Well, this Sunday in the church year is what I like to think of as March Madness - God style. It's Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey and had all the crowds waving those palm branches (kind of like the foam fingers of the day) and shouting out things like "Hosanna!" In our reading from Philippians 2:5-11, God's word shows us why.
You see, "Hosanna" is a Hebrew word made up of a couple of words. Real literally, it means, "Save us, please." When they were shouting Hosanna to Jesus, they were singing his praise and proclaiming who he was - our Savior. We certainly have reason to join in on this celebration. And in Philippians 2, Paul gives us reason not to let this be some fair-weather fan style of celebrating, where the shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday morph into "Crucify him" on Good Friday, or any time we're tempted. Instead, God tells you to live your Hosanna!
Philippians 2:5 has this encouragement: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Then it goes on to explain how his attitude showed in what he did, that, even though he deserved glory as true God, he humbled himself. He didn't demand his rights, and instead took what we rightfully had coming - death for sins.
Imitate that. Think of how counter-cultural that is. Think of how contrary that is to our hearts. Humble is not in our natures. Whether it is saying you're sorry and meaning it to your spouse or realizing that maybe your opinion of what color is best or what method is right isn't the one that should be followed - we don't naturally humble ourselves. Like the Proverb says, "A man's heart is proud."
And that's scary, because when we refuse to humble ourselves, well, then the Bible says we need to deal with God, the one who "humbles the proud." Whenever we stand up for our "rights" or demand our recognition, instead of sacrificing for others - whenever we excuse our actions because of who we think we are, not only have we not imitated the attitude of Jesus, but we've pushed our God away. Then our shout to God is not Hosanna, "Save Me!" but "Leave me alone!"
But God didn't. Instead, he humbled himself. Verse 8 says: "Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross." He didn't get what he deserved, but what we did. He felt the terror of being left alone by God when he cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." And he IS God. That's how far he emptied himself, humbled himself - to be the One, the only one who can receive that cry "Hosanna."
And since he did save us, he empowers us to imitate his attitude as we live our hosannas - so that our praise will no longer be for ourselves, but we'll realize that it's all about him, and we'll shout Hosanna with our lives.
So live your hosanna, because Jesus didn't stay humbled. He won the victory over our sins he took and now is back in his exalted position that he had set aside. It's natural to throw down our cloaks and anything else he wants. We have to present those palms and whatever else we have. We can't help but get excited - more excited than those fans with painted bodies and hoarse voices at the basketball games. Think of what one of those crazy fans would do if the hero that hit the three-pointer at the buzzer to win went up to them and asked for $1,000 in exchange for his love, or much less, his jersey or his shoe. I'm pretty sure there would be people at the game willing to give him a kidney if he wanted it. Today, we're cheering for the One who came to save us from hell.
Let's live our Hosannas. Let's put our lives where our love is.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.