"Open Wide the Gates!"
by Leslie Depenbrock
Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

I remember Palm Sunday when I was a kid. It was an exciting holiday in the church. Usually there were real palms strewn around the building. In Sunday school we always drew then cut out palms and waved them during our worship time. Of course we learned all the Palm Sunday hymns! There was an air of expectancy like something was about to happen. Even as children we could understand this. Jesus said we must be as children in order to see the Kingdom of God. I suspect this holiday was what he had in mind.

Even in today's sober adult hood, something special is expected on this day. We probably have all had sermons where the preacher walked from the back as if describing the amazing events just witnessed outside our very doors. "This man was on a donkey and people were celebrating his entrance into the City!' Or some such beginning to the tale. We try to make this a live event so that folks can have some understanding of what made it special for those people in Jesus' times.

There is an abandonment that is appropriate to this day- Palm Sunday. A people held in captive are full of hope that God is about to redeem them. Yes, the hope is tenuous. They have a certain amount of fears that this Jesus may not be the One they have been waiting for but- the morning dawns bright and clear. People are gathering along the wayside. Children are running and playing among the adults' feet. There is an air of festivity about the events. Something exciting is about to happen! The Scriptures are positive about this: something is in the air!

Branches were cut from the neighboring fields and spread on the road much after the custom of feasts beforehand. Some of the crowd removed their outer garments and placed them in road. Going both before and after Jesus are throngs of people whom Mark often portrayed as positive and supportive of Jesus, even though they probably did not understand his mission. Shouts of "Hosanna" meaning "save us" burst into the air.

Finally Jesus comes down the path, a small donkey bearing his weight. As foretold, he has come from outside the City. The crowds multiply as he travels on. In the air are questions: " Is this the One that God has promised?" " What will happen to us next?" "How can one man be our answer?" etc. Great hopes. Great expectations. No immediate answers.

The gates have been flung open however. Jesus has entered the City as in the promise. He is definitely someone that must be reckoned with, whatever that may look like! The officials didn't like him one bit. Perhaps they did fear him as the Bible says. It seems strange that Roman soldiers who had conquered the world and now had charge of this small upstart little state would fear a carpenter but you never know. They certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of him!

The gates have been flung open! Jesus could have stayed outside the city walls, doing what he had been doing for 3 years- preaching, teaching, healing, etc. He chose to come in. He knew it was dangerous for him. He knew the Romans and the Jews were after him probably to kill him. Yet he went to the City and the gates were opened wide! Jesus entered and our lives have not been the same since.

In the following week, Jesus preached and taught openly in the temple courtyards. People came and went. The air of excitement had probably calmed a bit but the Passover was coming.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover was (and is today) a time when Jews celebrate their quick departure from Egypt. The pharaoh had finally "flung wide the gates" and let the people go. But they had to move in a hurry. The days before hand had been dreadful- all sorts of plagues had been carried out upon the land. And now, this very night, the dark angel of death had flown over a touched the firstborn of all people who did not have the mark of blood on the doors. Even the mighty pharaoh was brought down with the death of his first born. Enough, he said. Get rid of these people! And so they packed up and left the city in a great hurry.

This time in the spring has always since that time been one of great festivities and celebration so one does not wonder why the city is bustling. With so many people coming in from the countryside, why would anyone pay attention to a small town itinerant rabbi? Yet, they did. The Jews hated him because he defied their system and showed up the hypocrisy that had crept into the religious life. The Romans wanted to keep peace at any cost. If this man was a troublemaker, then they had to find a way to get rid of him. All of this on the holiest of holidays!

Normally a sacrificial animal was given as in atonement for sin and in thanksgiving for God's gifts. By presenting himself to the people during this time, Jesus was offering himself as this gift, this sacrifice. As we know now, Jesus died on Good Friday, a week after he had come into the city amidst cheers and celebration. He died on the day that the animals set apart for sacrifice were to be given. He allowed his life to be sacrificed for us and our sin. He became the Paschal lamb. His act opened the gates of heaven for us.

Sometimes, that is what it takes to make life worth living- an act of sacrifice, a deed of kindness, something given that has a high price. We don't always see it coming, as Jesus did. We take a risk and give it over to God and pray that good will come from it. An example of such a risk is having children. Those of us who have them can testify that we certainly didn't know everything we were getting into at their birth. But, despite the challenges, problems, expense, sacrifices, etc, most of us would do it again.

What kinds of experiences like this have you had? - the kind where you said afterwards "My life has been changed" or "I will not look at life the same way ever again"? We do have these times in our lives. Sometime they are very simple in detail like a child 's birth. I'm not talking about incidental or accidental things but rather events you planned for even though you could not control the result. Things like taking a new job, going to school, moving to a new community. These are life-changing plans we decide to take on. We are in fact "flinging wide the gates" and allowing God to be present in our lives in new ways. Possibly scary ways. Whatever happens, we know something will be different.

Life involves a certain amount of risk. We often don't have the slightest clue what our actions will do despite careful plans. Sometimes you can look back on an action and say "Yeah, I should've seen that one coming." But we don't or can't. Only God has the eyes of the future. What does this mean for us?

As I see it, it leaves us with two basic choices: we can either take the risk, making life uncertain but also probably more interesting and more exciting. Or- we can go the safer route. There is a surety there, predictability but one never knows. No guarantees even in playing it safe.

But in the game of life you can't always play the odds. You go with the cards given you. Then the choice is play or don't play. You can hide in a corner and play it safe or you can go with it. Life is like that. You can go through the wide-open gates or you can chose to take the safer path. But I'll bet if you ask any here who has chosen the riskier sides of life if they would have done different, they would say no.

Is there any sure thing? What gives us our comfort? We as Christians know that God walks with us always, even on the dangerous side of life. We aren't safer because of his presence but we know we are ok. God's Providence is over us. Regardless of what life dishes out, we will be ok in God's eyes because we are loved and cared for. There is a place for us in God's Kingdom and eventually we will go there. Jesus knew that. He didn't want to face what he knew lay ahead for him but he knew for our sakes that this road must be traveled. He had to enter the gates of Jerusalem so that God's plan for humanity would be carried out. This makes this day, Palm Sunday worth celebrating.

Open wide the gates- the King is coming in. We await his presence in our lives!

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Enter into the gates of our lives. Make us open to your love and your caring. Show us that life is worth living and living well. "Open Wide the Gates!" Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 I remember Palm Sunday when I was a kid. It was an exciting holiday in the church. Usually there were real palms strewn around the building. In Sunday school we always drew then cut out palms and waved them during our worship time. Of course we learned all the Palm Sunday hymns! There was an air of expectancy like something was about to happen. Even as children we could understand this. Jesus said we must be as children in order to see the Kingdom of God. I suspect this holiday was what he had in mind.

Even in today's sober adult hood, something special is expected on this day. We probably have all had sermons where the preacher walked from the back as if describing the amazing events just witnessed outside our very doors. "This man was on a donkey and people were celebrating his entrance into the City!' Or some such beginning to the tale. We try to make this a live event so that folks can have some understanding of what made it special for those people in Jesus' times.

There is an abandonment that is appropriate to this day- Palm Sunday. A people held in captive are full of hope that God is about to redeem them. Yes, the hope is tenuous. They have a certain amount of fears that this Jesus may not be the One they have been waiting for but- the morning dawns bright and clear. People are gathering along the wayside. Children are running and playing among the adults' feet. There is an air of festivity about the events. Something exciting is about to happen! The Scriptures are positive about this: something is in the air!

Branches were cut from the neighboring fields and spread on the road much after the custom of feasts beforehand. Some of the crowd removed their outer garments and placed them in road. Going both before and after Jesus are throngs of people whom Mark often portrayed as positive and supportive of Jesus, even though they probably did not understand his mission. Shouts of "Hosanna" meaning "save us" burst into the air.

Finally Jesus comes down the path, a small donkey bearing his weight. As foretold, he has come from outside the City. The crowds multiply as he travels on. In the air are questions: " Is this the One that God has promised?" " What will happen to us next?" "How can one man be our answer?" etc. Great hopes. Great expectations. No immediate answers.

The gates have been flung open however. Jesus has entered the City as in the promise. He is definitely someone that must be reckoned with, whatever that may look like! The officials didn't like him one bit. Perhaps they did fear him as the Bible says. It seems strange that Roman soldiers who had conquered the world and now had charge of this small upstart little state would fear a carpenter but you never know. They certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of him!

The gates have been flung open! Jesus could have stayed outside the city walls, doing what he had been doing for 3 years- preaching, teaching, healing, etc. He chose to come in. He knew it was dangerous for him. He knew the Romans and the Jews were after him probably to kill him. Yet he went to the City and the gates were opened wide! Jesus entered and our lives have not been the same since.

In the following week, Jesus preached and taught openly in the temple courtyards. People came and went. The air of excitement had probably calmed a bit but the Passover was coming.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover was (and is today) a time when Jews celebrate their quick departure from Egypt. The pharaoh had finally "flung wide the gates" and let the people go. But they had to move in a hurry. The days before hand had been dreadful- all sorts of plagues had been carried out upon the land. And now, this very night, the dark angel of death had flown over a touched the firstborn of all people who did not have the mark of blood on the doors. Even the mighty pharaoh was brought down with the death of his first born. Enough, he said. Get rid of these people! And so they packed up and left the city in a great hurry.

This time in the spring has always since that time been one of great festivities and celebration so one does not wonder why the city is bustling. With so many people coming in from the countryside, why would anyone pay attention to a small town itinerant rabbi? Yet, they did. The Jews hated him because he defied their system and showed up the hypocrisy that had crept into the religious life. The Romans wanted to keep peace at any cost. If this man was a troublemaker, then they had to find a way to get rid of him. All of this on the holiest of holidays!

Normally a sacrificial animal was given as in atonement for sin and in thanksgiving for God's gifts. By presenting himself to the people during this time, Jesus was offering himself as this gift, this sacrifice. As we know now, Jesus died on Good Friday, a week after he had come into the city amidst cheers and celebration. He died on the day that the animals set apart for sacrifice were to be given. He allowed his life to be sacrificed for us and our sin. He became the Paschal lamb. His act opened the gates of heaven for us.

Sometimes, that is what it takes to make life worth living- an act of sacrifice, a deed of kindness, something given that has a high price. We don't always see it coming, as Jesus did. We take a risk and give it over to God and pray that good will come from it. An example of such a risk is having children. Those of us who have them can testify that we certainly didn't know everything we were getting into at their birth. But, despite the challenges, problems, expense, sacrifices, etc, most of us would do it again.

What kinds of experiences like this have you had? - the kind where you said afterwards "My life has been changed" or "I will not look at life the same way ever again"? We do have these times in our lives. Sometime they are very simple in detail like a child 's birth. I'm not talking about incidental or accidental things but rather events you planned for even though you could not control the result. Things like taking a new job, going to school, moving to a new community. These are life-changing plans we decide to take on. We are in fact "flinging wide the gates" and allowing God to be present in our lives in new ways. Possibly scary ways. Whatever happens, we know something will be different.

Life involves a certain amount of risk. We often don't have the slightest clue what our actions will do despite careful plans. Sometimes you can look back on an action and say "Yeah, I should've seen that one coming." But we don't or can't. Only God has the eyes of the future. What does this mean for us?

As I see it, it leaves us with two basic choices: we can either take the risk, making life uncertain but also probably more interesting and more exciting. Or- we can go the safer route. There is a surety there, predictability but one never knows. No guarantees even in playing it safe.

But in the game of life you can't always play the odds. You go with the cards given you. Then the choice is play or don't play. You can hide in a corner and play it safe or you can go with it. Life is like that. You can go through the wide-open gates or you can chose to take the safer path. But I'll bet if you ask any here who has chosen the riskier sides of life if they would have done different, they would say no.

Is there any sure thing? What gives us our comfort? We as Christians know that God walks with us always, even on the dangerous side of life. We aren't safer because of his presence but we know we are ok. God's Providence is over us. Regardless of what life dishes out, we will be ok in God's eyes because we are loved and cared for. There is a place for us in God's Kingdom and eventually we will go there. Jesus knew that. He didn't want to face what he knew lay ahead for him but he knew for our sakes that this road must be traveled. He had to enter the gates of Jerusalem so that God's plan for humanity would be carried out. This makes this day, Palm Sunday worth celebrating.

Open wide the gates- the King is coming in. We await his presence in our lives!

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Enter into the gates of our lives. Make us open to your love and your caring. Show us that life is worth living and living well. "Open Wide the Gates!" Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 I remember Palm Sunday when I was a kid. It was an exciting holiday in the church. Usually there were real palms strewn around the building. In Sunday school we always drew then cut out palms and waved them during our worship time. Of course we learned all the Palm Sunday hymns! There was an air of expectancy like something was about to happen. Even as children we could understand this. Jesus said we must be as children in order to see the Kingdom of God. I suspect this holiday was what he had in mind.

Even in today's sober adult hood, something special is expected on this day. We probably have all had sermons where the preacher walked from the back as if describing the amazing events just witnessed outside our very doors. "This man was on a donkey and people were celebrating his entrance into the City!' Or some such beginning to the tale. We try to make this a live event so that folks can have some understanding of what made it special for those people in Jesus' times.

There is an abandonment that is appropriate to this day- Palm Sunday. A people held in captive are full of hope that God is about to redeem them. Yes, the hope is tenuous. They have a certain amount of fears that this Jesus may not be the One they have been waiting for but- the morning dawns bright and clear. People are gathering along the wayside. Children are running and playing among the adults' feet. There is an air of festivity about the events. Something exciting is about to happen! The Scriptures are positive about this: something is in the air!

Branches were cut from the neighboring fields and spread on the road much after the custom of feasts beforehand. Some of the crowd removed their outer garments and placed them in road. Going both before and after Jesus are throngs of people whom Mark often portrayed as positive and supportive of Jesus, even though they probably did not understand his mission. Shouts of "Hosanna" meaning "save us" burst into the air.

Finally Jesus comes down the path, a small donkey bearing his weight. As foretold, he has come from outside the City. The crowds multiply as he travels on. In the air are questions: " Is this the One that God has promised?" " What will happen to us next?" "How can one man be our answer?" etc. Great hopes. Great expectations. No immediate answers.

The gates have been flung open however. Jesus has entered the City as in the promise. He is definitely someone that must be reckoned with, whatever that may look like! The officials didn't like him one bit. Perhaps they did fear him as the Bible says. It seems strange that Roman soldiers who had conquered the world and now had charge of this small upstart little state would fear a carpenter but you never know. They certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of him!

The gates have been flung open! Jesus could have stayed outside the city walls, doing what he had been doing for 3 years- preaching, teaching, healing, etc. He chose to come in. He knew it was dangerous for him. He knew the Romans and the Jews were after him probably to kill him. Yet he went to the City and the gates were opened wide! Jesus entered and our lives have not been the same since.

In the following week, Jesus preached and taught openly in the temple courtyards. People came and went. The air of excitement had probably calmed a bit but the Passover was coming.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover was (and is today) a time when Jews celebrate their quick departure from Egypt. The pharaoh had finally "flung wide the gates" and let the people go. But they had to move in a hurry. The days before hand had been dreadful- all sorts of plagues had been carried out upon the land. And now, this very night, the dark angel of death had flown over a touched the firstborn of all people who did not have the mark of blood on the doors. Even the mighty pharaoh was brought down with the death of his first born. Enough, he said. Get rid of these people! And so they packed up and left the city in a great hurry.

