Shouting Down the Hosannas!

Today, if you didn't know before you came to church, and I'm glad to see you made it on time considering the time change, it's Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, Easter and Christmas Eve is when many folks who don't come often, tend to show up along with the regulars.

There was a frontier church that had burned down and the town saloon keeper offered his place for Sunday services. As the preacher was covering up the bar and bottles with sheets, the saloon's parrot spoke up and said: "Aha! A new bartender!" Then the women of the choir came in and the parrot said, "Hey! A new floor show!" But when the congregation arrived for the service, the parrot lamented, "Aah! The same old customers!"

This is only my second Palm Sunday as Pastor at Trinity. For some of you it might be the first time you are seeing and hearing me. Well, I want to share something with you about pastors. There were three boys who were bragging about their dads. "My dad writes a couple of lines," the first boy said, "calls it a poem and gets $100 bucks for it." The second boy said, "My dad makes dots on paper, calls it a song, and gets $500 bucks for it." The third boy spoke up and said, "That's nothing. My dad writes a sermon on a sheet of paper, gets up in the pulpit and reads it, and it takes six people to collect and bring in the money."

Today's sermon title is "Shouting Down the Hosannas!" Jesus enters Jerusalem to cheers and shouts of "Hosanna!" Now most folks think of the word "hosanna" as meaning something like, "Praise the Lord." But it's actually the Greek form of the Hebrew petition, "Save, we beseech you." In other words, "We are pleading with you to save us." It's a sort of praise in a way because they recognize there is power in the person to do something for them. They would shout "hosanna" when some important person like a king would enter the city. The people who greeted Jesus had heard he was the Messiah who was going to save them. They thought he was going to save them from Roman occupation of their country.

But just five days later they were shouting "Crucify him!" Talk about a quick change of heart! In the little story I told about the saloon parrot recognizing the congregation as customers, it was a recognition thing. The parrot obviously didn't know anything about the people themselves. The parrot saw them only as bar customers. And the same is true of those who shouted "hosanna!" as Jesus entered Jerusalem. They thought he was something other than who he was. They had the idea he was going to be an earthly Messiah who would free them from Roman rulers.

And the boy who thought that his father's sermon and preaching was what brought in all those collection plates filled, he didn't recognize that everyone had already made up their mind as to what they were going to put in the offering plate that day. He thought it was his father's preaching that did it. It would be a thrill for a pastor to have someone in the congregation be so inspired by his or her sermon that they would be moved to drop in an extra ten or twenty or even a hundred in the offering plate.

Last year I preached a sermon, now labeled by me as the 'infamous Palm Sunday sermon.' It did indeed stir some folks up-made some folks mad. I was surprised that they had heard lots of positive sermons from me up to that point, and that just one negative one would sort of taint the whole bundle of them.

But you see, it doesn't take much to shout down hosannas. Most pastors talk about a 'honeymoon' period of about a year where the congregation finds favor with what the pastor says and does. But after a certain point folks start finding fault with this or that and start complaining and murmuring.

It happens in all our lives all the time. Folks try to shout down our positive beliefs. Folks try to shout down our faith. Folks try to shout down any good that we do. And we even do it to ourselves. That is, we sometimes get on our own case and shout down our confidence, our self worth.

If the word "hosanna" means that we are shouting to the Lord to save us, then shouting down "hosannas" means that when folks do that to us, they think they can drown out our petitions to God for help, for strength, for guidance. They think they can make us believe that Christ is not a Savior. They think that they can drown us out and drag us down into negativity and a state of mind that builds a wall between us and God. No way! Don't you believe for a minute that they can do that to you! Stand tall. If they try to shout down your 'hosannas' then you shout all the more!

There are wonderful stories in the New Testament of folks shouting to Jesus and even the disciples try to make them stop. But Jesus hears them. They can't be shut out; not even by disciples.

If you come to church and love it at church, don't you EVER let anyone shout down your 'hosannas' and drive you away-no matter what they say. This is YOUR place where you meet Jesus Christ in relationship in a special way. You can meet Jesus other places, sure. Probably even on the golf course, or out on the lake fishing, but here there is something you can't get anywhere else and you NEED it to strengthen your relationship with God. Each week it can be something different, but each week there is something that happens here for YOU personally, AND for you as part of a special gathering of believers in Christ. You can't get that out on the golf course or at a baseball game or soccer game. You can only get that something special HERE.

It certainly won't always be the sermon, although even though YOU don't get anything out of a sermon, someone else might. It always confirms my belief that the Holy Spirit has charge of how folks hear my sermons because as people leave and comment, I'm amazed at what they say moved them or what they got out of it. I say to myself, "Did I say that somewhere in the sermon?" And there are days that I don't like the sermon, don't feel good about it, and there are folks who rave about it.

And certainly, don't get caught up in negativity, and certainly don't hang in negativity, so that you shout down your own hosannas. By that I mean any one of us can get into a jag of complaining about everything from work, to family, to politics and religion. So much so that we don't even recognize that our prayer life has changed, perhaps no longer consistent, no longer including gratefulness. Or we don't recognize that our praise of God has turned to bitterness. That our recognition of blessings disappears. Recognition of our abundance turns into seeing only lack. Our spirit of trust in God turns into not being able to see a positive future, turns into not being willing to step out and take a risk for the sake of the Gospel, for growth of one's spirit and soul, for the growth of Christ's church and outreach in Christ's name.

When you shout down your own 'hosannas' you are cutting yourself off from the flow of God's love and strength and guidance. You stop asking the Lord to save you. You get into thinking you can save yourself. You get into thinking that what you have is yours and not God's, not given to you by God, but that you earned it, achieved it on your own. You get into thinking that says you have to horde what you have.

A man sent a letter to the IRS. He wrote, "I can't sleep at night so I am enclosing $200 I forgot to declare. PS. If I still can't sleep I'll send the rest." Yes, even the check you write for taxes to the IRS, send it off with a blessing of God that it will bless and multiply to help others. Don't be concerned that others are cheating on taxes and not paying their fair share. Just recognize that you ARE and that what you give in taxes is actually sharing with others. Think of it as going to help someone in need, or to repair some road or bridge so that it remains safe…whatever. Just send it off with a blessing knowing you are sharing God's abundance to you with others.

Sometimes we forget that God gave us what we have-money, gifts, talents, and abilities, not only to share with others, but that in using those gifts for God, sharing those gifts with others in Christ's name we are letting Christ SAVE us. Did you ever recognize that God, in answering our prayers, even in praying for ourselves, God always answers by involving someone else? That is, any prayer I pray for myself, God never answers by only benefiting me.

Hosanna! We shout to Christ. Hosanna! Save me! Let's let Christ do that! Let's not shout down our Hosannas! Let's show the world that we know that Christ saves. Don't let the events of a week shout down your Hosannas! and turn you from what you know is true in your heart. See with the eyes of faith. See beyond what your eyes tell you. See that there is more love in the world than hate. See that you have been given, blessed with the power to help others see that. Help others see what you believe about the saving love of Jesus the Christ. Don't be shouted down. At the least sign of being shouted down, or doing that to yourself, shout all the louder---Hosanna! Let me hear you….Hosanna! Louder! Hosanna! Louder! Hosanna. Amen and Amen. And so it is!

Read more sermons by Pastor Brie