Palm Sunday Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, April 9, 2017. Sermon Topic: The Messianic Entry: Jesus Comes

palm sunday

PALM SUNDAY SERMON: The Messianic Entry: Jesus Comes

Texts: Matthew 21: 1 – 11, Luke 19: 28 – 40, Mark 11: 1 – 10

The account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem expresses to the full our Lord’s conviction that he was God’s anointed and chosen Messiah. In this triumphant ride upon the back of a donkey, Jesus was acting within the great tradition of the Jewish people. Five centuries before Jesus was born, the prophet Zechariah uttered a messianic prophecy proclaiming that the Messiah, Zion’s King, would enter triumphantly into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Zech. 9: 9, 10). Zechariah visioned the Messiah, not as some military conqueror riding on a horse, but as a man of peace riding on a donkey. In war time, a king rode on a horse, but in peace he chose an ass. The donkey symbolized gentleness and meekness. And the donkey served a noble purpose as well. In the history of the Jewish kings, they rode on donkeys. In the books of Samuel and Judges, the Old Testament describes how the leaders of Israel and the king’s household rode on donkeys, and when King Solomon is crowned as David’s successor, King David says in 1 Kings 1: “… set Solomon my son on my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him King over Israel.” Jesus chooses to enter Jerusalem mounted on a donkey to claim publicly that he was the chosen Son of David, born of King David’s line, to sit on David’s throne. Jesus refers to himself as the Root and Offspring of David (Rev. 22: 16).

Jesus publicly declared his Messiahship when he entered Jerusalem. It was a courageous act, for there was a price on his head. In Jerusalem his opposers would lay their hands on him. Jesus was a threat to King Herod and the Roman Empire which supported his puppet rule. Jesus was a threat to the Jewish Pharisees, the Sadduccees and the Sanhedrin, the religious Jewish leaders, whose security and power lay in compromise with Rome whose political power centered on their governor, Pontius Pilate. To go to Jerusalem, Jesus was putting his head in a noose. But he knew that he must ascend his throne and fulfill his Father’s purpose. Jesus needed to gather all the hostile forces around himself, for his messianic triumph must be one in which all the powers of evil were brought to a focus on his own person, his one true self, the Son of God. Defiantly and courageously, Jesus went into the very heart of the battle.

But he went with the kingly acclaim of his disciples and other pilgrims going to the

Passover Feast. With shouts of joy, they spread their garments on the way before him, and our gospels record the crowds as taking palm branches and meeting Jesus with cries of “Hosanna!” All restraint was cast aside. Jesus was their Champion! In their jubilation they celebrated the mighty acts he had done and they praised God for them. In the scripture passage of Matthew, the crowd shouts: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In Luke, the crowd exclaims: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Mark records the crowd as saying: “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David.” These exclamations are a direct referral to words and verses in Psalm 118, again prophetic, where verses 25 – 27 proclaim the following: “O Lord, save us…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession…” The Hebrew root of the word “hosanna” means “to save.”

In Psalm 118: 19 – 23 we read: “Open for me the gates of righteousness. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” We often credit this verse of the capstone as reference to Jesus, the stone which becomes the capstone of our Christian faith. Righteous Jesus, riding on a donkey, enters the gate into Jerusalem, with the crowd waving palm branches and shouting: “Hosanna! [Save us!] Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The secret of Jesus’ courage is that God “presences” God’s Self in and with Jesus God’s Son. Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem was the act of God. And God was present in and with Jesus. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” says Jesus in John 14: 9. “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?…it is the Father living in me who is doing his work,” John 14: 10. In the divine process of God’s plan, the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was God’s moment to enthrone the Messiah. Jesus comes “in the name of the Lord.” In biblical understanding, someone’s name was an extension of a person’s own being. To come “in God’s name” was to come as God’s presence, with God’s authority. God’s glory, his visible presence, was with his Messiah. Here lies the secret of courageous disciples ever since: throughout the history of our Christian church, we see Augustine and Luther, Calvin and Wesley, martyrs and missionaries in countless numbers. They have gone forth in the name of the Lord. Such fearless courage comes from knowing that the presence of God, the presence of Christ, is in and with us. We act in their name. The spirit of God, of Jesus, is “presenced” in us. The Spirit of God was “presenced,” was in, Jesus.

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem portrayed the character of his Messiahship. He entered as a Messiah proclaiming the way of love and peace. His was the way of the servant. He knew that he was riding into the lion‘s den. Rejection, persecution and death lay ahead of him. The way of love was a costly way. But it was God’s way for his Messiah. The seeming weakness of suffering love would prove to be its strength. In the midst of evil, divine love conquered! Jesus triumphed! We who live in Christ hail him today as our King. Jesus is our Champion! Like the Jerusalem crowds, we proclaim with them Jesus’ triumphal entry, and we shout with them as we herald our King this day: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Come Lord, come to save us!





Song of Songs: Spicing Up Your Life


What’s this book all about?

This poem is about sex.  If that makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re in great company.   And it goes a long way in explaining why I have never come across this book being referenced in any church service I ever attended.  Some of the finest minds in Jewish history tried to convince folks that the poem was a kind of parable about God’s love for Israel.  Early Christians said it symbolized Christ’s love for the church.

Imagine, however, God saying this to Israel, or Jesus saying this to the church: “My darling, you are perfume between my breasts” (Song of Songs 1:13).  It just doesn’t work, does it?

This is a poem about sex, as most modern scholars agree.  But the poem isn’t just about the physical act of sex – though it certainly gets physical.  It’s about the kind of sex we’re not used to seeing portrayed in the movies: sanctified sex, as God intended it – sincere, expressive, committed, and fun.

You’ve got a man and a woman in love, graphically praising the physical features of each other and revealing their shared fantasies about making love.  Their words aren’t crude or vulgar, but they are unashamedly sensual and intimate.

This isn’t a peep show; it’s a portrait of true love.  It’s a stunning reminder that love feeds on tender words of endearment, whether poetic or plain, and that it blossoms into sexual intimacy uniting two people, body and soul.

Highlights from the Song of Songs:

True love is sweeter than wine (Song of Songs 1:1-17):

“Kiss me again and again, for your love is sweeter than wine,” says a beautiful young farm girl to the man in her life (New Living Translation).

Without shame or embarrassment , the man matches her passion, “My darling,” he replies, “you are lovely, so very lovely – your eyes are those of a dove.”

“My love,” the woman answers, “you are handsome, truly handsome – the fresh green grass will be our wedding bed in the shade of cedar and cypress trees.”

Though this exchange may have been only a wedding song to entertain a bride and groom and their guests, it conveys an important message about the facts of life.  If you want to keep the sparks of romance alive, express your love in tender words.  It’s fine to want to give flowers, cards, and candy (preferably sugar-free if your one true love is diabetic).  But they’re no substitute for your own words, spoken heart to heart, expressing your love and sexual desire.

Passionate pillow talk (Song of Songs 4:1-16 and 7:1-13):

After the wedding, the bride and the groom boldly and passionately praise each other’s body, and express their shared desire to make love.  The man speaks first, praising his wife’s eyes, hair, teeth, mouth, and neck.  Then he tells her how beautiful her breasts are, declaring, “I will hasten to those hills sprinkled with sweet perfume, and stay there until sunrise.”

“Let the north wind blow, the south wind too!” his wife replies.  “Let them spread the aroma of my garden, so the one I love may enter and taste its delicious fruits.” She then praises his body, from the raven hair to his strong legs and feet

He answers, “You are tall and slender like a palm tree, and your breasts are full.  I will climb that tree and cling to its branches.  I will discover that your breasts are clusters of grapes, and that your breath is the aroma of apples.  Kissing you is more delicious than drinking the finest wine.  How wonderful and tasty!”

“My darling,” she replies, “I am yours.”

Merely reading the words can be intoxicating.  Imagine the power they would have when spoken by the one you love.  Most of us aren’t poets, so we can’t express our love nearly as creatively and erotically as the person who wrote this song.  But the feelings of love and desire are there.  And we nurture those feelings by talking about them and acting on them.  A husband doesn’t need fancy poetry to tell his wife she’s a beautiful human being, that he loves her, and that he enjoys the time he spends in her arms.  Nor does a wife need a thesaurus to praise her husband, speak of her love, and invite him to bed.

Sexuality is a gift from God for us to enjoy.  But it’s not a gift we can enjoy to its fullest if it’s just a physical act, apart from intimate and heartfelt words and feelings shared.

Love is powerful and priceless (Song of Songs 8:6-7):

It’s the woman who delivers the song’s most passionate moment.  It’s a moment beyond sex, for it speaks of commitment and of the power and price of love.  This woman isn’t just beautiful and romantic; she’s got the wisdom to match.

“Always keep me in your heart and wear this bracelet to remember me by,” she says.  “The passion of love bursting into flame is more powerful than death, stronger than the grave.  Love cannot be drowned by oceans or floods; it cannot be bought, no matter what is offered.”

Love can, however, die of neglect.  Don’t let it.  Nurture it with honest words and a gentle touch.

Background notes:


At first glance, it looks like Solomon wrote this book . . . but we can’t be so sure.

“This is Solomon’s most beautiful song” (Song of Songs 1:1).  So begins this poem.  And that’s why the book is sometimes called the Song of Solomon.  King Solomon supposedly did write over a thousand songs (1 Kings 4:32), and since this is said to be his best one, it’s sometimes called the Song of Songs, in the manner that Jesus is called the King of Kings.  But it’s possible Solomon didn’t write this poem at all.

The Hebrew phrase that attributes the song to Solomon can mean it was written by him, for him, about him, or dedicated to him.

It’s quite possible the poem was originally a wedding song written by a professional musician to entertain King Solomon during one of his thousand weddings.  Or perhaps it was a song popular at many weddings, just as certain love songs are popular at weddings today. Who knows?


The setting for the love story is uncertain.  If Solomon wrote it, or if it was about him and one of his wives, the story probably took place during his 40-year reign, from 970 to 930 B.C.


The setting is Israel, perhaps in the city of Jerusalem.  One clue is that the bride has a series of conversations with her friends, “young women of Jerusalem.”  Also, the bride and groom occasionally refer to Israelite landmarks.  The woman describes her love as “flower blossoms from the gardens of En-Gedi,” an oasis south of Jerusalem. And the man says of his bride, “Your head is held high like Mount Carmel.”

Bottom-line summary:

This is a passionate, erotic celebration of love between a man and a woman.  Neither the man nor the woman feels the least bit inhibited about expressing their most intimate feelings and sexual desires.  And express them they do!

Bible experts can’t agree on the story line that drives the poem.  There’s not enough background in the dialogue to set the scene.  There’s lots of talk about ravenous desire, alluring body parts, and scented love nests.  But there’s nothing definite about who these lovers are and what they do for a living.

Scholars suggest a variety of possible story lines.  Here are three of the most popular:

  • King Solomon chooses a country girl for his bride, but she turns him down in favour of her country lover.
  • Solomon and the country lover are the same person, loved by the country girl.
  • The country lover is the only man in the story, and when he comes to his lady, she thinks of him as the glorious “King Solomon carried on a throne” (Song of Songs 3:7) – a kind of knight in shining armour.

Influential people:

An unnamed woman, from the countryside of Israel.  Without a hint of embarrassment, she praises the physical features of her husband and offers her body for his pleasure.  She also asks for his faithfulness – a reminder that love requires devotion for its survival.

An unnamed man, the woman’s true love.  He matches the woman compliment for compliment, desire for desire.  His words are an encouragement to husbands who hesitate to tell their wives how much they love them.

Key ideas to know:

Love talk.  Sparks of romance shower every chapter in this book.  The couple in love are constantly praising each other and speaking of their desire to make love.  Granted, these are newlyweds . . . so we expect love talk.  Yet, their story is for everyone in love.  It’s a reminder that all of us want and need to hear that we are loved.  Husbands and wives may express their love for each other by doing their share of the chores needed to keep the family afloat, and through unexpected acts of affection:  a surprise gift, or a weekend date.  But words say it best.  “I love you.” “You have brought joy to my life.”

We may not be poets, but what poet could compete with a simple and sincere “I love you” exchanged between two people who mean it?

