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A view from the Palm Sunday summit

Preaching in Guatemala, World Mission director ponders Jesus’ thinking

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

On Palm Sunday, the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, director of World Mission, preached at Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana Central in Guatemala City. (Photo by Philip Woods)

GUATEMALA CITY — Asked to preach at both services of the Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana Central in Guatemala City on Palm Sunday, the Rev. Jose Luis Casal told the more than 200 people present for the second service, “It’s Palm Sunday. What are we going to talk about? The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem!”

Casal, director of World Mission, was part of a Presbyterian Mission Agency delegation visiting the U.S.-Mexico border and Guatemala last week. Mission co-worker the Rev. Leslie Vogel translated Casal’s sermon for delegation members who needed it.

Worship at Central Presbyterian Church, established in 1882 and adjacent to the presidential palace, is both enthusiastic and warm. After introducing themselves, visitors were greeted with hugs, smiles, handshakes, waves and a welcoming “Salut.” A 13-member young adult choir led upbeat music, accompanied by two guitars, a keyboard and drums. Worshipers who asked for intercessory prayer came to the front, knelt and were prayed for.

Introduced by the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Jenner Miranda, Casal used as his main text  Luke 19:28-40, which recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He wondered about Jesus’ internal dialogue as he approached the path down into the Holy City from the Mount of Olives: Should I stop here, or should I go forward? “As a human being, I’m sure he had a lot of doubts,” Casal said. “Nevertheless, he enters the city. This king decides to enter the city on a donkey, with all the humility he can generate. What a great teaching.”

When, in the words of Luke’s gospel, “whole multitude of the disciples begin to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power they had seen,” some of the Pharisees in the crowd tell Jesus to order his disciples to be silent. “If you are the Messiah, tell them to be quiet,” is how Casal phrased it. Jesus’ answer: “If these people shut up, the stones will cry out.”

Iglesia Evangélica Presbiteriana Central in Guatemala City dates back to 1882. (Photo by Philip Woods)

Casal, who’d stood on the narrow streets of Jerusalem a month before traveling to Guatemala, said even a turnout there of a dozen disciples makes it feel like a multitude has formed. “They are there to celebrate Passover, so the streets must have been packed with people,” he said. “They took their praise out into the streets — not just in word, but by action.”

Whatever second thoughts Jesus might have had, “he continues entering into the city. He knew God was calling him to something higher,” Casal said. “He decided to carry the burden for our redemption. What a marvelous God we have! Such great love that God receives us and transforms us, telling us, ‘I will carry your burden. I will give you rest.’”

Palm Sunday is thus, he said, “the invitation to life with God, the God who works through our hands, walks with our feet, speaks with our voices and lives in our lives.”

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