PALM/PASSION SUNDAY AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Three years ago you were here and I wasn’t, because I was sitting in a wheel chair in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Stratford celebrating my first palm Sunday away from you in 17 years. Hard? Yes, that was hard. At the time I couldn’t imagine anything harder. At that point I could stand again, and with help, even take a few steps, but if and when I’d be back with you, that was not clear. Yes, as hard as that all was, I could never have imagined a Palm Sunday like today, where I’d be up here looking out at all the places where you normally sit, seeing you there in my mind’s eye, but not having you here in the flesh. Hard? Yes, this is hard, perhaps even harder.
My constant prayer and plea is the same now, as it was back then, that the Lord in His mercy would restore us to one another. The very fact that I am standing here today is proof that such prayers do not fall on deaf ears when they rise up to the heavens, but are heard and answered. According to God’s plan and timing, yes, but answered they are, whether now or in eternity. I know that that is something that can be hard to hold on to, beloved, in trying times like these, where the number of new cases of the virus that afflicts us rises daily and each new announcement from the government extends the time that we’re being asked to stay apart.
We’re all doing our best to do our part, keeping strangers and even those that we know and love at least 6 feet away from us, staying shut up in our homes and trying our best to work, study or just pass the time without losing our minds and yet with each passing day hope seems to get dashed, as numbers continue to rise and the virus strikes ever closer to home. Palm Sunday of course is a good day to reflect on dashed hopes in this fallen world, because, yes, there’s a whole lot of that going on as we move quickly from the cheering crowds lining the way with their waving palms as Christ enters Jerusalem, to seeing Him battered and beaten hanging with a thorn crowned head on a cross outside the city wall.
Dashed hopes. Yes, life in this sinful world has just a little of that doesn’t it? It kind of goes hand in hand with the whole death thing, that Adam and Eve brought on us when they turned their backs on God’s Word and ate what He had told them not to eat. Ever since that day there have been mornings like the ones that we’ve been living through in these past few weeks, where you turn on the news hoping for the best only to hear about what’s worse. I’ve long believed, especially when it comes to the CBC, that no news is good news. I know that the saying is supposed to mean that if you don’t hear anything you can assume all’s good, but I’ve taken it in another way, that there’s not much good to hear about on the news and so its better sometimes to just shut it off.
I know in these difficult days that we need to know what’s going on, but for the sake of my own mental health and the mental health of others, it’s probably not a bad idea to turn the news off sometimes, and heed the words of one wise young person at our dinner table, “Can we not talk about something else?” Because, yes, it does get tiring and just a little discouraging to have your hopes dashed day by day, and no, that doesn’t lead you anywhere good. It not only makes it hard to stay positive and productive but it can drive you to anger and frustration toward others, such as the government, because you think they should have done something different much sooner, and those poor snowbirds or kids from a school trip and anyone else, that you convince yourself didn’t properly quarantine themselves but helped spread this virus all over the place.
Dashed hopes, yes, there’s a bit of that in life. You don’t have to live long to find that out. Whether its the Christmas morning or birthday party that doesn’t go as planned, or its the wonderful wedding with butterflies and roses that leads into real life among the burdocks and black flies, or whether its the beautiful bundle of joy that you take home from the hospital, that cries continuously for nights on end, or those long looked for retirement days that are supposed to free you from having to be at work for nine only to require you to be at the doctor’s office for 8:45, or whether its the medical treatment that should cure you that doesn’t work or does more harm then good. Yes, life has just a little hope dashing in it, doesn’t it?
Dashed hopes, yes, there’s a bit of that going on in Jerusalem this day, for the disciples, and even one has to wonder, for the Lord Jesus. As very God of very God, there’s no question that Jesus knew what lay ahead for Him in Jerusalem. He mentions it often enough in the Gospels. No, He’s not naive about where He’s riding that donkey to, when He enters the city to the cheering of the pilgrim crowds, but you can’t help but wonder how it was for Him as true man to have the cheering crowds give way to the jeering mob, the joyful hosannas to the hatefilled “Crucify Him,” the waving palms to the lashing whip and the gentle donkey to the heavy cross. The Lord didn’t entrust Himself to men because He knew what was in their hearts, but all the same it had to be tough.
Tough, yes, it was that, beloved. After all, even when we know that someone will let us down, because they always have, it’s still hard and hurts when they do. Just because Jesus knew where everything was going didn’t mean that He didn’t know all that we know with our disappointments in this world. Yes, out of love for us, He went through all that too. In fact He gathered up all our dashed hopes from the first ones dashed when Adam and Eve ate the fruit to the very last ones on the last day into Himself at that moment. He took them all into Himself and carried them in His heart right up to the cross, where He groaned out His final pleas up to a silent heaven and had His last hopes dashed with His final breath.
There was, is and never shall be any greater or deeper dashing of hope, beloved, than the one that can be heard in Christ’s mournful cry, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, in that moment there is a dashing of hope from the highest heights of heaven down to the deepest depths of hell for the Son of God. No matter what we face or go through in this life, nothing can ever come close to what Jesus goes through in that moment, beloved, and so yes, He knows and understands what we’re feeling these days as the hopes of each new day come crashing down with every new report. He knows and understands and is with us in it all to comfort and strengthen us. But He goes through all that we go through to do and be far more than just that for us, beloved. The Son of God has His hope as man dashed beyond all imagining to give us an undashable hope in Him.
Undashable hope, yes, beloved, that is what we have in Christ - a hope for a better tomorrow, a better life, in a better world. A hope that cannot and will not be disappointed - the Son of God guaranteed that when He mounted that foal of a donkey and humbly rode it into Jerusalem to take on all our dashed hopes and dreams and suffer and die in complete and utter hopelessness on the cross. Yes, He swallowed it all up into Himself and brought an end to it all, so that He could give you the undashable hope of eternal life through the forgiveness of all your sins.
And so on this special day and on the ones to come, I encourage you then, to keep setting your hope where true hope is found - in Christ. No, morning by morning He cannot and will not disappoint you because He and He alone is the undashable one - a rolled away stone and empty tomb made that perfectly clear for all time. Amen.