This time in the spring has always since that time been one of great festivities and celebration so one does not wonder why the city is bustling. With so many people coming in from the countryside, why would anyone pay attention to a small town itinerant rabbi? Yet, they did. The Jews hated him because he defied their system and showed up the hypocrisy that had crept into the religious life. The Romans wanted to keep peace at any cost. If this man was a troublemaker, then they had to find a way to get rid of him. All of this on the holiest of holidays!

Normally a sacrificial animal was given as in atonement for sin and in thanksgiving for God's gifts. By presenting himself to the people during this time, Jesus was offering himself as this gift, this sacrifice. As we know now, Jesus died on Good Friday, a week after he had come into the city amidst cheers and celebration. He died on the day that the animals set apart for sacrifice were to be given. He allowed his life to be sacrificed for us and our sin. He became the Paschal lamb. His act opened the gates of heaven for us.

Sometimes, that is what it takes to make life worth living- an act of sacrifice, a deed of kindness, something given that has a high price. We don't always see it coming, as Jesus did. We take a risk and give it over to God and pray that good will come from it. An example of such a risk is having children. Those of us who have them can testify that we certainly didn't know everything we were getting into at their birth. But, despite the challenges, problems, expense, sacrifices, etc, most of us would do it again.

What kinds of experiences like this have you had? - the kind where you said afterwards "My life has been changed" or "I will not look at life the same way ever again"? We do have these times in our lives. Sometime they are very simple in detail like a child 's birth. I'm not talking about incidental or accidental things but rather events you planned for even though you could not control the result. Things like taking a new job, going to school, moving to a new community. These are life-changing plans we decide to take on. We are in fact "flinging wide the gates" and allowing God to be present in our lives in new ways. Possibly scary ways. Whatever happens, we know something will be different.

Life involves a certain amount of risk. We often don't have the slightest clue what our actions will do despite careful plans. Sometimes you can look back on an action and say "Yeah, I should've seen that one coming." But we don't or can't. Only God has the eyes of the future. What does this mean for us?

As I see it, it leaves us with two basic choices: we can either take the risk, making life uncertain but also probably more interesting and more exciting. Or- we can go the safer route. There is a surety there, predictability but one never knows. No guarantees even in playing it safe.

But in the game of life you can't always play the odds. You go with the cards given you. Then the choice is play or don't play. You can hide in a corner and play it safe or you can go with it. Life is like that. You can go through the wide-open gates or you can chose to take the safer path. But I'll bet if you ask any here who has chosen the riskier sides of life if they would have done different, they would say no.

Is there any sure thing? What gives us our comfort? We as Christians know that God walks with us always, even on the dangerous side of life. We aren't safer because of his presence but we know we are ok. God's Providence is over us. Regardless of what life dishes out, we will be ok in God's eyes because we are loved and cared for. There is a place for us in God's Kingdom and eventually we will go there. Jesus knew that. He didn't want to face what he knew lay ahead for him but he knew for our sakes that this road must be traveled. He had to enter the gates of Jerusalem so that God's plan for humanity would be carried out. This makes this day, Palm Sunday worth celebrating.

Open wide the gates- the King is coming in. We await his presence in our lives!

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Enter into the gates of our lives. Make us open to your love and your caring. Show us that life is worth living and living well. "Open Wide the Gates!" Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 I remember Palm Sunday when I was a kid. It was an exciting holiday in the church. Usually there were real palms strewn around the building. In Sunday school we always drew then cut out palms and waved them during our worship time. Of course we learned all the Palm Sunday hymns! There was an air of expectancy like something was about to happen. Even as children we could understand this. Jesus said we must be as children in order to see the Kingdom of God. I suspect this holiday was what he had in mind.

Even in today's sober adult hood, something special is expected on this day. We probably have all had sermons where the preacher walked from the back as if describing the amazing events just witnessed outside our very doors. "This man was on a donkey and people were celebrating his entrance into the City!' Or some such beginning to the tale. We try to make this a live event so that folks can have some understanding of what made it special for those people in Jesus' times.

