The Week Everything Changed
The week of March 8, everything changed.
We had spent the weekend hosting out of town family and friends from CA, IN, and Iowa.
It was the opening weekend of the high school musical our daughter was starring in
We bought blocks of tickets, fed our guests and then saw the show together
Each day brought a new crew of friends
Even our son Joel was home from college on spring break.
We knew about coronavirus in WA state, but it seemed faraway,
And we were focused on a wonderful weekend of celebration.
On Monday, my parents called to discuss whether they should travel to CT as planned to see the show.
They live in OH, and my dad is under treatment for cancer.
Coronavirus had now been found in North Carolina.
Is the show still on? They wanted to know.
I said yes.
I couldn’t imagine them closing it down—we were all there together just a day ago.
Each day of the week, however, contained new revelations about the coronavirus and its affects.
On Tuesday morning, my parents called to say they had canceled their trip.
On Wednesday, the school announced the second weekend of performances were canceled.
By Thursday, my son’s university announced they were extending spring break
And on Friday, the local schools announced they would be closed until the end of the month.
On Saturday, we announced our church was joining others across the state
That would hold virtual services instead of in person services, and we closed our building.
I imagine you have a similar story to tell.
Three weeks later, it’s still a lot to absorb.
Because in that one week’s time, the unbelievable happened, and everything changed.
Today we hear the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem,
which marked another week in which everything changed.
Jesus had sent two disciples ahead of him to prepare for his arrival
He purposely staged a scene straight out of the biblical prophets for his arrival
Riding a donkey just like was predicted of the coming Messiah in Zechariah.
The crowd that had gathered in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival went wild.
Hosanna! They shouted. Hosanna to the Son of David!
They cut palm branches and spread their robes on the ground, creating a royal red carpet.
They hailed him as the long awaited king who would save them from their enemies.
The cheers continued in the temple, even after Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers.
But the chant of the crowd—Hosanna! Has a double meaning.
It not only is a cry of praise, it literally translates, “Save us!”
Contained within this phrase were the seeds for all that would unfold in this last week of Jesus’ life-
The week when everything changed.
I think we can all identify with this cry—Hosanna, save us!
It is the prayer of our hearts—that we and those we love would be spared
That people who are sick would recover
That medical professionals and other essential personnel would be protected
That the economy would spring back, that people would recover their jobs
That the poor would not be forgotten.
Save us, Lord, Hosanna! It is praise, but today it is also petition.
Public health officials predict that coronavirus illness will crest in our state sometime in the next 2 wks.
Even with the experience of places like Wuhan China, we don’t know exactly what this means.
We cannot know what is coming; we cannot predict how we will personally be affected.
But this was also the case of the people who shouted Hosanna on the first Palm Sunday long ago.
They couldn’t foresee how things would change during the week
Or imagine that cries of Hosanna could turn into shouts of Crucify him!
With the Palm Sunday story, however, we have the advantage of hindsight.
We know how it ends.
And it ends not with fear and death and sorrow
But with an empty tomb.
It ends with something better than being spared
It ends with truly being saved
Saved from the power that death and suffering holds over us
Saved from the stifling confines of worry
Saved from separation from God and those we love
Saved from despair and hopelessness
Saved from an ‘us v them’ universe, and ushered into a universe where everyone wins.
That’s what resurrection is.
That’s what being saved is.
That’s what Hosanna is all about.
This day of Palm Sunday marks the week that changed everything—
In Jesus’ resurrection, the course of human existence was changed forever.
Death no longer has the last word. Our failures and wrongs no longer define us.
God is working even in the midst of suffering.
We are saved!
When we look ahead into the next weeks and months, it can be easy to imagine the worst
But like the story of Jesus, there will also be glimpses of the resurrection
People who recovery from this illness in hospitals and at home
The beauty of spring
Kindness of strangers
Generosity among nations
Sacrifice among average people.
Today as we praise God with Hosannas, we also cry out for God to save us, those we love,
To save our nation and the nations of the world.
We trust that God does indeed save us.
We trust that Jesus walks beside us in our weeks of routine and the weeks when everything changes
We trust that In any and all circumstances, Jesus’ light and Jesus’ hope
shows us the way to resurrection life.