On One Cry for Peace
April 10, 2022
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!
Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
Today’s sermon is titled, On One Cry for Peace.
This week, amid some of the most atrocious war images I have ever seen, there were also many stories and images of relief and joy, even, as Ukrainian soldiers re-entered villages previously occupied by Russian forces. One such village on the outskirts of Kyiv is Nova Bassan. Video footage shows Ukrainian troops entering to the cheers and shouts of village residents, some coming out of their home for the first time in a month to welcome them, and to thank them. The UK Telegraph reports of a woman with an armload of fruit, calling out to the liberators,““Here please take these apples!” Her tears of relief and gratitude brought me to tears, too.
In another place, in a previous time, Jesus was similarly hailed. He entered the outskirts of Jerusalem on a donkey and the villagers waved palm branches and laid their cloaks on the road before him. Perhaps they offered him dates instead of apples. Like the Ukrainians, the Hebrew people are shouting and cheering. They sang out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, glory in the highest heaven!”
The subheading in my Bible calls this “Jesus’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem” but if we read carefully, the details of the story paint a very different picture. At a bend in the road where the city of Jerusalem first comes into view, the scriptures tell us, “As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.’”
On that very spot today, there is a small stone chapel, constructed in the shape of a teardrop. A large set of clear glass windows look out onto the old city and the light streams in to illuminate the domed ceiling. The chapel was constructed in the 1950’s; it has a Latin name, Dominus Flevit, translated the Lord wept.
Jesus cries for peace, much like the woman of Nova Bassan with her armload of apples. Jesus cries, I believe, for the sheer difficulty and magnitude of the work required to bring true and lasting peace when some only cling to power no matter the cost. Do you see, Friends? It is the same war that has been fought for millennia; it is the same war that continues to be fought today. Power corrupts us. Jesus saw this happening in his day and I think he cries out for peace and laments for the work that he will leave undone, the work of turning the hearts and minds of all people to God, the source of all peace, love and understanding.
I feel the need to pause here for prayer and I ask you to join me. Great giver of peace we know as God, I ask you to guide us to that place in the road where we can look into a future that seems daunting and yet our words and our actions can stem from a place of peace, a place of peace that is independent of our particular circumstances, a place of peace that comes as a gift from you, from the place within us where there is no distinction between us and you, where we are as one. In gratitude we pray, Amen.
You can tell I just want to hold on to this scene we are offered in the scriptures. It is a portrait of Jesus so tender and yet so selfless. He is riding into the capital city to meet his accusers, his most formidable adversaries; he is looking up that road and seeing the end of his life here on earth and yet he is lamenting that the people are not “recognizing the things that make for peace.” I have to ask myself, and I invite you to join me in asking, “What are the things that make for peace?” I’ve been turning this question every which way, all week long, and I readily admit that I made very little progress in formulating answers.
The most significant progress came in considering what things make for peace on a personal level. In contemplating the path to peace within, I was surprised to find myself led to a place I spent more than a decade of my life avoiding…the cross, and all it has come to represent, namely the sacrifice of Jesus’s life to prove that love is more powerful that sin, more powerful than even death. I can not say I completely understand this and perhaps I never will, but I keep coming around to it, especially every Easter, as I travel once again back to the events leading up to the crucifixion.
One of my favorite theologians, Anthony Robinson, proposed that instead of striving to understand the cross, we could instead choose to stand under, stand under the cross and be open to what it may reveal to us. Surprisingly, standing under the cross, remembering the redeeming power of forgiveness, recalling forgiveness being offered and forgiveness being received, peace is there. Can you recall it? Can you remember that sweet peace of reconciliation when balance is restored in a relationship, and within, after forgiveness is allowed to sweep through?
Theologian William Carter links Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem with the creation of peace in the following quote: “Jesus enters into a deadly situation without force or protection. He gives himself without reservation…as a sign of God’s vulnerable love. This is the means by which God creates peace.” This is the means by which God creates Peace! Listen to this one more time. “Jesus enters into a deadly situation without force or protection. He gives himself without reservation…as a sign of God’s vulnerable love.” What can this mean for us? I think it is this: we are called, like Jesus, to enter into the unknown dangers of our future, and to give of ourselves without reservation as a sign of God’s vulnerable love. This is the means by which God creates peace, in us and through us.
So as we face the unknown future and our own inevitable death, we are served to remember how Jesus rode into what seems like a hostile and dangerous city on a young colt, not on a high horse. As we face judgements and accusations, we are served to remember how Jesus gave of himself without reservation, asking God, even as he hung on the cross, to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” As we face our deepest fears, we are served to remember Jesus as a sign of God’s vulnerable love, and know that nothing we are called to face will be greater than what Jesus endured.
In closing, and as we enter Holy Week, I hope we can carry with us the memory of Jesus pausing on his way to Jerusalem, looking ahead and into his future, weeping and lamenting for the people who know not the things that make for peace. He weeps for us, still, I believe. May we find peace in ourselves through our giving, through our forgiving, and through the example of our teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.
God of Grace, we pray for Your healing light to shine on us this morning. May our bodies and our minds and the depths of our souls be illuminated by Your brilliance. With You working in and through us, we are limitless; help us to love with a divine love that leaves no room for fear. Help us to access knowledge beyond our knowing, so that as we follow Christ we carry His wisdom within us. May we be the peace that overgrows violence. May we be the caring that overgrows apathy. May we be the welcome that overgrows isolation. God, we pray your healing light upon our world and upon every brother and sister in the family of humanity. In sensing our worth as recipients of Your love, may we become more able to love one another. Through this prayer that Jesus gave us, hear our voice as one church, united in Your service…Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever and ever. Amen.
I leave you with these words from 2 Corinthians 13:11:
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.