Karen Gibson: Shout Hosanna!

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In most churches this coming Sunday, there will be some form of palms being waved. In fact, there may be some Saturday night worship services, or masses where palms will be waved.

It is a tradition that traces back in history to the time when the incarnate Jesus lived among other humans. In fact, Jesus’ popularity had spread to the point that when Jesus and his disciples made plans to attend the Passover in Jerusalem, special plans were made on how Jesus would enter Jereusalem.

“Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this: ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’”

Mark 11: 2-3: The donkey was prepared by his disciples with cloaks for Jesus to ride on, and there were more cloaks spread on the road as Jesus proceded to ride into Jereusalm. And then as the parade started the shouts began. The word that one recalls the spectators shouting the most was “Hosanna!” Mark 11: 9b. “Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Mark 11:9. ”Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:10b.

And just as Don Saliers, professor of worship and theology, emeritus at Emory University, I too was always under the assumption that “Hosanna!” meant something like cheering, or perhaps the word “hurray!” I always thought it was a joyful occasion. But, Saliers explains in the Upper Room’s Disciplines, Hosanna has more than one meaning.

When one considers the second meaning, and how you might hear the voices shouting, “save us, pray for us,” it takes on a more somber feeling about the challenges the people were facing and enduring under Roman rule.

Perhaps they were just poor and hungry or tired of the oppressive bureacrocy of the Jewish religious leaders. Passover would be observed just a few days later, and yet the majority of the crowd would not be at the Passover. And though there were shouts of “save us, pray for us,” they were hopeful because Jesus had come and they believed that the Kingdom was near and that Jesus would be merciful to them. Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest Heaven.” Mark 11: 9b-10.

This weekend, if you have the opportunity to worship and to wave palms and repeat the words, “Hosanna!, Hosanna!” I hope you consider what Jesus can still do for us, for I believe we still need to be saved, and we still need to be prayed for, and that the Kingdom of God is near.

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