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On Palm Sunday we hear two Gospel readings.
These two readings are dramatically different.
The first reading from the Gospel of Matthew celebrates Jesus as the triumphant messiah who comes to live among us.
The crowd spreads their cloaks on the road.
Some cut branches from trees and spread them on the road as a way of honoring Jesus.
The second reading tells of Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.
Jesus’ suffering reflects back to us all the unjust suffering in the world and all the senseless violence in the world.
Jesus, an innocent man, suffering, dying by the hand of the crowd and by those in power.
But from the cross God does something that no one anticipates.
On the cross God does something new.
God does something that only God can do.
God does something holy, something sacred, something that will benefit all of creation.
God takes the suffering, the passion, and the death of his son and redeems it.
God transmutes the cross into a miracle for you and for me.
Now whenever we look upon the cross, we do not receive condemnation but we receive life-giving grace.
On the cross Jesus prays that God would forgive those who crucified him.
And God forgives.
The crowd that shouted for him to be crucified.
God forgave them.
The disciples who abandoned Jesus.
God forgave them.
Pilate and those in power who ordered the crucifixion.
God forgave them.
Today we who regularly sin and who regularly abandon Jesus.
God forgives us.
The Holy Spirit forgives.
This is truly the Gospel in its purest form.
The radical message of God’s enduring, persistent grace.
The meaning of grace is to receive something that we do not deserve.
We often live our lives with a great sense of entitlement.
We believe that we have a right for the things we want in our life and we often take without thinking about how our taking affects other people.
When it comes to our faith in God, we often approach God with a great feeling of entitlement.
We demand things from God.
We even demand God’s grace and forgiveness.
But the truth is that we do not deserve any of these gifts from God.
Scripture clearly points out that we fall time and time again from the ways of God.
But the miracle of Palm Sunday is shouting at us this day.
God chooses to give even though we do not deserve God’s love and forgiveness.
God loves us and forgives us because God is good.
It is not because we are so good.
It is because God is so good.
We don’t deserve any of God’s good blessings.
We are not entitled to anything from God.
We receive God’s blessings and forgiveness because God chooses to give to us these things.
This is the miracle of Palm Sunday.
The definition of miracle is an extraordinary and astonishing happening, that surpasses all known human or natural powers, and that great happening is attributed to the action of God.
A miracle points to the power of God at work in the world.
The great writer C.S. Lewis once said that a miracle is something so unique that is breaks a pattern so expected and established that we hardly even consider the possibility that it could be broken.
In other words, a miracle completely disrupts our typical way of looking at things.
A miracle has the power to create a shift in our thinking about the world.
A miracle has the power to create a shift in our understanding of who God is.
This is what happens on Palm Sunday.
For in the miracle of Palm Sunday we know by faith that…
On this day we know that God forgives.
On the cross-God choses to reconcile the world back to God’s-self.
And then God does one more thing.
The cross and the forgiveness that we receive from God through the cross is not the end of the story.
There is still much more.
This is only the beginning for us.
After the cross, after the miracle of what God is doing here, God pushes us forward to join him in mission.
After the cross God invites us to join him in taking part in the healing of the world.
As we are forgiven, healed, and set free from that which would hold us captive
– God sends us out to be missionaries, healers, and workers in God’s new kingdom.
God’s new kingdom is marked with love and grace and this is all possible because of the miracle of the cross.
The cross is the bridge by which all people are forgiven, by which all people are invited to come to God, by which we join God in mission and in ministry.
God chooses the way of the cross so that we might be have new life.
On Palm Sunday we enter into this new life with all the restorative healing power that comes from God.
As followers of Jesus this new life only comes to us by this most holy and sacred way.
It is the way of the cross.
And the cross is the way to Easter.
This coming week is the holiest week of the entire church year.
This coming week we anticipate our Lord’s resurrection.
We wait for it and we hope for it, knowing by faith that it will indeed come.
You and I are witnesses.
Forgiveness, new life, grace it is all around us at this time of the church year.
Praise be to God!
Blessed is the coming kingdom!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
As a sign of our hope in the coming of our Lord.
I invite us to cut a branch today from a tree in our backyard.
Then to attach the branch to our front doors as a reminder of the miracle of Palm Sunday.
After you attach the branch to your front door
-pray that Jesus would come into your house and be a part of this Holy Week for you and your family.
Finally, if you have a Facebook account, I invite you to take a picture and post it with the title:
“The miracle of Palm Sunday,” and then share on Facebook what this means for you.
I am going to do that today as well so check my Facebook page and the church’s Facebook page.
If you have not already you are welcome to friend me at Tom Dowling or the church Facebook page at Williams Bay Lutheran Church.
I will be posting on both pages with branches on the front doors of the church and my home apartment with the caption: “The Miracle of Palm Sunday.”
Then I am going to write what that means to me.
Let us give voice to our faith this day.
May we find our voices this day in proclaiming the wonderful miracle of Palm Sunday that in Christ we are forgiven and loved by God.
I hope that this coming week you might experience moments of grace.
May you feel the mystical connection of being a part of the whole Body of Christ this Holy Week.
May you feel wave after wave of pure, real grace coming from the Lord.
And may you be surprised by God’s rich affection poured out for us in Jesus.