“The Lord Has Need of It” Rev. Danielle K Bartz
So often on Palm Sunday, the start of the holiest week for Christians, we have a triumphal service. We shout Hosanna and wave our palms. We celebrate that Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem, after a few years of wandering in the countryside and ministering to the most in need. On Palm Sunday we like to rejoice that Jesus enters into Jerusalem, despite the danger that he knew awaited him there. We awe that he entered through those gates not as someone looking for power, but on the back of a humble donkey. Palm Sunday is a vivid reminder that Jesus was on earth to serve, and not to be served. Jesus was amongst the people, bringing attention to the Good News of God, and the very way he entered Jerusalem, that place of centralized power, just proves that Jesus was living into reality his promise of God’s love for everyone.
In year’s past, Palm Sunday has been a day of celebration, rejoicing, and preparation, for we know that the events of Holy Week will take a quick turn. But this year is not like other years. The world has changed, and trying to carry on like it has not, just makes no sense to me. In many ways, rejoicing in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem feels empty and may even ring hollow. We are not in our sanctuary waving our palms together and raising our voices together to shout Hosanna. Instead we are in our homes, working to experience the presence of the Divine in new ways. We are, as I have said before, a church without walls. But we are still a church. And, for a time, we are experiencing and practicing our faith without the majesty of community worship that we have gotten so used to.
My Beloved Community, I know this doesn’t feel right for a lot of people. It is a further reminder of the discomfort and grief we are all experiencing. But there is something extraordinary about worshipping in this way. Because it allows us to lend Christ our homes. To lend Christ our tables. To lend to Christ the ordinary things of our lives and allow Christ to make them holy. We are being asked to give to Christ our space, our things, and allowing God to use them to bring the holy into our homes.
This is nothing new. The ancient church, the earliest believers and followers of Jesus, worshipped in their homes. They took what they had, prayed over them, allowed God to use them, and brought the holy into their homes. Those earliest communities waited to receive letters from Paul, that helped them to understand what it means to worship God through the example of Jesus Christ. They took those materials, those worship materials that were sent out to them, and used them to bring God into their spaces. We are doing nothing new. We are instead stepping back to the earliest and simplest way of worshipping. We are letting go of so much, but that helps to make room for God to move freely. And God is moving freely in the world. But first we must allow God to use our things, our spaces, us to make everything holy.
Indeed, people have been asked throughout time to lend their things to God. Jesus, to fulfill the prophecy uttered by Zechariah, entered into Jerusalem, not on the back of a large and mighty steed, but rather a simple animal, a donkey. But first he needed somone to lend him what he needed. Jesus sent ahead two of his disciples to find this donkey and told its owner, “The Lord needs them.” The Lord needs what you have and the Lord will make them holy.
Imagine, for a moment, how that person felt as these two disciples said the Savior of humanity needed his donkey. Just imagine, being told those simple animals were going to carry through the gates of Jerusalem the one who had long been promised to save the people. To bring to the people God and to bring God to the people. Jesus had, at this time, developed quite a reputation. People knew who he was and were excited that he was coming. The person who owned the donkey was likely aware of the extraordinary moment that he was being asked to participate in. To lend his property to fulfill this extraordinary moment. I am sure he knew how remarkable this was. And I am sure he did not feel worthy. What made his donkey so special? What made him so special? What made his things worthy of being holy? Of helping to carry God into the world. I am sure he felt unworthy and confused about why him. But, we know that God can use the simplest things from people who have been told and have started to believe for themselves that they are not worthy to experience and make real the divine. Jesus, God doesn’t care about those rules and assumptions. Everything is holy. Everyone is worthy to make the holy known.
During this time in a world where so many of the spaces that have been set apart to worship God are closed, we are being asked the same thing. We are being asked to lend our spaces, our homes, our tables to God. We are being asked to recognize that God can make holy all of those things that we take for granted. In a few minutes, we will be celebrating in a way that none of us has ever done before the sacrament of Holy Communion. And we are doing so knowing that the simple act of lending our tables and our bread and our drink to God makes them holy. That God can use the simplest of things to bring us closer to God and therefore closer to one another in Spirit. The Lord has need of them, the Lord needs you to lend your things to God and by doing so they will be blessed, and therefore you will be blessed.
It feels strange, believe me I know. It feels strange that the simple things of our lives can and will become holy. It feels strange that we can participate the central sacrament of our faith in our own time, with our own things, in our own spaces and still experience God. I am sure it felt strange to the owner of that donkey, knowing that his simple animal was going to help Jesus fulfill a long promised prophecy. But, the Lord had need of it. Beloved Community, the Lord has need of your homes and tables to make them holy. Because they are. And they have always been – God has never existed solely within the church walls. God has always existed in all places. God has always made holy all the things of our lives.
So, today we are setting aside the majesty that we have come to love about Palm Sunday and instead answering Christ’s call to lend ourselves and our spaces to God. And we will experience the holy. We will experience the promise of our faith. We will experience God amongst us. We will experience the grandness of God who transcends all spaces, all times, all ways of being together in community. God has need of it. Let us lend to God what God needs.
Please be in prayer with me.
God of promise, we have been told over and over again that you exist in all things. That all of your creation carries a spark of your divine presence. We have been told this over and over again and yet we still have our doubts. We still worry that we are not good enough. That our things are not good enough. So, in this time of prayer we ask that you relieve us of our doubts. Take them away so we can experience more fully your presence in our lives. Help us to make room for you and help us to take those things of our lives and allow you to use them to draw us closer to you.
Good and Great God, as we lend our spaces and tables to you, we do this knowing that so many in the world right now feel separated from you. We know that so many are drowning in their own fears. We know that so many cannot see beyond the harsh veil of illness and anxiety. So, just as we pray that you make our spaces holy, we also pray that your holiness shine through all spaces and for all people. Because it is by leaning fully into your arms that we can experience your peace – a peace that overcomes everything that makes us afraid.
Now, just as we have lent our spaces and our things to do you, we open ourselves up to experience your presence. In these moments of silence, fill our Spirits with your still-speaking voice and help us to hear what you need us to remember…
God, you know our prayers. And in your mercy, you hear our prayers.
We pray today and all days in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who came into our world to help us experience you in so many different ways. The one who entered into a world of power to serve. The one who is our teacher and guide along our own paths. And the one who taught us how to pray together by saying…Our Father…