Are the lovers married?  By the time they have sex they are.  However, the poem never uses the word “husband” or “wife.”  The poet prefers “lover.”  Other favourites are “darling,” “dearest,” and “my love.”  In our day – as in many ancient cultures – “lover” could refer to an unmarried couple who have intimate relations.  But that’s not the case in ancient Hebrew culture.  For Jews in Bible times, sex outside of marriage is considered an offense against divine law.

Interesting facts:

  • Rabbis in ancient times didn’t allow Jews to read Solomon’s erotic song until they reached age 30.
  • Like Esther, this book never once mentions God or religion.  Yet it praises two to God’s greatest gifts to humanity: love and sexuality.

Some quotes from Song of Songs:

“I am my beloved’s” (Song of Songs 7:10, KJV).

“Always keep me in your heart and wear this bracelet to remember me by” (Song of Songs 8:6).    As we wear a wedding band to remind us of our spouse, the woman in this song asks her husband to always think of her.



That’s it for today.

Paul S.

The Jesus File – a Private Eye Report by Rev. Terry Fletcher


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During our April 2nd Sunday service, we had Andrew Wybrow doing ‘Luke Reports!’ Rev. Mary Fletcher would like to personally thank Andrew for doing such a great job with this. Unfortunately we didn’t film this for posterity (this time), so we offer you the next best thing:
The script for ‘Luke Reports!’ was originally written by Rev. Mary Fletcher’s husband Rev. Terry Fletcher. It’s been made available in The Gathering, a resource for worship services, and we know of a few ministers who have done the “Luke report!” Here is the original written script as well as a YouTube performance by Rev. Terry Fletcher.


The Jesus File – A Private Eye Report by Terry Fletcher


My name is Luke. I’m what you might call a private investigator. When people wanna know about something special, they call me in. I guess you’re wondering what I’m doing in Galilee?

My client, Theophilus, called me up the other day. “What’s up, Theo?” I asked. He said he wanted me to look into this guy Jesus and let him know if he was on the up and up. Know what I mean? I could see why he was interested. There were lots of stories making the rounds. “But Theo,” I said, “you want me to go poking around in the backroads of the Roman Empire? A guy could get killed around there!” When Theo wants something, he gets it. Good clients don’t come along that often.

Anyway, I saddled up the old donkey and went looking for clues. They took me to Nazareth, the kind of place nobody ever admits to coming from. This young girl is engaged to be married and suddenly there’s a bun in the oven. No surprises there!

This was back in the old days – King Herod’s time.

The story is, there were angels involved. One of them, Gabe by name, tells this young girl, Mary, she’s going to have God’s kid. Imagine? This kid is supposed to rule as a King over the House of Jacob. He’s Jewish, obviously. I guess no-one told the angels that the Romans run the show around here. The angel gives the kid all sorts of titles: Son of the Most High, Son of God.

The girl’s fiancée buys her story and says he’ll marry her anyway. Who am I to judge? Before the baby’s born, they leave town for an extended trip to Bethlehem. Some people say it was the census that made them travel. Tax problems, maybe?

The family’s got no money. In fact the kid is born in a stable! Yet those angels turn up again and they scare some shepherds out in the fields. They tell the shepherds he’s been born. Shepherds? Why tell those guys? It’s not like they’re important people. They just walk off their jobs and go to check the baby out. Irresponsible!

Not only that but some rich big-wigs from the East mosey on over to bring him some expensive gifts. Born in a stable yet he gets all this attention and gifts? Something doesn’t jive! How can you be a nobody and a somebody at the same time?

Anyway, the family is so poor that they can only afford to pay two pigeons to the temple when the kid gets named. And the name they give him! Jesus – it means God saves or something like that. What a name! Would you give that to a kid?

This old Temple priest says he can die happy now he’s seen the kid, and some old prophetess runs around praising him. He’s just a baby! What’s all the fuss? But they must think there’s something special about him.

So he grows up in the little village of Nazareth, and there’s nothing to report. Seems like he kept his head down and stayed under cover most of the time. Sure he gets lost in the Jerusalem Temple when he’s on a family vacation and impresses the wise guys there. But nobody knows what else he got up to except they say he was well-liked. I asked them what he looked like. Just an ordinary sort of guy, they said, nothing special.

