Today I had the opportunity to preach on Palm Sunday for the first time in about 15 years. I’ve always loved Palm Sunday- the songs of celebration, the congregation waving palms in the air, the kids folding their palms into crosses. I always think of that Sunday as being very festive, celebratory, and upbeat. Next to Advent, it is my favorite time of the liturgical year. It was not a situation where I knew well in advance I’d be preaching and had ample time to prepare. On the contrary. We were scheduled to have a guest preacher, but it didn’t work out. So at the last minute I found myself with the assignment placed in my hands.
Every good associate knows that you have to be grateful when preaching opportunities come, no matter how short the notice. And of course you dare not tell your senior pastor ‘no’ or let them know you don’t feel you can do it. My credo is and has always been ‘never let your pastor catch you slipping.’ I don’t care how tired I am, what relatives I have visiting, what plans I’ve made, or even if I’m sick. My answer to the question ‘You have a Word for tomorrow?’ is always ‘Yes Pastor.’ In fact, I am grateful that my senior pastor has the confidence in me to know he can call me at the eleventh hour to preach and I will be ready. To be ready is simply to be willing, and God most certainly honors that.
Yet if I can stop being the dutiful and reliable associate minister for just a moment, I can admit to you that I really was not so sure how things would go. I was worn out and not in a very good emotional place. I have been coping with some personal challenges that have made it very difficult to feel joyful and I didn’t know if I could quiet my spirit long enough to hear from God. It really took me until 9:45pm Saturday night to hear from God. Those of you who have ever waited around for God to speak know exactly what it’s like. I have to say, the Holy Spirit breathed on me and on the Word that was preached. God took my pain and my emotional state and used it as fuel to propel me higher. I preached from a very raw and authentic place which turned out to be the most natural way for me to deliver.
When I stood to preach one of the things the Holy Spirit reminded me, which I in turn reminded the congregation, is that ‘Hosanna’ was originally a prayer that means ‘Save Me!’ As I cried ‘Hosanna’ in my opening exhortation, I believe the Lord heard my petition and did just that. God rescued my heart, mind, and spirit, allowing the Holy Spirit to take control and deliver a powerful, encouraging, and most importantly yoke-destroying Word to God’s people. To God be the glory.