Hosanna in the highest!

Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

That’s what they shouted
as Jesus entered Jerusalem;
that’s what they shouted
as they spread their cloaks
and spread branches before him,
welcoming him as
they would welcome royalty.

We said, “Hosanna!”
We sang, “We are marching in the light of God”
and “All Glory Laud and Honor”
as we waved palms and streamer,
processing down the street and into church,
re-enacting that triumphal entry
during the week of Passover.

“Hosanna!” A praise shout of joy;
we hear it as “Hurrah!” now,
and at that time
it meant something like,
Hooray! Salvation is here!
Hosanna! Hurray!

But it has another meaning,
an older meaning:
Hosanna! Lord, save us!
And it’s an intense form,
so it’s even stronger than that:
Lord, please, help us, save us, NOW!
And both make sense.
After all, pilgrims
were streaming into Jerusalem
from all over for the Passover,
but the Imperial Roman army
had entered the city, too,
flexing their military might,
reminding people
that though during Passover
they might celebrate
their victory over Egypt
all those years ago,
they’d better not think
about rebellion now,
not against Rome.

Hosanna! Save us from occupation!
Hosanna! Remove the boot
of the Romans from our necks!

But not only that.
Save us from our lives
weighed down by
worry and illness and debt;
give us hope
that there is more
to life than this,
more to life
than the way
we’ve structured it
so that some people
are in and some out,
some are rich
while others starve;
save us from the
graves we dig for ourselves
with our selfishness and greed.
Hosanna! We need a Messiah, Jesus!
And we’re counting on You.

And aren’t those
are same shouts today?
Hosanna! Help us, God!
We’re in over our heads,
we’re up to our necks
in sickness and hatred,
violence and war and death.

Hosanna! Save us, now, Lord,
from a culture drowning
in ads and goods and shopping and information,
some true, some fake,
a swirl of chaos supplanting
human relationships,
Sabbath time,
a quiet mind.

Hosanna! Save me, God,
from the mess I’ve made
in my own life,
the relationships I’ve broken,
the mistakes I’ve made,
the regrets I harbor.

Hosanna. Save me, help us. Now.

And people had reason to hope, then,
reason to cry out
to this Jesus
who has been preaching and teaching and healing,
reason to call for help,
to cry out in praise,
to the one who has been
brave enough, bold enough
to challenge those authorities
who have made life
difficult and fearful.

In crying out in praise and longing,
in desperation and hope,
they were crying out
for an overthrow of the Romans,
for a renewed Israel,
crying out for freedom,
better lives,
something new, something better,
A Messiah who would fix things.

In crying out in praise and longing,
we give voice to our deepest yearnings:
for a world that makes sense:
for an end to violence—
gun violence on our streets,
war in Ukraine and everywhere;
for politicians who are on our side,
for work with dignity and fair pay,
for families intact and loving,
for healthy bodies and minds . . .

The Hosannas are sincere,
maybe, even, a bit desperate.
Help me! Save us . . . somebody . . . please.

The people want salvation,
but they want it
the way they’d imagined:
Roman occupation ended;
Israel free.
Personal troubles solved.
Life improved.
A Savior on their side.

What they didn’t want,
what they couldn’t
have even imagined,
is a Messiah, a Savior,
who . . . dies.

What are they,
what are we,
to make of one
who predicts his death
after being anointed
with costly perfume?
Of one who tells
his followers
that one of them will betray,
one will deny,
and ALL will desert him?

How can the one
who prays in agony
for God to remove this cup,
who refuses to defend himself
at his own trial,
who is beaten and mocked,
spit on and stripped,
how can HE help?
How can he save them . . .
save . . . us?
No wonder “Hosannas”
turn to “Crucify him!”
No wonder “Save me now, God!”
twists into derision
at a broken body,
into sneers of “Save yourself,
and come down from the cross!”

They imagined triumph,
dreamt of glory,
but they got death on a cross,
the most pitiable,
shameful death imaginable.

They had cried out “Hosanna!”
to the one who
they thought came
in the name of the Lord.
What they heard instead was,
“My God, My God,
why have you forsaken me?”

“Save us,” they cried,
and then turned away
when they didn’t like what they saw.

But what they couldn’t see,
couldn’t know,
was that this IS
how our God saves . . .
by accepting the cup
given to him.

By becoming the man of sorrows,
weighed down by
the grief of a violent world
peopled by we violent, fickle, pitiable ones,
whom he loves.

He doesn’t save
by coming in the glory
of a powerful king,
a Messiah who overthrows
principalities and powers
through violence
or disciplines us harshly.
No this Messiah helps us,
because he “emptied himself,
Taking the form of a slave,
Being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
He humbled himself
And became obedient
To the point of death—
Even death on a cross.”

“Hosanna!” We cry, “Save us!”

And this week we learn how.