Sermon presented at Seekers worship
13 April 2003
by Dan Phillips
HOSANNAH, the Sermon
As I prepare to deliver this sermon, I must do something I do not like doing. I feel I must explain ahead-of-time what it is that I am presenting. This is a sermon and it is a poem.
Some of you know that I write poetry, and I wanted to share that part of me with all of you. This is an unusual poem for me, being probably the longest poem I have ever written. Poetry for me is the re-shaping of feelings and ideas through words. This poem contains what are for me new combinations of words and thoughts, gathered about one very passionate time.
As much as I like experimenting with written words, I also like trying out new spoken forms, new sermon types. Some people would tell you that sermons and poems are opposites: that poems are by definition open and changing, while sermons often attempt to be closed and immutable. However, we here, we Seekers, have often heard poetic sermons. I ask your support today as I combine these two different forms.
Please remember that the Gospel accounts of what we call palm Sunday or passion Sunday are very different. I have blended several stories that surround Jesus entry into Jerusalem into this one account. Those stories include JESUS CRYING OVER JERUSALEM, THE WOMAN ANOINTING JESUS' FEET, JESUS RAISING LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD, JESUS SENDING HIS DISCIPLES FOR THE DONKEY and the TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM. As always, I have tried to be true both to the written accounts and to my own understanding of what God was doing in that place and time.
PRELUDE: CELEBRATION, ARE WE FOR OR AGAINST?
When your first miracle is turning water into wine
It is easier to preach
Oh, we love the 'shuns
Creation, recreation, procreation,
Make us happy Jesus
Make us happy and wealthy and wise and happy
And did I mention wealthy
And wise and rich
Make us Jesus
All the things we want to be
And did I mention wealthy?
Lead us into Party Jesus
Let the laughter and the wine mingle
May we have the fun of your light?
The joy of your presence
Make us happy
Let us celebrate your being
And our being
And all God's beings
And make us happy
ACT I: JESUS DECIDES TO GO TO JERUSALEM
What to pack
For a journey to Jerusalem
Do you pack extra clothes?
Do you have extra clothes?
Do you pack a whip for the moneychangers?
A palm frond
A blanket for a young donkey?
Do you pack handkerchiefs for the tears?
And a gift for Lazarus?
Exactly what do you get for the newly resurrected?
A photo album?
Because Jerusalem is there.
Because Jerusalem needs you
It is not an accident that you go
It is not a bad travel choice
Or a mistake
Or even denial
You go like the rest of us go on living
Knowing that death is at the end of this journey
Knowing that pain awaits all forward movement
You go KNOWING.
We all know what lives in Jerusalem
Life, and society, and politics, and destiny.
We all know what
Jerusalem is like
We all fear Jerusalem
Jerusalem with its power, money and pressures
We all go to
Jerusalem once in our lives
If only to die.
The only real question we have to answer
Is whether we get there by accident
Or pack our bags and walk there
INTERLUDE: JESUS PREPARES FOR JERUSALEM
You sit at the feast
Afterwards Mary washes your feet
Rubbing them with sweet perfume
Drying them with sweet hair
Is the hair or the perfume sweeter?
Or her spirit
Such an intimate gesture of love
Is of course misunderstood
Your disciples grumble
WE COULD HAVE HAD MONEY
And you reply
ONLY MARY HAS GIVEN ME LOVE
WE COULD HAVE HAD MONEY
ONLY MARY HAS GIVEN ME LOVE
You send your disciples for a donkey
Why do you do that?
You have always walked before
You have been in Jerusalem before
Why do you have to have
a donkey now?
Is it because that stupid woman
and her fancy perfume
Have made you believe you are even more special
Than we know you are?
Or do you just not want to walk on those
And how do you know where the donkey will be
Did you plan all this
When have you had time to plan a donkey?
Are you sure the owner will give up his donkey
Why do I have to always go get the donkey?
ACT II: JESUS APPROACHES JERUSALEM
So you travel
Riding on that ridiculous donkey
Instead of walking as you always have
And as you begin to descend from the hills
The brown barren hills of Judea
The crowds have already gathered
Where the common people
The hoi poloi
The masses have gathered,
They are always there
They have always been there
Already the common folk
They are shouting HOSANNAH
They shout and
They begin to praise you
Shout at you
Shout for you
They cut palm fronds and lay the fronds
And their own clothes
In the road for you
And they shout HOSANNAH
And call for you to become King
And kick out the Romans
And you have this impromptu
This HOSANNAH TRIUMPH that even the Romans would recognize
This entry into Jerusalem as one exalted
And through it all
Whatever that means
INTERLUDE: JESUS PREPARES TO ENTER JERUSALEM
So why do you cry
When you get to Jerusalem
Jerusalem is the same city you knew
The same city you decided to go to
The same city you have been in before
And the people keep praising you
Yelling for you
Why are you crying?
I would have held you in my arms
I would have protected you like a mother hen
But you would not
Jerusalem who stoned the prophets
How I wanted to
ACT III: JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM
So you entered Jerusalem
Entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey
Crying about all the shouting people
Crying while the people shouted
They were shouting your name
While you were crying
Didn't you want to stop celebrating?
Didn't you stop celebrating?
We wanted to, we did stop
It was no great burden to us
When the Priests
The HOSANNAH holy
Told you this was a HOSANNAH mob
Not quality HOSANNAH people
A HOSANNAH riot
Not a HOSANNAH Celebration.
Wrapped in HOSANNAH wisdom
Gave a HOSANNAH answer
Gave HOSANNAH for an answer
If the people stop
If the HOSANNAH stops
The very rocks
Will cry HOSANNAH
Have you heard the rocks cry HOSANNAH?
They chant in deep tones
Too slow and constant and strong
For us to hear
The rocks themselves will
Must cry HOSANNAH
Today, we will sing HOSANNAH
And there is nothing in the HOSANNAH universe
That can stop HOSANNAH
INTERLUDE: THE FIRST LESSON
We did not KNOW HOSANNAH as you knew
Where this HOSANNAH week would travel
What grave this HOSANNAH path would travel through
But later we would see
That HOSANNAH comes when it comes
It is not brought by plans
It does not stand on us
Or wait for us
We can celebrate or try to stop the shouting
But there will be HOSANNAH
And you Jesus
KNOWING what would happen
Joined the party
So when later HOSANNAH came
Carrying your spirit of fire
We were ready
For you taught us that HOSANNAH
Is a dance through the cemetery
The laughter that once every stone there felt
The happiness of not knowing when
The loud joyful funeral music
That is HOSANNAH
We understood HOSANNAH
If only for a while
MORAL OF THE PLAY:
So when YOU travel to Jerusalem
Jerusalem the place of energy, pain and fear
When you travel to Jerusalem
Jerusalem of all our futures
You will need HOSANNAH
You will need all the HOSANNAH
You can shout
ACT IV: JESUS LEAVES JERUSALEM
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK