Sermons

Rev Eric ShaferSermon from Palm/Passion Sunday - 

The Rev. Eric Shafer - 

In today’s Processional Gospel lesson from St. Matthew, we read - “The crowds that went ahead of him (Jesus) and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed in the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Hosanna! A very good churchy word. And, I would bet that it is a word that you have never heard outside of a church connection!

The word “hosanna” comes to us from a Greek word which, spelled phonetically is “hosanna!” And, the Greek word “hosanna” comes from the Hebrew phrase “hoshiya na.”

“Hoshiya na” is found just once in the Old Testament, in Psalm 118, verse 25, “Hoshiya na,” that is “Save us, we beseech you, O Lord.” It is a cry to God for help. Think of falling into a deep body of water and not being able to swim – “Help, save me “Hoshiya na!”

But something happened to that phrase, hoshiya na, over the years. The meaning changed. In Psalm 118 it is immediately followed by the exclamation “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” The cry for help, hoshiya na, was answered almost before it came out of the psalmest’s mouth. And, over the centuries, the phrase hoshiya na stopped being a cry for help in the ordinary language of the Jews. Instead, it became a shout of hope and exultation. It used to mean “Save, please!” But, gradually, it came to mean, “Salvation! Salvation! Salvation has come!” It used to be what you would say when you fell into deep water and could not swim. But, it came to be what you would say when you see the lifeguard coming to save you! It is the bubbling over of a heart that sees hope and joy and salvation on the way and cannot keep it in.

So, “Hosanna!” means, “Hooray for salvation! It is coming! It is here! Salvation! Salvation!”

And,” Hosanna to the Son of David” means “The Son of David is our salvation! Hooray for the king! Salvation belongs to the king!” And, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” means “Let all the angels in heaven join the song of praise. Salvation! Salvation! Let the highest heaven sing the song!”

Picture a Super Bowl game with two great teams playing. Since I am originally from Pennsylvania, let’s say it is the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, a match up unlikely to happen of course, but this one is just a sermon illustration!

Amazingly, the Eagles are ahead by just two points. The Steelers are on their own 35th yard line and have no more time outs left. There are just two seconds remaining on the clock. The Eagles fans are going wild. Probably throwing things as Eagle’s fans too often do. It looks like the Philadelphia Eagles are going to win the Super Bowl!

The Steelers line up, fake a pass to the receivers on the left sideline, and run a wide sweep around the right end, and the quarterback breaks open in to the field and heads down the right sideline – 40 – 45 – 50 – 45. He looks to be in the clear and could score a touchdown which would finish and win the Super Bowl for the Steelers! The only hope for the Eagles is their safety, Benjamin Franklin, now cutting a diagonal across the field. Out of the Eagles stands come two kinds of hosannas, the old and the new. One part of the crowd is yelling, “Catch him, catch him, Ben! (That’s the old hosanna.) Another part of the same Eagles crowd is yelling, “You got him! You got him, Ben!” (That’s the new hosanna).

The word “Hosanna” has moved from plea to praise, from cry to confidence.

So, as we say and sing “Hosanna” now, let’s make it personal. Let’s make it our praise and our confidence, not a plea or a cry for help. Jesus, “The Son of David,” has come again to and for us. He has saved us from guilt and fear and hopelessness. With Jesus’ coming our salvation is assured!

Salvation! Salvation belongs to our God and to God’s Son Jesus Christ! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!


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