunday worship experience (with the slight variation that these are recorded ahead of time), everyone can participate, and I hope you all do.  That means that this year we can actually focus on Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, without moving at this point to what seems the more tragic part of the story, even though some will still say that I’m doing it wrong!

Today, we participate in the party, the party that recognizes Jesus as the conquering king riding home in humble position on a donkey—not a noble senior, but one untried, a young donkey.

This king, Jesus, is one who does not choose a gallant steed, an animal of war.  This king does not grasp for himself the honor due his position.  Instead, he empties himself in service to this creation. In another Gospel we read that Jesus takes the place of an actual servant, and washes the feet of his disciples, commanding them to love one another.  A few weeks ago we read how Jesus refuses Peter’s offer to build a structure on the mountain to try to keep the glory of the transfiguration that so few had witnessed from ending.

Peter wanted to share that party.  Peter wanted to keep that party going, and Jesus said no, because there really is a bigger party.

Our bigger party sometimes has balloons, and sometimes it has cake.  But sometimes it has just a phone call to someone who needs a loving voice. Sometimes it’s the delivery of groceries and basic necessities.  The bigger party is how we love one another day to day.

Our king, Jesus, the one who actually rules us today, will not tell us exactly how to love our neighbors, but gives us demonstrations all the time.  I won’t say today exactly how our king finally fully demonstrates God’s love for us, we’ll save that for later on this week, and for next Sunday.

I will, however, mention that celebrating Jesus as King is not always easy.  It’s not like praising an elected official who tells us what we want to hear. Celebrating Jesus as King is more like staying home as much as possible, because it helps to protect our neighbors. It’s like going to work in essential positions, because people need healthcare, and necessary infrastructure, and spiritual support, and food, and yes, even toilet paper!

One way we love our neighbor might be by wearing a mask in public, not as if it’s some kind of magic potion against the virus, but because it can protect others from what we might be breathing out if we happen to have the virus, with or without any symptoms.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, I saw one person with the leg of an old pair of sweat pants around her neck and over her face—that works. Someone typed that she used a banana, but I’m pretty sure she misspelled it, and meant bandana! 

Welcome to the party, as we celebrate Jesus as our King by loving the people Jesus loves, which is everybody.

Hosanna, loud hosanna!  Come, we that love the Lord, in Jesus’ name.  Amen