There is an abandonment that is appropriate to this day- Palm Sunday. A people held in captive are full of hope that God is about to redeem them. Yes, the hope is tenuous. They have a certain amount of fears that this Jesus may not be the One they have been waiting for but- the morning dawns bright and clear. People are gathering along the wayside. Children are running and playing among the adults' feet. There is an air of festivity about the events. Something exciting is about to happen! The Scriptures are positive about this: something is in the air!

Branches were cut from the neighboring fields and spread on the road much after the custom of feasts beforehand. Some of the crowd removed their outer garments and placed them in road. Going both before and after Jesus are throngs of people whom Mark often portrayed as positive and supportive of Jesus, even though they probably did not understand his mission. Shouts of "Hosanna" meaning "save us" burst into the air.

Finally Jesus comes down the path, a small donkey bearing his weight. As foretold, he has come from outside the City. The crowds multiply as he travels on. In the air are questions: " Is this the One that God has promised?" " What will happen to us next?" "How can one man be our answer?" etc. Great hopes. Great expectations. No immediate answers.

The gates have been flung open however. Jesus has entered the City as in the promise. He is definitely someone that must be reckoned with, whatever that may look like! The officials didn't like him one bit. Perhaps they did fear him as the Bible says. It seems strange that Roman soldiers who had conquered the world and now had charge of this small upstart little state would fear a carpenter but you never know. They certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of him!

The gates have been flung open! Jesus could have stayed outside the city walls, doing what he had been doing for 3 years- preaching, teaching, healing, etc. He chose to come in. He knew it was dangerous for him. He knew the Romans and the Jews were after him probably to kill him. Yet he went to the City and the gates were opened wide! Jesus entered and our lives have not been the same since.

In the following week, Jesus preached and taught openly in the temple courtyards. People came and went. The air of excitement had probably calmed a bit but the Passover was coming.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover was (and is today) a time when Jews celebrate their quick departure from Egypt. The pharaoh had finally "flung wide the gates" and let the people go. But they had to move in a hurry. The days before hand had been dreadful- all sorts of plagues had been carried out upon the land. And now, this very night, the dark angel of death had flown over a touched the firstborn of all people who did not have the mark of blood on the doors. Even the mighty pharaoh was brought down with the death of his first born. Enough, he said. Get rid of these people! And so they packed up and left the city in a great hurry.

This time in the spring has always since that time been one of great festivities and celebration so one does not wonder why the city is bustling. With so many people coming in from the countryside, why would anyone pay attention to a small town itinerant rabbi? Yet, they did. The Jews hated him because he defied their system and showed up the hypocrisy that had crept into the religious life. The Romans wanted to keep peace at any cost. If this man was a troublemaker, then they had to find a way to get rid of him. All of this on the holiest of holidays!

Normally a sacrificial animal was given as in atonement for sin and in thanksgiving for God's gifts. By presenting himself to the people during this time, Jesus was offering himself as this gift, this sacrifice. As we know now, Jesus died on Good Friday, a week after he had come into the city amidst cheers and celebration. He died on the day that the animals set apart for sacrifice were to be given. He allowed his life to be sacrificed for us and our sin. He became the Paschal lamb. His act opened the gates of heaven for us.

Sometimes, that is what it takes to make life worth living- an act of sacrifice, a deed of kindness, something given that has a high price. We don't always see it coming, as Jesus did. We take a risk and give it over to God and pray that good will come from it. An example of such a risk is having children. Those of us who have them can testify that we certainly didn't know everything we were getting into at their birth. But, despite the challenges, problems, expense, sacrifices, etc, most of us would do it again.

What kinds of experiences like this have you had? - the kind where you said afterwards "My life has been changed" or "I will not look at life the same way ever again"? We do have these times in our lives. Sometime they are very simple in detail like a child 's birth. I'm not talking about incidental or accidental things but rather events you planned for even though you could not control the result. Things like taking a new job, going to school, moving to a new community. These are life-changing plans we decide to take on. We are in fact "flinging wide the gates" and allowing God to be present in our lives in new ways. Possibly scary ways. Whatever happens, we know something will be different.

