Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for Palm Sunday (March 24, 2024)

(Youth from the Estamos Unidos Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC, helping to replace an old and rotten deck on the home of an elderly woman who lives near Sparta, NC)

You Don’t Always Get What You Want
by Bishop Chris Giesler

Sermon Text: Mark 11:1-11 (For this day, there is a lectionary option for reading Mark 14:1-15:47. This is Mark’s version of Jesus’ week in Jerusalem leading up to his crucifixion.  However, since many Moravian congregations will be reading about these events using the Readings for Holy Week, I have chosen to use Mark’s account of Palm Sunday).

I love going to a local Indian Restaurant that features an excellent lunch buffet. On that buffet, my favorite dish is their Chicken Tikki Masala.  The last time I ate there, I filled my plate with this delicacy and could not wait to eat it.  But with that first bite, I discovered I did not get the Chicken Tikki Masala; instead, I got the vegetarian version with tofu.   There is nothing wrong with tofu, but to me, it just does not taste as good as chicken. I was certainly disappointed.

We are a people of expectations, aren’t we?  We want to be satisfied; we want to be happy; we want to get our money’s worth; we don’t like surprises.

Look at the crowds on Palm Sunday.  It was a party, a celebration that erupted out of nowhere and was meant to celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem.  Why such excitement? People thought they were getting something!  Jesus had gained a reputation as one who could heal the sick and comfort the downhearted.  He was known for his compassion towards the poor (and the great majority of Israel’s population at that time were dirt poor). He was also known as an inspiring leader, teacher, and preacher, and as such, he came to be seen as perhaps the one who could rally the faithful to rise up and kick the Romans out.  So, on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, expectations ran high, but they were selfish ones.  We can get something out of this man! But the plain truth is that as the week wore on, Jesus spoke more about commitment than he did about the Roman occupation.

So why did the chants of “Hosanna” on Sunday turn into the shouts of “Crucify Him” on Friday?  Here are a few clues:

  1. He asked for a commitment to a life of generosity to others. Remember the rich young ruler who asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? Jesus told him to sell all his riches and give them to people experiencing poverty, then follow him.
  2. While Jesus drove out the money changers and animal dealers in the temple, he invited the outcasts. He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.” This is no way to score points with the religious leaders or the folks who were making good money off the Passover tourists who had come to Jerusalem.  This was an excellent fund-raiser for the church, after all.
  3. Finally, Jesus began to talk more and more about sacrificial giving: Give water to the thirsty, give your time by visiting the sick and imprisoned, give food to the hungry, and give clothes to the naked. Give, give, give—not what the crowd wanted to hear. They, like us, would much rather hear what we are getting instead.

People wanted the quick road to happiness with a political victory. Jesus taught, lived, and gave witness to a life of deep meaning and mission.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday, we can ponder whether we are Christians because of how we hope to be rewarded or whether we are following in Jesus’ footsteps and seeking ways to help others.  Is our concern only for our eternal reward, or is it to care for the needs of others just as Jesus did?