Sorry about the long posting silence – I was ill and then life happened – but here is a sermon I preached a few years ago for Palm Sunday
[Sermon began with holding up examples of famous brands’ slogans]
These slogans are just a few examples of some of the extravagant claims advertisers make for the things they sell.
Each one claims to be the best product or provide the best service on the market.
As we become surrounded by more and more products and more and more choice, businesses try harder and harder to get our attention, with humour, creative ideas or simply shouting louder with bolder claims.
It’s all very simple really: every advertised item is special, unique, significant, even essential to our lives, even if it is just a slightly different-tasting drink.
And sometimes people can be like this too.
Sometimes we might come across people who are too full of their own importance and convinced that no-one else can possibly be as good.
People like this tend to blow their own trumpets and want everyone to show them huge amounts of respect and honour.
But the story of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem shows that this isn’t the way that God’s kingdom works.
There are two parades on Palm Sunday.
One of them we don’t read about in the Bible but it happened every year.
It’s Passover; thousands of pilgrims are streaming into Jerusalem.
So the Roman government needs to show who’s king, just in case anyone has any ideas about getting the crowds to turn against their rulers.
Caesar is king—everybody knows it.
So Pilate, the mighty Roman governor, parades into town on a great white horse.
Meanwhile, Jesus rides in on a small, borrowed donkey.
Pilate is accompanied by a legion of Roman soldiers, the greatest army in the world.
Meanwhile, Jesus is surrounded by ordinary people waving branches around and nearly taking each other’s eyes out.
Pilate means to leave no doubt about who is in charge.
But then there’s Jesus.
As he comes into Jerusalem Jesus is choosing to act out what he is.
If we’d had the John reading today we would also have heard that Jesus is fulfilling the words of the prophet Zechariah: ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
Jesus is coming into Jerusalem as king, and the crowds recognise that he’s the king and shout and cheer for him.
Yet he’s riding on a humble beast of burden that isn’t even his.
What kind of king rides in his coronation parade on a borrowed donkey?
This doesn’t make sense in a world where everything must be made to sound bigger and better to attract attention, and where power is shown through displays of wealth and strength.
But it does make sense in God’s Kingdom.
In a direct contrast and challenge to the might of the Roman Empire, Jesus shows a different way of being great.
In God’s Kingdom, greatness is achieved through humility, service and love.
In God’s Kingdom, the first shall be last, and the greatest must be the servant of all.
To truly understand what all this means, though, we cannot stay here in the procession into Jerusalem.
Jesus is going to the cross and will not turn away.
He is facing the pain that lies only a few days away and the worst that the world can do to him.
The path to Easter is a difficult one that goes through betrayal, loss, pain and death but Jesus, our king, follows it because in God’s kingdom victory comes through service and self-sacrificing love.
There’s a challenge to us in the example of Jesus today.
Will we be like the adverts – full of exaggerated claims of our own importance?
Will we be like the Roman Empire – forcing people to fall into line with us through displays of power?
Or will we be like Jesus – knowing who and what we are, and ready to walk with him down the path of love and self-sacrifice to the victory of Easter?