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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Luke 19:28-40 Triumphal Entry
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
April 4, 2004

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the rocks and stones will start to sing.”

Confirmation Class is the time of the year I help teach a class of sixth-graders. At some point, no matter how hard I fight the urge, I’m always driven to say the words, “Well, when I was your age….” Most often, I say this when we’re talking about music. And every year, I’m sounding more and more like a golden oldie. “Well, when I was your age… we didn’t have any of this hip-hop-jay-z-chingy-snoop-fizzle-dizzle. We had real music. Rock and roll. And we played it on records. And you couldn’t do any of this Janet Jackson jumping and gyrating because if you did the needle would skip. Yeah, we downloaded music, too. Every time the next record plopped down the spindle.”

And each year, the kids look at me like this. [blank stare]. I don’t know if it’s a look of disbelief, or fear. Like they might have to call a psychiatric team.

Music has always been really important to me. Music has always been important in the church, and the synagogue, and the temple, and in the desert tents of the wandering Israelites. We obey God through our deeds and words. We follow God through our charity and forgiveness. But when we really want to WORSHIP God, we almost always turn to music. And so it was with the people who lined the streets on Palm Sunday. They waved branches, they put their coats on the road. But more than that, they sang.

And the grouchy oldies, the Pharisees, complained about those kids and their noise. Tim Rice wrote in the musical, “Jesus Christ, Superstar,” for Caiaphas to sing:

Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong.
They are a curse. They should disperse.

The guitars swell, the horns blare, and Jesus sings back,

If every tongue were still the noise would still continue.
The rocks and stones themselves would start to sing:
Hosanna Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Ho-sanna…

And on our Palm Sunday, the bells ring, the choir sings, the children march along. In music, we praise God from whom all blessings flow because that’s what people do when they want to worship the King, all glorious above. Music takes us back. Music has the power to bring the past alive. Music has power to sing the past alive. Even if we don’t like to sing and mercifully refrain from torturing the people around us, we can appreciate the music, the memories behind it. So in the Spirit, we’re singing right along with the people of Jerusalem and hailing Jesus as King all over again.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,” goes the song in the middle of the Bible. “Break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Ps 98:4) On Palm Sunday, the golden oldie of hosannas runs through our mind. We remember. We remember Jesus. And we tell our souls, it’s gonna be OK. We tell our souls it’s OK to sing.


Do you have a favorite song, one that brings back memories and feelings so strong that for a moment you are right there, hearing that song at a very special time?

“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin was the theme of my Junior High prom. My mom had taken me to the formal wear store and I had picked out the coolest baby blue tux anyone my size could rent. Great big bow tie. Big, blow dried hair, parted in the middle. A girl named Lee Ann was my date (second choice – first girl turned me down). She looked nice, too. Mom and Dad were in the front seat of the 67 Dodge Coronet. Lee Ann and I were in the back. Giddy with excitement, we rode to the cafeteria door of the school. As we pulled up, I realized I had left our tickets at home. So we circled back to the house and came back, tickets in hand, to dance the night away in a long line of boys on one side, girls on the other.

Maybe for you it’s a song by The Beatles, or Elvis, or Burt Bacharach. Maybe you remember one by Sinatra or Lena Horne that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. At our last church, we had a secretary who would talk about how when she was a teenager she just loved listening to Guy Lombardo, and how her mother would get after her for listening to that “wild stuff.” Chances are, if you have a sacred memory of youth, there’s a song to go with it.

The people of Jerusalem had a favorite song, too. Maybe they’d forgotten it. Or maybe they were afraid to sing it because after so many years, the memories hurt.

They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
They surrounded me like bees;
they blazed like a fire of thorns;
in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
but the LORD helped me.

I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

[Hosanna!], we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD.
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.

Psalm 118. After so many years of military occupation, exile and death, it may have been that the words of the song hurt the ears of leaders like Caiaphas. He might have been afraid to hear them sung. A broken promise, a pipe dream, a song of trouble. But not a song of love. Not a song of hope. Not anymore.

And so when the sound of the crowd came through his office window, it wasn’t a welcome, cherished memory. It was noise. It was dangerous. It was the kind of rebel music that entices young people to do stupid things in the name of love, in the name of God.

But there were some people who remembered. The poor. The old. The sick. The tired. The ones who had seen one too many saviors march into town on stallions. They were the ones who saw a carpenter’s son on a borrowed donkey, and saw hope.

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us [hosanna], we beseech you, O LORD.

On Palm Sunday, the poor, the old, the sick, the tired sang. The homeless, the lonely, the outcast sang. And had they been hushed, the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing.


Palm Sunday is an invitation from God to sing and dance. Lord knows, most of us don’t have the energy for that kind of stuff, this early in the morning, especially on a Sunday when we get an hour less sleep. Today is a message from God that whether you’re 9 or 90, you’re never too old to dance and sing and praise God. Unless you want to be. Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, God’s song of hope and of life can carry you. You need that song, and you need to sing it while you can because there are crosses on the horizon. And as you draw closer to those crosses, and when they start to weigh you down, you have to remember. You must remember the tune of grace the people sang when Jesus came humbly to their town. Hosanna. And should you get to a point when you can’t or don’t want to sing anymore, the rocks and stones themselves will do it for you.