"What's Our Role in All This?": Sermon for Palm Sunday, Year B

"What's Our Role in All This?": Sermon for Palm Sunday, Year B

Mar 25, 2018

Passage:Mark 11:1-11

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Holy Week

Category: Peace, Faithfulness, Healing

Keywords: healing, hope, palm sunday, peace, violence


Jesus sent his disciples to get a colt for him to ride for his journey into Jerusalem. At the village where they retrieved the colt, the villagers had to come together to decide if it was okay to send the donkey on its way. They ultimately agreed. This sermon looks at the small role of these villagers "coming together" for the purpose of the Gospel. It also looks at the issue of gun violence in our society through the lens of this small act.


In the name of God, the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday.

Today marks a shift for us in our Lenten Journeys.

Just about five weeks ago--February 14th--we began our sacred path of Lenten remembrance on Ash Wednesday. We promised to be people who would live by self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on God's Holy Word.

Today, that path... that journey... those practices take us into Holy Week.

Palm Sunday--the start of Holy Week--is a joyful and powerful commemoration of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. But, as we just heard in the dramatic reading from Mark, we also recognize Passion Sunday today. The term "passion" refers to the emotion, the fear, the hopelessness, the terror, and the horror of Christ's crucifixion that is to come.

We have the tension and discomfort of knowing what happens to Jesus shortly after he gets to Jerusalem. Jesus' triumph turns to sacrifice. His celebration turns to agony and death on the cross.

For us, our Holy Week journey must be one of deep reflection. It is a journey that holds the tension of celebration and grief.

In the first reading we heard today from Mark, we get a story of how Jesus' entry into Jerusalem happened.

I love the part of that story where Jesus tells his disciples to go find him a colt to borrow. He even tells them what to say when anybody asks what they're doing. The men head into a village. They find a colt tied up. They start to retrieve it.

Villagers question them. But the disciples tell them: "The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately..." just like Jesus told them to say. The neighbors and villagers come together and agree and send them on their way.

For some reason, this part of the story--the borrowing of the colt from the little village--really struck me this year.

Every year on Palm Sunday, we focus on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We might talk about his humility. We might talk about the shouts of Hosanna! and the accolades from the crowd.

But I love thinking specifically about this little village that supplied the colt for Jesus.

I keep thinking about those folks that "came together" to give up their animal for "the Lord" to ride into Jerusalem. There's something about "coming together" for a purpose--even if it's on the edges of the story. These villagers become essential to the Gospel.

Back on Ash Wednesday, that day when we "came together" to remember that "we are dust, and to dust we shall return," ... something else happened on that day in another village. Students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, suffered devastation, fear, and death at the hands of a gunman. A village changed forever that day. Seventeen died that day.

One of the students who died was Carmen Schentrup. She was sixteen--a week away from her seventeenth birthday. Carmen sang in the choir at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs. She was a youth group leader at that church.

Carmen was also funny, silly, playful, and a bookworm. One of the things she didn't know was that she was also a National Merit Finalist--they made those announcements on February 15th--the day after...[1]

Of course, this small description of Carmen doesn't really capture her life. And there are sixteen others who died, who were just as loved... whose families are just as crushed as Carmen's...

We feel so helpless in the face of this evil in the world. We look for hope in the presence of such hopelessness.

Bishops throughout the Episcopal Church, including our bishop, have called on us, as faithful Christians to walk the path of giving our "thoughts and prayers" to this horrible situation. But they also urge us to put these thoughts and prayers into action that brings healing into our broken world.[2] We must do something to end the needless pain and death that's becoming more and more prevalent because of the unmitigated gun violence in our society.

One of the inspiring and hopeful images to come out of this tragedy has come from our youth. Young people all over the world--starting with those teenagers there in Florida... are coming together.

Our young people recognize that they have a role to play in healing this world. They are coming together to call for an end to gun violence. Yesterday we witnessed hundreds of thousands of people all over the world in the "March For Our Lives" rallies "created by, inspired by, and led by students."  

These marches were not about political partisanship. They're not about Democrat of Republican. They're not about conservative or liberal. These marches are about making our children safe from gun violence.  They're about working to stop the epidemic of mass shootings that are all-too-common in our society.[3]

Jesus sent his disciples to gather the colt. The people of the village "came together" to support the Lord on his way. They recognized that they had a role to play in Jesus' journey.

We come together today in joy and celebration. But we know that in coming together, it's to journey on the path of the cross! We don't take this responsibility lightly. We must support each other. We must love each other. We must lift each other up.

Here in our village on this Palm Sunday, we encounter Christ in the waving of the palm branches.

We encounter Christ in the exchanges of the peace.   

We encounter Christ at the holy altar.

But as we leave today from this powerful celebration of Palm Sunday, we will journey out into our larger village. The question for us all is: how will we continue to bring healing as we encounter Christ during this Holy Week?

Will we, like those villagers who gave away the colt, recognize our role in the journey?

Will we be the instruments of God's love and God's peace in this world?

May we come together this Holy Week to emerge, by the grace of God, with the fortitude to help bring about God's peace and God's healing into this broken world.  



[1] For information on Carmen Schentrup see: Tarpley Hitt, "Loved ones say they’ll mourn Carmen Schentrup, 16 — and then act," Miami Herald, February 20, 2018, at; "Bishops United Urges Assault Weapons Ban, Prayers of Lamentation," Bishops Against Gun Violence Website at:

[2] Bishops Against Gun Violence Statement at

[3] See March For Our Lives Mission Statement at