He gets to be about thirty and he goes through some religious ceremony with a travelling preacher down by the river. They say a bird landed on him and God spoke out of the sky. God says: “This is my son.” So I guess the angel knew his stuff.

I checked his family tree and it looks like he comes from a long, long family line – right back to Adam.

For over a month he disappears in the desert. No food, no water. He meets someone there who tries to get him to show off and prove he is the Son of God. Make yourself some food, they say. Throw yourself off the Temple roof so those angels can catch you. Seize power and forget about listening to God. But he just quotes scripture and ignores them.

Then he kind of takes off as a travelling preacher. People who hear him, say he is really spirited and has the gift of the gab. He starts telling them he’s a prophet and some of the old prophecies are about him. That really gets on their wick and the crowd tries to kick him out, but he escapes right under their noses.

Now it starts to get weird. He has this ability to heal people when they’re sick. He even talks to demons that they say live inside them and orders them to clear off. Sometimes the demons talk back to him!

People try to pin him down and get him to stay but he tells them he has to travel and hang out with lots of other people and tell them about God.

Sometimes he even does secret good deeds and he asks people not to blow the whistle on him.

But he takes off to some quiet place every so often. Says he’s talking to God there.

Pretty soon he has his own gang of followers who travel round with him. They’re nobodies, too. Fishermen and such. Drifters. The kind of people who would even work on the Sabbath day!

He hangs out with a loose crowd, tax collectors, people who walk a little close to the line. There’s even this one time when he forgives someone for something they did to someone else! It doesn’t look good to the religious guys. They don’t buy that one.

But people like to hear him tell stories. Everywhere he goes they pester him till he reels one off. Odd stories too, some of them don’t even seem to have a point.

Eventually he leaves this area and moves on. He travels across the lake in a grungy old fishing boat and halfway over there’s a terrible storm. It doesn’t phase him, he’s sleeping. But his guys wake him up in a panic. They say he just speaks to the wind and the waves and the storm dies down! This is no ordinary guy!

He goes on to do a lot more astonishing things, first across the lake and then down in the Jerusalem area. That’s where I’m off to now. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next. Y’know, I started out investigating this guy for Theo, but now I’m just so darn interested, I’m gonna have to find out more for myself. You never know, I might just end up believing in him.



Who was Luke?

Our script, the Private Eye Report of Luke, is a modern adaptation written in every-day lingo, but the apostle Luke truly was a “private eye” in the sense that he was reporting to “most excellent Theophilus,” a particular person, and this title suggests that Theophilus was an official with high standing and position. Luke wrote two books in our bible – the Book of Luke, and the Book of Acts. At the start of both these books in our scriptures, Luke gives an account to Theophilus who may have been Luke’s patron. Luke states that he “carefully investigated everything,” writing “an orderly account” of events and testimonies handed down from eye-witnesses and servants of the word. Luke writes about the life and teachings of Jesus “until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.”

Luke never met Jesus in person and he was not one of the twelve disciples. Jesus had already risen from the dead and ascended into heaven when Luke began his investigative writings. Luke was probably a Gentile by birth, well educated in Greek culture, a physician by profession, and a companion of the apostle Paul who travelled on many missionary journeys spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul refers to Luke as his “dear friend Luke, the doctor” in Colossians 4: 14, and a “fellow worker” in Philemon 24.

The message of Luke’s writings was intended for Theophilus’ learning and instruction, but also written to strengthen the faith of all believers and to answer the attacks of unbelievers. Luke wanted to refute any disconnected and ill-founded reports about Jesus. Luke commended the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world. In the Book of Luke, he concentrates on the coming of Jesus, the preparation of Jesus for his public ministry, Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee, and Jesus’ last days, his sacrifice and triumph.

Luke investigated the reports of those who knew Jesus personally, who were his disciples, who knew of the events of Jesus’ life, and who were followers and believers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke was one of them! We are so grateful to have his writings and his accounts in our holy scriptures.

Rev. Mary Fletcher