Life involves a certain amount of risk. We often don't have the slightest clue what our actions will do despite careful plans. Sometimes you can look back on an action and say "Yeah, I should've seen that one coming." But we don't or can't. Only God has the eyes of the future. What does this mean for us?

As I see it, it leaves us with two basic choices: we can either take the risk, making life uncertain but also probably more interesting and more exciting. Or- we can go the safer route. There is a surety there, predictability but one never knows. No guarantees even in playing it safe.

But in the game of life you can't always play the odds. You go with the cards given you. Then the choice is play or don't play. You can hide in a corner and play it safe or you can go with it. Life is like that. You can go through the wide-open gates or you can chose to take the safer path. But I'll bet if you ask any here who has chosen the riskier sides of life if they would have done different, they would say no.

Is there any sure thing? What gives us our comfort? We as Christians know that God walks with us always, even on the dangerous side of life. We aren't safer because of his presence but we know we are ok. God's Providence is over us. Regardless of what life dishes out, we will be ok in God's eyes because we are loved and cared for. There is a place for us in God's Kingdom and eventually we will go there. Jesus knew that. He didn't want to face what he knew lay ahead for him but he knew for our sakes that this road must be traveled. He had to enter the gates of Jerusalem so that God's plan for humanity would be carried out. This makes this day, Palm Sunday worth celebrating.

Open wide the gates- the King is coming in. We await his presence in our lives!

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Enter into the gates of our lives. Make us open to your love and your caring. Show us that life is worth living and living well. "Open Wide the Gates!" Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 I remember Palm Sunday when I was a kid. It was an exciting holiday in the church. Usually there were real palms strewn around the building. In Sunday school we always drew then cut out palms and waved them during our worship time. Of course we learned all the Palm Sunday hymns! There was an air of expectancy like something was about to happen. Even as children we could understand this. Jesus said we must be as children in order to see the Kingdom of God. I suspect this holiday was what he had in mind.

Even in today's sober adult hood, something special is expected on this day. We probably have all had sermons where the preacher walked from the back as if describing the amazing events just witnessed outside our very doors. "This man was on a donkey and people were celebrating his entrance into the City!' Or some such beginning to the tale. We try to make this a live event so that folks can have some understanding of what made it special for those people in Jesus' times.

There is an abandonment that is appropriate to this day- Palm Sunday. A people held in captive are full of hope that God is about to redeem them. Yes, the hope is tenuous. They have a certain amount of fears that this Jesus may not be the One they have been waiting for but- the morning dawns bright and clear. People are gathering along the wayside. Children are running and playing among the adults' feet. There is an air of festivity about the events. Something exciting is about to happen! The Scriptures are positive about this: something is in the air!

Branches were cut from the neighboring fields and spread on the road much after the custom of feasts beforehand. Some of the crowd removed their outer garments and placed them in road. Going both before and after Jesus are throngs of people whom Mark often portrayed as positive and supportive of Jesus, even though they probably did not understand his mission. Shouts of "Hosanna" meaning "save us" burst into the air.

Finally Jesus comes down the path, a small donkey bearing his weight. As foretold, he has come from outside the City. The crowds multiply as he travels on. In the air are questions: " Is this the One that God has promised?" " What will happen to us next?" "How can one man be our answer?" etc. Great hopes. Great expectations. No immediate answers.

The gates have been flung open however. Jesus has entered the City as in the promise. He is definitely someone that must be reckoned with, whatever that may look like! The officials didn't like him one bit. Perhaps they did fear him as the Bible says. It seems strange that Roman soldiers who had conquered the world and now had charge of this small upstart little state would fear a carpenter but you never know. They certainly seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of him!

The gates have been flung open! Jesus could have stayed outside the city walls, doing what he had been doing for 3 years- preaching, teaching, healing, etc. He chose to come in. He knew it was dangerous for him. He knew the Romans and the Jews were after him probably to kill him. Yet he went to the City and the gates were opened wide! Jesus entered and our lives have not been the same since.

