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The Ven. Dr. James T. Payne: “Behold, Thy King Cometh” (Zechariah 9:9)

March 31, 2010

Here is a sermon for Palm Sunday by the Ven. Dr. James T. Payne of St. Thomas of Canterbury REC in Texas, which I have titled Behold, Thy King Cometh. In this sermon, based on Zechariah 9:9, Dr. Payne talks about Jesus’ coming to reign in both a temporal and a spiritual sense, and he points out a paradox of Palm Sunday:

Palm Sunday is a spiritual paradox. We read of the triumphal entry of Christ into the city of Jerusalem, a victory parade, in which He is hailed as king amid great joy. And yet, we already know that the cross looms just five days later. It is a mixture or joy and sorrow. The crowd declares Christ to be King and then, in just a few days, many of the same voices will shout “let him be crucified.” So the victory parade precedes the crucifixion rather than follow the resurrection. But Palm Sunday is the promise that God has already won, and the cross is the proof. There is a tendency to focus only on the joyous aspects of Palm Sunday and downplay the sad aspects. But both are there to consider.

Perhaps some people would like it if every sermon focused only on good things, and avoided bad and bothersome things. Some come to church only to be uplifted, not to face the rougher places on life’s road. But for us as a church to succumb to that superficially comfortable road would be to miss half of the church’s mission. There is an old saying that the mission of the church is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable! If we are too comfortable on life’s path, perhaps we have stopped traveling that path, and are merely sitting in one place spiritually, making no progress at all.

He goes on to point out that this paradox of Palm Sunday presents us with two choices:

Palm Sunday presents us with both rejoicing and sorrow. It presents us with the joy of the Lord’s renewed entry into the spiritual center of our lives. It also presents us with the sorrow of recognizing all the wrong things that have been at the center of our lives instead of the Lord up to this point.

In this contrast, there is also a challenge. Now that the Lord is approaching our spiritual Jerusalem to enter into the heart of our lives, whom will we enthrone there? Will we stay with our old ways that eventually bring us to sorrow? Or will we awake, and let the strength of the Lord’s arm sweep away all that does not belong to love and rejoicing, just as the Jesus’ arm swept away those who bought and sold in the Temple?

Indeed, that is one of the best aspects of Holy Week – that we are reminded that this is a choice we have to make.  This is an excellent message from Dr. Payne – please read it all.

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