Echoing Angels – April 14, 2019

Echoing Angels

A Sermon by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Luke 19:28-40

April 14, 2019

Main Idea: Jesus brings us peace.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

For the season of Lent we were in the wilderness, using our 5 senses to comprehend ourselves as disciples of Christ.  Today we are no longer in the wilderness, we are at a parade!  Today’s story is so familiar to us that we might be surprised to notice that Luke’s account of Palm Sunday does not include palms! or Hosannas! or little children singing!   Luke is focused on other things; namely the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.  Jesus brings us peace.

Our story for today does not start on a hill outside Jerusalem.  It starts on a hill outside Bethlehem.  “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” Luke (2:8-14)

On the day of Jesus’ birth a multitude of angels were praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth among those whom he favors!’   On Palm Sunday, as Jesus approached Jerusalem, “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, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 

Multitudes of angels singing of peace on earth and multitudes of people singing of peace in heaven, all singing of glory in the highest heaven.  And the subject of this singing is Jesus, this preacher from Nazareth, a king on a colt, the Incarnation of God, friend of the outcast, fully human and fully divine, embodying peace for heaven and earth.

The angels’ song was not just a birth announcement; it was a declaration of what Jesus’ ministry would be all about. The theme of peace is an important one in the Gospel of Luke;  Luke uses the word 14 times, much more than the other gospels.  Jesus’ peace is not simply the absence of conflict. It is nothing like the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, which enforced compliance with an iron fist.  Jesus’ peace is the bountiful life which comes from living in justice and harmony with God and with neighbors.  It is a life lived in and through the grace of God.  This peace is “for those whom God favors”; namely, the poor, the outcasts, and the vulnerable.

When the multitude of disciples sang of peace and glory, they were affirming Jesus’ ministry and his unique calling from birth. They sang of the deeds of power they had seen and their hope that Jesus would save them from the oppression of Rome.  They recognized the reality of the Kingdom of God in their midst and the hopes of heaven realized in the person of Jesus. They did not sing of “peace on earth” for they knew that Jesus’ peace caused division among those in power. True peace on earth, as God envisions it, still does not yet exist. 

As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he was cheered by the songs of his disciples but he knew that the way forward would be difficult.  Once he entered Jerusalem 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.” (19:42). 

The days between now and Easter are hard and full of grief.  Peace will be in short supply among the disciples who argue amongst themselves and let Jesus down when he is in need.  Peace will be absent from Judas who betrays him.  Peace will be lost among the religious authorities who plot and the crowds that will shout for Jesus’ death.

But peace remains with Jesus.  He recognizes that suffering will come, that the cross looms large, but that nothing can separate him from God.  

The peace of Christ is available to us when we turn our hearts and our lives over to God.   When we rest in God’s grace, when we live through God’s power, as Jesus did, we can be at peace.  We can face our trials knowing that Christ is with us, we are not alone.  This peace does not preclude conflict with others.  It may cause conflict with those whose power is based in fear or domination.  It may seem crazy to those who trust only themselves.  But the song of the angels and the song of the disciples can be our songs as well.

These songs gave guidance and strength to Jesus and they give guidance and strength to us.  We are called to give glory to God and to work for peace among all people, among all of creation.   Jesus shows us a new way of living together.  He is a new kind of king who serves all and lifts up the lowly.   We are called to sing out, loudly, of our Lord and of all the blessings with which we are showered, to sing of peace and glory.  It is fun to shout and cheer at a lovely parade on a warm sunny day.  But we are called to witness and testify to God’s love and saving power on dark and dangerous days as well.   Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world and his message is one of challenge to the powers that be. 

Palm Sunday is a day of joy and hope but it is not yet Easter.   If only it was so easy as Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the new king.  If only Herod and Pilate would give up their power and recognize the power of God. If only we would recognize the things that make for peace…

As we walk through this Holy Week with Jesus, may we be buoyed by the peace of Christ, of whom angels and disciples sing.   May we find peace in our own lives as we wait for the joy of Easter day.

Let us pray,

God of peace, we seek you.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.  Be with us in this Holy week and always as we serve you with our whole being, working for peace.  Amen.