In the following week, Jesus preached and taught openly in the temple courtyards. People came and went. The air of excitement had probably calmed a bit but the Passover was coming.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover was (and is today) a time when Jews celebrate their quick departure from Egypt. The pharaoh had finally "flung wide the gates" and let the people go. But they had to move in a hurry. The days before hand had been dreadful- all sorts of plagues had been carried out upon the land. And now, this very night, the dark angel of death had flown over a touched the firstborn of all people who did not have the mark of blood on the doors. Even the mighty pharaoh was brought down with the death of his first born. Enough, he said. Get rid of these people! And so they packed up and left the city in a great hurry.

This time in the spring has always since that time been one of great festivities and celebration so one does not wonder why the city is bustling. With so many people coming in from the countryside, why would anyone pay attention to a small town itinerant rabbi? Yet, they did. The Jews hated him because he defied their system and showed up the hypocrisy that had crept into the religious life. The Romans wanted to keep peace at any cost. If this man was a troublemaker, then they had to find a way to get rid of him. All of this on the holiest of holidays!

Normally a sacrificial animal was given as in atonement for sin and in thanksgiving for God's gifts. By presenting himself to the people during this time, Jesus was offering himself as this gift, this sacrifice. As we know now, Jesus died on Good Friday, a week after he had come into the city amidst cheers and celebration. He died on the day that the animals set apart for sacrifice were to be given. He allowed his life to be sacrificed for us and our sin. He became the Paschal lamb. His act opened the gates of heaven for us.

Sometimes, that is what it takes to make life worth living- an act of sacrifice, a deed of kindness, something given that has a high price. We don't always see it coming, as Jesus did. We take a risk and give it over to God and pray that good will come from it. An example of such a risk is having children. Those of us who have them can testify that we certainly didn't know everything we were getting into at their birth. But, despite the challenges, problems, expense, sacrifices, etc, most of us would do it again.

What kinds of experiences like this have you had? - the kind where you said afterwards "My life has been changed" or "I will not look at life the same way ever again"? We do have these times in our lives. Sometime they are very simple in detail like a child 's birth. I'm not talking about incidental or accidental things but rather events you planned for even though you could not control the result. Things like taking a new job, going to school, moving to a new community. These are life-changing plans we decide to take on. We are in fact "flinging wide the gates" and allowing God to be present in our lives in new ways. Possibly scary ways. Whatever happens, we know something will be different.

Life involves a certain amount of risk. We often don't have the slightest clue what our actions will do despite careful plans. Sometimes you can look back on an action and say "Yeah, I should've seen that one coming." But we don't or can't. Only God has the eyes of the future. What does this mean for us?

As I see it, it leaves us with two basic choices: we can either take the risk, making life uncertain but also probably more interesting and more exciting. Or- we can go the safer route. There is a surety there, predictability but one never knows. No guarantees even in playing it safe.

But in the game of life you can't always play the odds. You go with the cards given you. Then the choice is play or don't play. You can hide in a corner and play it safe or you can go with it. Life is like that. You can go through the wide-open gates or you can chose to take the safer path. But I'll bet if you ask any here who has chosen the riskier sides of life if they would have done different, they would say no.

Is there any sure thing? What gives us our comfort? We as Christians know that God walks with us always, even on the dangerous side of life. We aren't safer because of his presence but we know we are ok. God's Providence is over us. Regardless of what life dishes out, we will be ok in God's eyes because we are loved and cared for. There is a place for us in God's Kingdom and eventually we will go there. Jesus knew that. He didn't want to face what he knew lay ahead for him but he knew for our sakes that this road must be traveled. He had to enter the gates of Jerusalem so that God's plan for humanity would be carried out. This makes this day, Palm Sunday worth celebrating.

Open wide the gates- the King is coming in. We await his presence in our lives!

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus. Enter into the gates of our lives. Make us open to your love and your caring. Show us that life is worth living and living well.

 

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