Sermon:                                                           Via Dolorosa

 Scriptures: Luke 19:28-40      Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

and Philippians 2:5-11

Via Dolorosa. The Way of the Cross.

The past few weeks we have been on a journey, we have traveled along the way. Our journey has brought us to The Wandering Way, The Way Around, The High Way, The Way Home and The Free Way. Today our journey takes us to The Other Way. Via Dolorosa is Latin for the way of suffering, the way of grief, the way of sorrows, the painful way.  It is most commonly known as The Way of the Cross.  The Via Dolorosa is an actual road in Jerusalem which is thought to be the road Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion.

Yet Via Dolorosa has taken on a broader meaning for Christians.  We all encounter the Via Dolorosa in one way or another.  It is the difficult way.

The other way. The way we try to avoid, but often cannot.

In our Scripture today we find Jesus continuing on the way, steadily journeying toward Jerusalem. Along the way he taught many things and he healed many people.  In fact, word spread about this man who maybe could possibly be the Messiah.

And even as he made his way to Jerusalem, Jesus had been doing his best to prepare the disciples for what they would encounter when they reached their final destination.

He talked to them about betrayal, suffering and death. The Via Dolorosa.

The disciples, though, were easily distracted. They didn’t want to believe their journey would end in suffering.  When Jesus asked two of his disciples to go retrieve a colt from an unsuspecting villager, they likely were wondering what Jesus was up to this time.  They were used to strange things happening when Jesus was around.  So they got the colt and threw their cloaks on it and Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the final stretch of his journey.

The disciples likely thinking this was going to be a journey of triumph.

And even before they reached the city gates a large crowd gathered. Soon everyone was throwing their cloaks on the road and grabbing palm branches to wave in celebration. The disciples must have been in awe at the reception that Jesus was getting.

There was no Via Dolorosa here.

 He had told them he would suffer there, in the city, but he must have been wrong.   It was a party!  People were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Save us!  Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”                 It was all pretty exciting.

I mean, this was the reception that Jesus deserved.  Riding into the city on a colt, much like his mother had arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus wasn’t the typical hero. Yet the people noticed.  They looked up from their shopping and their rushing to get errands done.

They lifted palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna!” They knew something special was going on and they wanted to be part of it.

It seemed that Jesus might have been the most popular person in Jerusalem for the moment.

However, unlike those people at the first Palm parade we know, in the words of Paul Harvey, the rest of the story. We know how the week will end.  Unlike those caught up in the boisterousness of the crowd, we know that those who showed their support for Jesus this day would withdraw and disappear before the end of the week, that shouts of “Hosanna” would soon turn into cries of “crucify him.”

In clergy circles they talk about whether they will observe Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday on this day. In Kristabeth’s lectionary group this week they were equally divided. Passion Sunday came into popularity a couple decades ago because many church folks didn’t make it to the Holy Week services and, as a result, missed the observance of Jesus’ passion, Jesus crucifixion. Folks would go from the celebration of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter with no Via Dolorosa in-between. To journey with Jesus through his passion is to take the other way. Jesus’ passion refers to his betrayal, arrest, trial  and crucifixion.  This is what we remember on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

The other way is not easy, but through it we can experience the depth of Jesus’ love for us, even in pain, as he gave all of himself for us out of love.

We know that the happy crowds of Palm Sunday soon dispersed. Jesus’ followers scattered.

Even his very closest friends forgot that they had ever heard of him. The cry turns from “Hosanna!’ to “Jesus who?” By the end of the week,

the name Jesus doesn’t seem to ring any bells. The reality was that in the short time between Palm Sunday, when crowds gathered around him, and Friday, Jesus was left alone. The Via Dolorosa.

Palm Sunday comes every year. Every year we grab our palms and wave them with our own shouts of “Hosanna!”

Yet we are not the same as we were a year ago on Palm Sunday.

Jesus enters into our lives anew.

What places need hope in our world today? What injustices need to be challenged? 

  What Via Dolorosas have you walked in the past year?

Preaching professor, Barbara Lundblad suggests, “Living this peculiar God shaped life, Jesus knew he would not escape suffering.He talked of it along the way… yet he still rode into the city, drawn there by the heart of God. And he comes riding still.”

He comes riding still.

And we are invited to join him, to take the other way, to experience his passion, which becomes our passion, to be embraced by his love, which becomes our love, to follow his way, which becomes our way.

Jesus comes riding still, so let us sing our Hosannas knowing that the one riding on a colt, the one for whom we wave our palm branches, is the only one who can really save us, who can ever save us.

Our Lenten journey is almost over, so may these last days take on a new depth of passion for us, passion born out of love, as we follow not the way of the world, but the other way. The way of the cross, the way of Christ. And remember that the Via Dolorosa ultimately ends at the empty tomb.  “Hosanna… Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.         Hosanna in the highest heaven.”  Thanks be to God.                           Amen.