April 5, 2020 – Palm Sunday
Mark 11:1-11 and Mark 14:3-9
Scripture 1 – Mark 11:1-11
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.” ’ They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’ They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
This is a familiar story. One we read every year. But this year, it’s different. We are used to meeting together to celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as people have celebrated for the last 2000 years. But this year, we can’t all be together. In our situation, the key word of that first Sunday is even more relevant.
The word, Hosanna, is actually a prayer, asking for God’s help. Hosanna means “God Save us!” We sure need God’s help now! As we see the numbers of those sick with COVID-19 rising its worrisome. As we hear the predictions of what is to come, it’s frightening. Our hearts cry out… Hosanna, God save us!
When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey the people thought they were welcoming a prophet. Jesus seemed to be fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. He was thought to be a king coming to free his oppressed people and bring peace. They threw their cloaks before him and waved their branches as a gesture of welcome and honor.
On this Palm Sunday we come with hopes for God’s saving work among us. We remember Jesus’ power to heal people of all their diseases. We join our voices with the travelers of that first palm procession day shouting…Hosanna, God save us!
After Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, early that Holy Week, he met with friends for dinner.
Let’s hear that story from Mark 14.
Scripture 2 – Mark 14:3-9
While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’
The phrase from the passage we have just read, which jumped out at me, is “She has done what she could…”
As we reflect on all that has happened in the last few weeks it is easy to get overwhelmed. There has been so much change to our daily lives. For many of us even the way we get our groceries has changed! There have been so many plans cancelled – Graduation ceremonies for students finishing high school or college. Vacation plans and travel plans. For some it is elective surgical procedure postponed indefinitely, though the problem needing surgical treatment has not gone away. Probably one of the most difficult things to postpone is funerals. Even the ways we support one another in grief has had to change!
As we think ahead, to how the world is going to look when we finally get back up and running, we wonder how this is going to work. How will the businesses we have come to know and depend on, open their doors and start again? Will they? We know that some will probably not. My husband, Randy, learned that a favorite donut shop will not be reopening. It’s just donuts, but there is a sense of loss that goes with that. What about the people who worked in these jobs, who have been laid off? When COVID is done, will they have jobs to go back to? We hope so! But it’s hard to know.
As we think about people who are impacted by this disease, it seems so strange that some people can have COVID-19 and not even know it, or have a really mild case, while others are terribly sick and thousands are dying from it. We can’t help but wonder who might we lose to this pandemic? I heard on Friday that Ellis Marsalis died from COVID-19. He is a famous jazz player who we saw at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I’m sad to learn of his passing. We got news that the first person in Chisago County died of COVID-19 this week. That hits close to home! We worry about who else we may lose to this illness.
The more we think about it, the more overwhelming it can become. But then we remember this woman our scripture, the one who anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume.
In the book of Mark she is not named. The Gospel of John identifies her as Lazarus’ sister, Mary. The woman in this story was very grateful to Jesus. If it was Lazarus’s sister, Jesus had raised her brother from the dead. How do you thank someone for bringing your brother back to life? Even this expensive perfume, is but a token of her appreciation. There was no adequate way to thank Jesus for what he had done for her. But she did what she could.
These words from our gospel are good news for us in this uncertain time “But she did what she could.” That’s all she could do. And that’s all that we can do. This verse is a message of grace for us.
Amidst all of this uncertainty we are living with today, we do what we can. We need to be gracious with ourselves, as Jesus was gracious with this woman. Many of us have high expectations of ourselves. It’s disappointing when we can’t do all that we usually do. But these are unusual circumstances. So we need to know we can only do what we can do.
The traditional ways we celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter can’t happen this year. But we do what we can.
The plans we all had for the next few months, are put on hold. But we do what we can.
Our kid’s education is being interrupted. But we do what we can.
We don’t know what our financial future holds or what our job situation will look like. But we do what we can.
God is with us in the midst of all this uncertainty, letting us know that he’s got this. We don’t have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. God is carrying it for us. We don’t need to do what is no longer possible to do. We just need to do what we can.
And when we do what we can do, even little things take on great significance.
Some of you are making masks. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, a little bit of cloth. A few stitches. But to the person who wears those masks, it is a real gift. To the person who is spared from getting COVID-19 because of those masks, it can be a life saver. You do what you can.
Maybe you have chickens who are laying lots of eggs. Some of the stores are running out of eggs, so you offer eggs to a neighbor. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but to the person who gets the eggs, it is really helpful. You do what you can.
Maybe you are having to learn new technology quickly and are struggling to figure out how it all works. Someone who knows it well takes the time to walk you through it step-by-step, patiently helping you figure it out. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to the person who knows the technology, but to the person who can now do their job, or help their kids with their schoolwork, or keep in touch with loved ones, learning this new technology is a game changer. You do what you can.
Each of us has ways we can help one another during this time. Each of us has gifts that others lack. As we take the time to notice what others need and help one another, it makes a huge difference, supporting all of us in getting through this.
Acts of kindness that you do may be small and insignificant in your eyes, but God can take these small things and bless them and use them for good.
So don’t get overwhelmed, trying to find ways to do more that you can possibly do. Bring what you have to God, ask him to guide you and – just do what you can!
So on this Palm Sunday I have really two messages for you from our scriptures. First – remember that Hosanna means “God save us!” In this uncertain time, “Hosanna” is a heartfelt prayer. Look to God to save you, in whatever ways you need saving. And trust that God is there for you and will be there for you and will save you. The God who created you and loves you sent his son to save you is there for you. You can trust God to save you. That’s the whole point of Holy Week.
Second even if life feels overwhelming right now, you don’t have to do more than you can do. These are not normal times. None of us is able to do all that we would do in normal times. And that’s okay. Just do what you can do and trust that with God’s help it will be enough. Amen
Prayer and Lord’s Prayer
Thank you for all who have been contributing to support Immanuel’s ministry!
It’s easy to give securely online at www.ImmanuelAlmelund.org
Or mail offering to:
Immanuel Lutheran Church
37515 Park Trail
Almelund, MN 55012
For Holy Week we are planning on a Fireside Chat on Wednesday, April 8 – accessible on my Facebook page (Marla Amborn) at 3:00 PM and saved on Immanuel’s Facebook page and website www.ImmanuelAlmelund.org afterwards. We’re not going to do separate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday worship services, but the message I will give on Wednesday will be fitting for all of Holy Week.
I also encourage you to read the scripture this week, especially the stories of Jesus’ last week. You can find these stories toward the end of each of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This is a good time to dig into your Bible and read and discuss these stories with family members.
We will have an Easter worship service April 12 at 9:30 AM on my Facebook page.
And now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.(Ephesians 3:20-21)
Go in peace, serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!