Hosanna! O Lord, Hear our Prayer
Matthew 21:1-11 April 5, 2020
Rev. David J. Clark
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem people lining the streets shouted Hosanna! Question: What does Hosanna mean? I grew up thinking it meant something like “Hallelujah” or “Hurray! “Just something you exclaim when you are really jazzed.
It does mean that, and more than that. Hosanna means, “Save us–now!” It connotes a sense of urgency. Now.
More than any on any other Palm Sunday, “Save us now!” is our collective cry, our deepest and most heartfelt prayer. We’ve seen the news. Heard the warnings. We know what’s at stake. We enter the most critical weeks for the pandemic as we begin Holy Week. Save us now, Jesus. Hosanna.
Save us from the worst-case ravages of what pandemic can do.
Save our lives!
Save us from the gut-wrenching agony of losing people we love.
O Lord, Hear our Prayer: Save us from witnessing an overwhelmed, under-equipped healthcare system undergoing horrific scenes of suffering where people have to make impossible choices of who lives and who dies.
Save our essential workers–from the doctors to the people who bring us food and all those other services, who put themselves at risk to save us.
Save people from dying alone, without families to be there or to physically gather to mourn their losses.
Hosanna! Save us from thinking it is just about us, our own experience or our tribe, instead of the common humanity of all our brothers and sisters around the world.
Save our jobs. Ease our anxiety. Help us trust that there will be enough, that our families and loved ones will have what they need.
Save us from another Great Depression.
O Lord Hear our Prayer: Save us from ourselves–from acting in ugly, selfish ways when the pressure is on.
Save us from having too many people say, “This is overblown,” or “I’m low risk, distancing doesn’t apply to me.”
Save our leaders from impulses that put public safety at risk. Give us wisdom. Save what’s best about our nation because we already act like a house divided against itself. Give us a vaccine, a life-saving treatment, a cure! Hosanna!
Save us from institutions and those who would profiteer and price gouge and withhold resources.
Save us now, Lord. From despair. Of only attending only to projections of horrors, the bad, and not recognizing the good that relentlessly surging in this world. O Lord, hear our prayer.
Like the people lining the streets at the gates of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, we wave our palms, cheering Jesus on. Encouraging him to take quick decisive action. Like them, we would lay down our cloaks on the path before him if we thought it would move him to act on our behalf. Save us NOW. Hosanna.
Essentially, we want and pray for what they wanted and prayed for. We want a supernatural intervention–a miraculous turn around that this won’t be as bad as the experts say it could be. There is nothing wrong with that. It is the true prayer of our hearts.
Yet, we come to our Holy week realizing that the salvation Jesus offered wasn’t necessarily what people were wanting or expecting. They hoped for him to do the equivalent of waving a magic wand and make their problems disappear. Or they expected the Messiah to raise up an army that would drive out the oppressing regime. They wanted a new kingdom where their people would no longer be subjects but rule over everyone else.
But instead of imposing something that kind of kingdom, Jesus said the kingdom is already within you. Look within. See the goodness already there. Trust in it. And the kingdom is amongst you as you live in Spirit with each other–looking out for each other.
Instead of miracles, he offered them a model of faith. He offered values and priorities to live by. He offered the example of a new integrity that stands its ground even in the face of cruelty and hatred and the violence of the cross. He looked out for the marginalized and those who had been cast aside by everyone else. He said you are God’s children, loved, forgiven, free. And whatever you go through you will never be abandoned.
He said this is the way to live–by faith to get through anything that may befall you.
As followers of Jesus, this is the moment to live by what he taught and put it into practice. We worship and learn the lessons and try to see what it means to live it out in our lives, in our context. We have been learning his way of life, his way of faith. That is the way through. Our Hosannas can take on a more personal nature. We don’t just ask God for a miracle, we do our part of social distancing and washing, and follow the science.
This is a time when our faith will be tested. It is a time when our faith can grow. But it’s scary. As a pastor I’m nervous about will I have what it takes to get through and help others, too? What will this crisis expose about my weaknesses? I take comfort in naming that. And recognize even Jesus had his moment of praying that the cup might be taken from him. Naming the fear can help. And keeping your eyes on his faithful example helps, too. God will be with us through this, no matter what.
This is what faith is for. It is to get us through times of grief. It is there to remind us that we don’t walk through it alone. That we are to live by faith and not by sight, to trust in God for our daily bread. That we can let go of being so prideful that we won’t ask for help when we need it. Faith shows us that we can slough off any sense of entitlement and callousness toward others.
Whatever experience we have with faith and church, it has been preparing for this. We’ve been learning the story of God, to know that no matter what happens, God’s creative, loving-kindness is with us and working to bring good things out of the worst things. That’s what this Holy Week is all about.
We’ve been practicing generosity and responding to need. It’s baked into us.
We’ve been gathering and supporting each other. Built relationships that are sources of nourishment and strength. We’ve been given the values to live by, the ones that will save us now. Of being kind and faithful. Of being people of support and prayer. Of being generous and forgiving. Of being hopeful and working toward what is best. Of seeing everyone as a child of God.
When we pray save us now. May we be prepared to hear the answer, “I already have. I’ve given you what you need. Faith, hope and love.”
This week we are reminded that even when the worst happens there is still Easter. God still working in the world, still saving–through the faithful actions of those who follow his way of sacrifice, of selflessness, of compassion, of healing, of hope. When the world has done its worst there is still Easter–new life, new love, new hope.
Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest heaven.
O Lord hear our prayer. Amen.
Here is our worship service from Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020: