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From Hosanna to Alleluia!

March 30, 2015

We enter the month of April in the midst of Holy Week. This past Sunday we began our worship with the procession of palms, echoing the crowds outside of Jerusalem all those years ago as they chanted, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” This coming Sunday, at both the Litchfield Inn and in our sanctuary, we will lift up our cry of “Alleluia!” in response to the resurrection of Jesus. Holy Week is the movement from Hosanna! to Alleluia!

This might seem odd. The words seem like synonyms and are often used as such. Their meanings, however, are actually quite different. Hosanna is not primarily an acclamation of praise; it is a cry for help. It means, “Save, we ask you.” When the crowds line Jesus’ route into Jerusalem, they are not simply shouting words of praise; they are crying out for salvation. As they see Jesus on the donkey and strew his way with cloaks and palms, they see in him their hope. To be sure, they don’t quite understand their own words. They imagine Jesus might be the one to save them from Rome, or from poverty, or from any number of other things. Their Hosannas transcend their own understanding as they see in Jesus the One who is both willing and able to save them.

The week unfolds in a way the crowds cannot comprehend. This Jesus who might be their Savior ends up being just another lost-cause preacher, just more grist for the imperial mill, just another criminal on a cross. Their Hosannas, it seems, were misspent.

Easter changed everything for them, just as Easter changes everything for us. Although all seemed lost on Good Friday, Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. Alleluia! Alleluia means “Praise Yahweh,” and it is a declaration of pure joy. For if Christ is alive, we are saved. Not simply from Rome or other oppressors but from the heretofore relentless triad of sin, death, and the devil. Christ is alive and we are saved, freed, loved! Alleluia!

The week begins with a cry for help: Hosanna! The week ends with a joyful shout that help has arrived: Alleluia! As we go through this week, I invite you to consider how you need help from the Lord. Where in your life does sin still rule? How in your life does evil press you? In what ways does the specter of death haunt you? Lift these up to God with a cry of Hosanna! Help us, Lord Jesus!

And then, join us this Sunday to see what God has done. Fill up your lungs as we prepare to praise Jesus with a shout of Alleluia!

Christ is risen indeed – Alleluia!

Pastor Dave

This post appears as the cover article in the April issue of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church newsletter.

From → Odds and Ends

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