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HYMNS FOR PALM SUNDAY Sing, Hosanna, Sing for Jesus/Hosianna! Syng for Jesus/Sifted Like Wheat

Jesus entry into Jerusalem Joachim Skovgaard Viborg Cathedral

Text: Eyvind Skeie Tune: Harald Herresthal

1. Sing hosanna! Sing for Jesus,

King without a royal stead.

See him riding on a donkey

As the prophets once had said.

2. Sing hosanna! He is chosen

And will die in agony.

He will bear the wounds and sorrow

That will set his people free.

3. Sing hosanna! It is Easter

Jesus conquers death dot rise,

Kindly come tovie to others,

He will lay his powers by.

4. Sing hosanna! sing to Jesus

As he lays his glory down,

Nears the cross, and yes, his vict'try

Where he glory will be shown.

Tr. Gracia Grindal

Jesus Carrying his Cross Hieronymous Bosch


Palm Sunday gives me the willies. The grand processions with palm branches and the cries of Hosanna as we greet the king in all humility riding a donkey into the Holy City can be thrilling, but the Hosannas ring hollow. We know that in four short days, on Holy Thursday night, the crowds will turn against him and cry Crucify him! This meek king of love will be tortured and mocked and finally killed by the very same people who were singing Hosanna not long ago.

The more I learn about Jesus and his passion, the less I think I have understood it. In the church we sometimes seem to think that he did all this for us, for church people who are trying to be decent and good, but the worst thing to know about the passion of Jesus is how everyone, absolutely everyone among his friends and enemies will fail him--that would include us. He knows this and still goes, his face set like flint, to Jerusalem, to the cross and to his death.

He even tells them beforehand that his love is for them all. He is their servant, one who will die for them, and even as he is saying this, his betrayer is skulking out of the room. Poor Peter is warned not just of his denial, but how he will be sifted like wheat.

The image of sifting as being part of the Christian life is an image of suffering or being purified. We sift the wheat to take out the impurities, so that only the pure grains remain, not the chaff. I remember just barely the winnowing machines on the farm that would send up bright golden chaff into the blue air of August as the grain was being winnowed. The grain needed to be pure so our food would be good and nutritious. For that to happen, there had to be sifting, winnowing, purification. In the olden days they would beat the grains free of the chaff. Do we see that in the soldiers beating Jesus like a grain of wheat?

So when Jesus looks at Peter before prophesying his denial, he is looking with love at a man whose very character will cause him suffering, but who will be strengthened by this sifting.

Painting of Paul Gerhardt in the Lübbern church

In the Lübben church in Germany, Paul Gerhardt's final call, there is a painting of Gerhardt pointing at the cross. Beneath him, are the words, A theologian sifted in the crib of Satan. And he surely was. He suffered much, the loss of his wife and children, the loss of his call when he opposed his prince, with little to sustain his mortal life. And yet he remained faithful, even in this sifting. Martin Luther in his marks of the church named suffering as the last mark of the church and the Christian. We don’t need to go looking for it, it will come. And the suffering we feel, even now as we face a future that is much more cloudy than we have faced in the past, we pray, will purify us so we can be stronger in our faith and Christian life.

I am not recommending looking to suffer; it will come. I am simply describing it. This is what happens, there is no escaping it . Without suffering, we will never grow up. The saying that hard times make hard people and hard people make easy times and easy people make hard times seems the truth when we look at our parents who survived the Depression and Second World War to make a world of incredible and bountiful good for their children. Who look to have wasted it and created hard times for us all again.

In any time, no matter how good or bad, none of us can escape the sifting, the suffering.

We can endure it, however, because our Lord has entered the Holy City to save it and endure the indignities of the Passion and the cross even while we were enemies, to bring us out into the light for good. To follow Christ is to follow him through the valley of the shadow of death into green pastures. Praise him!


Harald Herresthal

Eyvind Skeie is Norway's most prolific hymn writer today. This is one for Palm Sunday that is frequently used. Harald Herresthal taught at the Norwegian School of Music and influenced many young organists and composers. I wrote "Sifted like Wheat" for this Lukan text which begins a bit before Jesus triumphal entry. The image has always fascinated me and in a way been a comfort.


Ann Mari Johnson

Organ version, Elisabeth Seland

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