Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday 2019
April 14, 2019
Exodus 34:1-8
“A New Beginning”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior and Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon today as we begin our Holy Week journey together is the First Lesson read from Exodus 34.

My dear friends,

Jimmy Wayne learned never to trust a soul. That’s why he never unpacked his bag. We can’t blame him. Jimmy Wayne never knew his father, and his mother spent more time in jail than out of jail. When he was a small child, his mother got out of jail…again and took up with a troublemaker…again. They loaded Jimmy into the backseat of their Oldsmobile Delta 88. For a year the car was Jimmy’s home. He learned never to trust a soul. That’s why Jimmy Wayne never unpacked his bag. After living in the back seat of a car for a year, Jimmy Wayne was dumped off at the train depot in Pensacola, Florida. His mother and her boyfriend sped away in their Delta 88. Jimmy Wayne desperately needed a new beginning.
As we begin Holy Week 2019 and celebrate Palm Sunday, we do so with Exodus 34. It’s all about a new beginning. Aaron, Israel’s high priest, needs a new beginning. So does Israel. And—most certainly—so do we! A new beginning is absolutely necessary. Why is that? In Exodus 32, Aaron and the Israelites were faced with a huge crisis. They hadn’t seen Moses for 40 days and 40 nights; was Moses dead? Did Moses leave them? Aaron and the Israelites grew impatient so they made a golden calf and they worshipped it! What does Moses do when he comes down from Mt. Sinai? Moses smashes the Ten Commandments, grinds up the golden calf, mixes it with water, and makes the people drink it!
So, we pick up the narrative today in Exodus 34:1, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke” The Ten Commandments have been smashed! That’s not good; they defined how Israel was to be God’s people; after 400+ years as slaves, they didn’t know “how” to act. Whoa…That’s why new beginnings are absolutely necessary.
Let’s face it. We’re not that much different than Aaron and the Israelites. Sure, making mistakes is a part of life’s imperfections. But what do we frequently do when faced with a crisis? Instead of turning to the 10 Commandments for guidance, we become angry, impatient, faithless, and selfish. We sinfully turn to our “golden calves” and look to them for deliverance. God—the holy and righteous and perfect God—this God has every right to dump the hot mess that is humanity off at a train depot in Pensacola and ride off into the sunset. But he doesn’t! Our God doesn’t do that!
And because God doesn’t do that, a new beginning is completely and totally possible. The Lord comes down and said to Moses about Himself, “The LORD, the LORD, (is) merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…(and) forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Don’t know about you, but I find it reassuring that Yahweh frequently comes down in the book of Exodus. We can’t go up to God. That’s why God comes down to us, right where we are wherever we are—in the basement of your brokenness and broken lives and broken commandments.
And what does God do when he comes down? Scold you? Shame you? Berate you? Reject you? Condemn you? No! He doesn’t come to say “You’ve been bad!” God comes into the midst of your anger, anxiety, and angst and He cries out in reminder that He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness and forgiving sin. No matter how difficult, dark, or daunting your life and situation may feel, a new beginning is totally possible!
And so that brings us to Palm Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey on a Sunday because the following Friday he is going to lift up the hot mess that is our sin and place it where? Upon Himself—all wickedness, rebellion, and sin; to give us an eternally new beginning! Jesus is, in the flesh, as He said to Moses thousands of years before, “the merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” (x3) Jesus teaches this love. Jesus lives this love. Jesus demonstrates this love by shedding his blood on the cross for you. Palm Sunday announces it. Good Friday shows it. And Easter Sunday celebrates it! You and I can now rejoice – bask – in that love as it compels us to love others. His love and grace truly are Amazing!
One day, while aimlessly walking around Pensacola, Jimmy Wayne—remember Jimmy Wayne?—little Jimmy Wayne spotted a man named Russ working in his garage. Russ’ yard needed to be mowed and Jimmy could push a mower. Soon Russ and his wife Bea invited Jimmy to live with them. The home was like heaven! A hot bath, hot meals, and even TV! Jimmy Wayne, though, had learned never to trust a soul. Jimmy Wayne still wouldn’t unpack his bag. It took another month before Russ and Bea convinced Jimmy that their love for him was real. So finally, finally—Jimmy Wayne unpacked his bag! He made himself at home.
Jimmy Wayne grew up, got a job as a correctional facility guard, and got advice about songwriting from an inmate. Then he moved to Nashville to pursue a music career. Jimmy Wayne is now a famous country music singer and songwriter. He signed a recording contract, released 3 studio albums, had 9 Top 50 Country hit songs and a #1 hit song in 2008. In addition to music, he is a public speaker, author, and advocate for foster care. His new beginning started when he learned to trust—when he learned to truly love because someone loved him back – and he finally unpacked his bag. And now he’s a country music star.
Friends, our past is behind us; we accept our past. God’s grace is before us; we treasure the present. A new beginning awaits us; we trust the future. So now what? It’s time to unpack our bag! Why do that? Because we finally have a home. Where? Here. With Jesus! Unpack your bag…all your baggage. Jesus would have it no other way. Welcome home!
Welcome to Holy Week in the year of our Lord 2019.
Amen.