Hosanna - Save Us Now!: A Palm Sunday Prayer


A sermon on Matthew 21:1-11

(for an audio recording of this sermon, click here)

One word from today’s gospel has been echoing in my soul this past week: “Hosanna

It’s one of those “churchy” words that I usually try to avoid: words that we don’t use in normal life, so they can feel like they create a barrier between faith and daily living, as though faith happens on a different level, with a different vocabulary, than the experiences and emotions that we actually need our faith to address.

But this week, Hosanna has NOT felt removed from my daily life. In fact, at times it has felt like the only word that can capture the complicated, emotionally turbulent cry of my heart that IS my daily life these days.

That’s because Hosanna captures in one word a complicated prayer.It’s a transliteration of two Hebrew words that mean “save” and “now.” So, Hosanna literally means “save us now.”[1] But the way it is used in scripture is as a prayer of praise. It is a call for help that simultaneously expresses trust and hope that the one to whom to prayer is raised truly has the power to save. Hosanna is a prayer that confesses both need and hope. It is a prayer that demands attention and pleads with urgency to a Savior in whom we are putting our trust. It is a prayer that raises the crises of our lives into the highest heaven with the expectation that God cares, that God will respond to our cry.

Hosanna is exactly the prayer that we need right now!

A

nd so, for my Palm Sunday sermon this year I want to invite you into this prayer.

Rather than talking to you all about God, I am going to talk to God about you all. I am going to raise up our Hosanna prayers – the prayers I have been hearing from you – on the phone, and zoom meetings, over messenger and text, and in your e-mails and posts. I will raise up these prayers as our cry of Hosanna today.

And I invite you to join me in this prayer. When ever I pray “Hosanna” I invite you to pray in response “Hosanna.”

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from the many dangers that populate our persistent fears.

Daily briefings tell us how fast the virus is spreading, how many people are dying, and how many may yet die from the novel Corona virus.

We may try to limit our attention to the threat, but we cannot ignore it, and so we are anxious.

We worry for our health, and the health of our loved ones.

We worry for our congregation members who work in the health care system.

We worry for essential workers, and for all who are exposed to risk.

And we are frightened for all the other ways this crisis is changing our world.

We are worried for jobs that are disappearing or are already gone.

We fear for our economy and how far it will fall, and how long it will take to recover.

We worry for our retirement funds, and our livelihoods, and how changed our future might be on the other side of the pandemic.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from the ways that isolation and restriction are suffocating our souls.

We know that we are lucky to have safe homes in which to shelter in place, but the walls sometimes feel like they are closing in around us.

We miss familiar places in our neighborhoods; we miss our best friend’s kitchen table; we miss our Friday night dinner dates.

Each day that dawns with grey skies we feel depression sink a little deeper into our souls as we know we’ll lose even the chance to step outside and feel the sunshine on our face.

We long for any change of scene, for any chance to break the monotony of a life grown so confined.

We have to fight the temptation to turn in on ourselves and obsess over our own frustration and helplessness.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from the exhaustion that is settling in our bones.

Some of us are bearing the grueling drain of endless conference calls and e-mail chains, of increased workloads paired with lowered efficiency.

Or we are leaving the house for essential jobs, and returning weighed down with fear, racing for the shower and praying to wash away any contamination we have brought home.

Or we are waking in the middle of the night with racing hearts, longing for the oblivion of sleep, but unable to turn off the voices of dread in our minds.

Or we are simply exhausted by the emotional heaviness of this moment in time, and by the strain it is putting on our closest relationships from which we never have a break to reset, offer grace, and begin again.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from the anxiety we feel for our children and grandchildren – children of our bodies or of our hearts.

We fear for their health. We fear for the stress they are carrying. We fear for the ways this crisis is affecting them more than we fear for ourselves.

Especially for the smallest ones. The new babies, the babies about to be born. We don’t know how to trust you with their vulnerable lives.

We worry about our children’s education, and their mental health, and their struggles with addiction.

And when we cannot see them because we live apart, our hearts break for the feel of their arms around our necks, and the chance to share this time of pause with them.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from the way that grief sneaks up and steals our joy.

There are so many things we have already lost. Our routines. Our freedoms. Our sense of safety. Our ability to gather together – here is this place – and be fed by the sacrament of Christ’s presence in bread and wine.

We are bracing for the grief of more permanent losses, for the possibility that we might lose someone we love, but we are also already feeling deep grief.

Our hearts break for the stories of people dying in isolation, and for the anguish of the health care workers who have to watch these deaths and hold this pain.

Tears come unexpectedly. Or else, they fail to flow, and they hollow out an empty place inside of us. We realized that we don’t know how to feel the depth of what we are facing.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

O God, hear our cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from all the drains and strains that diminish our gratitude.

Protect our hearts and our perspective.

Open our eyes to rejoice in the beauty of an opening flower, or the smile of a friend on our computer screen, or a song we sing in our living rooms accompanied by Ben’s fingers on the organ in the sanctuary.

Help us to grieve so that we can also laugh, and remember the blessing of lungs that can draw air, and speak a word of hope to someone else bowed down by care.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

And Finally, O God, hear this cry of Hosanna.

(Hosanna)

Save us from our desire to control the way in which you answer these our prayers.

We know that the people who shouted Hosanna and spread their cloaks and branches on the road outside Jerusalem… days later shouted “Crucify him.”

We know that they rejected you because – although you came to save them – you would not do so on their terms.

They wanted power and you offered vulnerability. They wanted victory and you walked the way of humble surrender.

You came near to them and joined them in their pain, and they hated you for it. O God save us from that fate. Teach us to trust you, rather than trying to use you.

We have poured out our need to you. Now help us to recognize the way you meet those needs.

Hear our cry, O God, and save us now, for we trust that you do have the power to save!

Thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H4994

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