Palmarum (Palm Sunday) - Lent 6
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
April 13, 2014

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you; righteous and having salvation is He. He comes humbly, not with loud fanfare and pomp, but in simple word and a shared meal; shared by God with men.

Ceremony is important. Ritual even more so. Ceremony is the clothing of ritual. Ceremony brings attention to and honors the ritual. Ceremony is standing for the national anthem at a ball game, ritual is reciting the pledge of allegiance. Ceremony is having everything just so for Thanksgiving Dinner; ritual is beginning the meal with prayer and thanksgiving. Ceremony is ritual’s herald; the voice that cries out that something important, something marvelous, even something extravagant and powerful is going to happen. Ritual without ceremony is like pop without fizz, flat and uninteresting.

Not that ceremony makes the ritual. It doesn’t. The ritual stands alone, and sometimes ceremony and ritual are so closely linked that they seem indistinguishable. Take church, for example. Ceremony is processing in with palm branches and shouts of “Hosanna!” Ceremony is good organ music and candles and vestments. Ceremony is dressing up for church and proper decorum while in the house of God. All of this serves the rituals of singing hymns and hearing the Scriptures read and expounded upon. All the ceremony serves to highlight the ritual of giving our firstfruits to our Redeemer God who showers us with gifts untold. All the ceremony helps to teach our children and young children that something significant is happening; that something worthy of our attention is happening; that something powerful and majestic is about to transpire among us. Ceremony is mightily important.

Even so, ritual is more so. If ceremony points you to and prepares you for what is happening, ritual involves you in it. It is ritual to kneel and receive the blessed Body and Blood of Jesus. It is ritual to stand at the reading of our Lord’s words and passion. It is ritual to recite the ancient creeds and to bow the head at the holy name of Jesus. These rituals are more than the ceremony that prepares us for them. They are our participation in what is happening. Anyone can watch and appreciate the ceremony that surrounds the ritual, but unless one partakes ritualistically, he is only an observer, a by-stander. He is not a participant.

There was ceremony when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. Jesus riding, the crowds shouting “Hosanna!” and strewing palm branches before Him; all ceremony. Impromptu, maybe; but all the same, it was ceremonial. Then there was ceremony when Jesus was arrested and tried. There was ceremony when He was crucified.

But He was participating in the ritual.

The ritual was sacrifice. The ritual was offering to God an unblemished sacrifice. The ritual was Him pouring out His blood and giving His body over to death. The ritual was the Lord of Glory laying down His life that He might take it up again and give life and immortality to all mankind. That was the ritual; and it has profound meaning.

It means that you don’t pay for your sins. It means that God isn’t out to get you; He doesn’t have you in His sights to harm you. Rather, He has you in His sights to do you good; to save you; to rescue you from sin, death, and the accusatory power of the devil. The beast is de-fanged and now all he can do is holler and yell after you; but you are set free from his clutches. Death holds no fear for you, for the Son of Man conquered death and sin in the ritual of crucifixion.

Palm Sunday is about ceremony: highlighting the profundity of our Lord’s ritual. Every Sunday is ceremony highlighting in different ways, each Sunday unique, the profundity of our Lord’s ritual in conquering death and bringing life and immortality to you and all mankind.

But though it is ceremony that surrounds us – good and godly ceremony – it is not for the ceremony that we are here. It is for ritual; our Lord’s ritual. Not the ritual He performed on the cross, for Christ suffered once for sins (1 Peter 3:18). We have come to participate in the ritual instituted by our Lord on the night in which He was betrayed, that we might know Him and be known by Him. We have come to hear His word of promise and life, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” We have come to eat His thanksgiving meal – His Eucharist – not that we may keep some ceremony, but that we might join the ritual of life by participating in the Passion of the Christ, who is Himself the Life of the World.

+ In Nomine Iesu +