Sermon from Pastor Esther Handschin
Dear sisters and brothers!
Jesus has a procession into Jerusalem. It is a festive event. The people are on the streets. They receive the one who comes into the city. However, in Luke’s gospel, the palm branches are missing on which Jesus is received just like a king. Yet they spread their clothes on the road into the city. This is the indication of the reception of an important person. Jesus has a procession into Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city of peace because Jerusalem has peace, shalom, salem, in its name. Despite the fact that the name indicates it to be a city of peace, Jerusalem had experienced many things: In the course of history Jerusalem was destroyed several times, many things tell us about this, and the first one to do so was Isaiah. The stones in the walls of the city can also tell us many things. How often some of those stones have changed their places? First, it was put into the wall of the city, and then after it was destroyed it might have been used to build a house, after that a street might have been created with it. The stones can tell us many things about the change in this city, how often there were war and destruction instead of peace.
The crowd that receives Jesus cheers. They sing in the streets and maybe even out of the windows and houses, „Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord.“ There are many things to be praised because they have seen many miracles. And the only appropriate reaction to such a miracle is to marvel and cheer. The people continue to sing, „Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.“ „In heaven peace and glory in the highest!“ The people sing differently than the angles have in the Holy Night. Then the angles have sung, „Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.“ The angles too show God in heaven honor and sing of His glory. But peace? The angels sing of peace coming to earth now that Jesus Christ is born. With Jesus comes peace from heaven to earth. With His acts and with what He says, God’s shalom and God’s will for salvation comes to the people. Here God’s kingdom comes. The disciples and the people on Jerusalem seem to not have noticed this. They still do sing „Peace in heaven!“ Peace on earth? Their opinion is, that it cannot already exist. The peace, the salvation that only exists in heaven. We have to wait for that. Jesus‘ ministry apparently did not touch them. Peace and the promise of salvation, for them this only exist in heaven, but not on earth.
Jesus has a procession into Jerusalem. He does not ride on a horse, as it would be fit for a king. It is a young colt, on which he proceeds into the city. Uncomfortable to sit on, a bumpy ride, better suitable for transporting goods than for people. But Jesus sets a clear example of this. If a king rides on a horse, then they ride into war. This is when violence and destruction are about to happen. Yet this does not happen with the one, where peace is coming to earth. He is the ruler without an army and a fighter without a spear. His kingdom is not of this world, yet it is superior to all other kingdoms in this world. Whoever consciously stages himself as the king of peace, unravels the images people have about kings. This can be quite dangerous, even life-endangering. However, the people on the side of the street do not care about this. They hope for someone who frees them from the oppression of the Roman foreign rule, if necessary with violence. If this Jesus understands this similarly when he comes into Jerusalem on a colt?
Jesus cries. The tension is too big between what he tried to teach the people about God and his kingdom, and with what he is being welcomed. It’s enough to make one weep. Not even his own disciples understood what he was talking about. They are blind. They do not understand what leads to peace. Nobody seems to understand that he brings the people peace on earth. They are still singing of peace in heaven. Nobody seems to be touched by the fact that God facing the people pleasingly. Once again will the city of peace be hit with violence and destruction. Not a stone will be left standing. It makes him mourn for this city and for the people who live here. This makes him mourn for the missed chance to bring the people in touch with God’s peace, God’s shalom, the peace that surpasses all understanding and that is more than a peace treaty.
What about us? Are we part of the cheering people, who are marveling about the miracles, but have understood so very little of what Jesus told them? Are we singing, „Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.“ and thus we are delaying and delegating peace to the future and make it right now unattainable? Or are we trying to decipher and spell out what the angles have said to the shepherds, „Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.“? Are we too those people, the people who God is pleased with?
Yes, God is pleased with us, if we want to or not. Us humans are important to God. To be in a relationship with us, that is important to Him. Is it not joyful to Him to see we are well? And is he not better, when we are reorienting ourselves to be lead to peace by Him? Peace, shalom in its all-encompassing biblical sense, which includes the body, soul, and spirit and can be seen in sustainable and trustworthy relationships. Peace, which includes justice and good livability for everyone. Has God’s peace reached us and shapes our way of life? Are we searching for this peace and chase it? Are we feeling this peace in our hearts? Are we opening the doors to our hearts so God’s peace can live in it?
What happens, when God’s peace shapes us?
Many people have a hard time to have this peace given to them because they have built up hostility against themselves. With their constant dissatisfaction, they are they make life difficult for themselves. However, as we do not like to admit we are at fault for our own unhappiness, we are quick to accuse someone else. It is one’s own parents that are making life miserable. It is the neighbors or the competitors at work, which block the sun from shining onto one. It is the partner, who is ruining everything. People like this have a hard time to be thankful for what they have. They explore the past and pick around in other people’s lives, just so they do not need to find the origin for their own dissatisfaction. To see oneself as a person, whom God loves and God gives His peace, who changes the life, that is a demanding path to walk on and difficult fight with oneself.
Living together with other people, this is when we feel very distinctly that we need God’s peace. „What leads to peace“ is what creates a good community of people. Being honest with each other, showing appreciation and to be prepared to forgive: all those are goods, which cannot be bought and yet they are important to create a human community. If we were to create all of those by ourselves, we would be honestly very overwhelmed. And then to be still appreciative of other people, even though they fight one with words or can only see fault, that is when we need the knowledge that God’s peace is a gift for which I ask and which is given to me.
When peoples are in a community this is when God’s peace is more than just a peace treaty. The idea of God’s shalom includes also a fair distribution of goods so everyone can have what they need for their life. For example produce that feeds us and does not make us sick, room to live in so we can experience dignity, protection from exploitation and corruption, the possibility to develop one’s life from education to work to a meaningful activity when strength decreases. Recently we became aware that this peace is also about protecting the creation because only this way the future generations will be able to also live on this earth. We need this peace more than ever, in the city, in our country, in Europe, on this earth.
Peace in heaven or peace on earth? I do not believe we are asked to choose to have either or, like: either there is peace on earth, but because it is not possible to have peace on earth there will be peace in heaven. Since the angles have declared peace on earth, we know that God is pleased with humans, whether we are aware of it or not. Sadly we still have a tendency to rather search for peace in heaven than on earth. It is easier to have peace in other times and spaces, where it is not reachable. This is how we are abdicating our responsibility to let God’s peace affect our lives. Because that would mean to ask oneself about their own dissatisfaction or to consciously care for peace and reconciliation or to live a life that cares for the future. As God knows about this difficulty to overcome ourselves He has gone the path of peace to the end, to the cross. His path of non-violence is the path of peace on earth. Amen.