Shouting Hosannah

I can’t believe I’m losing my voice! Here comes Holy Week, Palm Sunday and Easter, two Sundays of high attendance where peak performance in preaching is the order of the day. I can’t believe I’m losing my voice!

My voice is reduced to a whispering croak. If you know me, you know I’m a shouting preacher, a stump-standing, Bible-thumping screamer of a preacher. It’s what the congregation has come to expect, some drawn to it and the rest resigned to live with it. You bring your friends and relatives to hear that crazy preacher, especially on Easter, and you know that even the hard of hearing will get the message from this guy. I can’t believe I’m losing my voice!

What was it? The shouting an acoustic sermon or full-bellied singing on Saturday night? Was it all the hours on the telephone or those two-hour counseling sessions? Was it those private shouts of frustrated wailing to God for relief from the conflict of a growing, changing congregation? Maybe it was shouting across the table at the board meeting, or across the parking lot to greet departing worshippers. Maybe I picked up a bug in the hospital as I prayed for the sick and dying. Maybe. Maybe.

Here it comes: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Easter, and maybe a funeral thrown in. I’ve virtually given up singing, mouthing the words to the doxology as I wait for the offering plates to be delivered down the aisle for yet another shouted prayer of blessing. I’d give up talking for a few days, but a good friend is dying, and he couldn’t hear well when he was wide awake. I’ll be loudly praying and recounting his story of salvation, giving his testimony to family and friends from out-of-town, leading prayer circles with the verve it takes to express my confidence in his eternal reward.

Then, I’ll shout to the glory of God on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Easter — if I have a voice left. I can’t believe I’m losing my voice!

My mind takes me back to that Palm Sunday parade, a disciple shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosannah in the highest heaven!” We scream at the top of our lungs, reveling as our rebellious shouts launched from the hillside bounce back off the walls of Jerusalem. “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,” we shout to the curious, then return to our accolades, trying to convince the city, and perhaps ourselves, that THIS is the Chosen One!

We’ll spend a week arguing with Temple authorities, trying to control the crowds around our beloved Rabbi, debating with Pharisees and loudly rebuking our Lord. “This will not happen to you, Lord!” “Who would dare betray you, Lord?” “Surely not I, Lord?”

We’ll sing a rousing hymn and follow Jesus to the Garden, where we’ll nap, then wake our sleep-stilled voices trying to shout down the soldiers who come with Judas to the garden at night. When the crowd yells, “Give us Barabbas! Release Barabbas!” our rattled cries of “No, Jesus! Set him free!” will barely be heard. When the crowd yells, “Jesus? Let him be crucified!” Our shreaks of objection will be barely audible.

We’ll lose the last vestige of voice sobbing at the sight of our dying Rabbi, weaping in shame and beating our breasts in remorse. By the time sun sets and the body is laid to rest, we’ll have no words left.

I can’t believe I’m losing my voice!

There will be no need for words until the third day, when we will be too amazed and bewildered to shout. Perhaps that’s the plan, to let us rest from our misery so that we can rejoice again when the truth sets in, until at last at Pentecost we find our voices and proclaim the glorious story to all the world.

Yes, I’m losing my voice, just in time for Palm Sunday. It will be appropriately pained for Maundy Thursday. I can only pray it will be adequately restored as befits the excitement of Easter, when we will baptize seven and likely bring many more into the church.

If salvation depends on the ranting of one shouting preacher, we’re in trouble. Fortunately, it doesn’t. Sometimes the gentle conversation of a church is all it takes. Perhaps it takes nothing beyond a pained, “Father, forgive them! They know not what they do.” from a lofty perch on Calvary hill.

I want the church to hear my voice this Easter, but that’s just ego talking. What they need to hear is God’s voice in the life that shouts across the ages the love of God and the lengths to which God was willing to go to restore the family.

I can’t believe I’m losing my voice! Fortunately, God found a voice two thousand years ago in the outskirts of Jerusalem. Even as my words fade this Easter, I pray that the Word of God rings more loudly than ever in the hearts of the church.

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