Friends, before I offer you today’s “word,” let me share with you some wonderful news. As you may recall, the weekend before Palm Sunday, the world-renowned author, speaker, historian and film producer, Jean-Pierre Isbouts planned to be at St. Martin’s. Unfortunately, due to our present circumstances, we had to cancel. Dr. Isbouts was wonderful about it, and we agreed to try to reschedule his visit next year during Lent.

However, late last week, Dr. Isbouts contacted me and said that, as a gift to St. Martin’s, he was preparing several links to online videos that include his lectures based on his book, The Footsteps of Jesus . He is sending our communication team six videos and these are most appropriate for Holy Week! So, beginning today and lasting through Good Friday, at the conclusion of each “Daily Word,” you will see the title of the lecture and the link. I have already watched several–they are about an hour long and include Dr. Isbouts’ great photography and his keen insights about the history of our Lord’s time physically with us on earth. It is family-friendly and easily accessible. I heartily commend them to you, along with (as I have done before) Dr. Isbouts’ many books. This is another way St. Martin’s is reaching out to you while until we can be with one another in person again.  So look out for link to today’s lecture below! Now, onto today’s “word.”

“...throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As He rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As He was no approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’” Luke 19:35–40 NRSV

We have come now to Palm Sunday and are stepping into the week called “Holy,” the seven days that lead up to Easter Sunday. This little scene above is The Triumphal Entry , and Matthew’s Gospel adds the color green to the story by telling us it was not just cloaks that were flung on the ground at the hooves of the colt that carried Jesus, but palms that were waved in the air in celebration. This is why we call this day “Palm Sunday” and, as Father Chad Martin suggested a few days ago, the reason we have encouraged you to cut some palms or greenery from your yard, or even draw or make your own Palms from paper–a tangible reminder to hold and ponder during our virtual worship today.

Despite this tremendous parade of exuberant followers of Jesus, there is a shadow over the moment when the religious leaders tell Jesus to have His followers pipe down. You can imagine Jesus with a gentle smile in return, “You know guys, even if I told them to put a lid on it, the little stones at our feet would start to do their own chorus of praise .” However, we know as the week goes on, the shadow gets longer and darker.

It is a strange turn of events in a matter of days. At the head of the week, the whole crowd is cheering Jesus, but in no time, things begin to head south. Virtually no one who wanted to be near Jesus on that first Palm Sunday wanted to touch Him with a ten-foot pole by the time that first Good Friday rolled around.

What follows that Triumphal Entry? A few more salient teachings and healings, and then betrayal, trial, torture and crucifixion. We probably would really like to bypass all of this and go straight to the good news of Easter Sunday, but you cannot have a resurrection without a death. In the next few days, the “Daily Word” will explore different aspects of holiness and Holy Week.

Perhaps one of the most famous of Palm Sunday hymns is one entitled, All Glory, Laud and Honor. The story goes that when Charlemagne died, his son, Louis I, assumed the throne of his mighty father. All went well until he began to divide the massive kingdom, and it began to fall apart. He never enjoyed the security of the throne his father had. Caught in the middle of all of this was Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans, a city in the south of France. He was an incredible leader who worked hard to reform the clergy, establish schools, advance education and build churches. Advocating high morals, he was a brilliant man, who also composed various hymns. However, during the intrigues of Louis’ reign, he was falsely accused of siding against his monarch and imprisoned on Easter Sunday.

Tradition says that Louis later visited the place of Theodulph’s imprisonment and halted outside the bishop’s window, who in return sang this well-known hymn that he, himself, wrote while in that prison. It is said that the king was so moved that he immediately ordered the bishop’s release.

Originally, there were 78 verses to the hymn! Rarely do we sing them all today, but they are a reminder of how very dark things do not always have the last word. What faith he must have had to write these words in the darkness of prison! “ All glory, laud and honor, to Thee, Redeemer King, to whom the lips of children, made sweet hosannas ring. Somehow, the acknowledgement of those first hosannas to our King’s trek toward Good Friday, in the end, meant release for the bishop. So it can for each of us as well.

So, my brothers and sisters, let us begin our descent toward the Cross with Bishop Theodulph’s hymn; let us even travel to the darkness of his cell and ponder our own Lord’s descent. Let us hold in our hearts the promises that, in keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, there will be sweet release in the story’s end, or perhaps, beginning.

A Prayer.
Dear Master,
We remember that many who claimed you as King,
on Sunday, shouted, “crucify” on Friday.
So confirm our faith today that our love for you will never falter,
           or turn to hatred, but will remain constant now and forever,
We offer our worship to You, Lord,
           With all our love.
                                               Amen. [1]

[1] Hazel Snashll, comp.  Prayers before Worship (Lawrenceville: National Christian Education Council, 1984).

The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Today’s episode from Dr. Isbouts' lectures about the life of Jesus takes us to his childhood in Nazareth.