Palm Sunday Year A, April 13, 2014

April 14, 2014

What Now?
Matthew 21:1-11

1 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

I want to address our new confirmands this morning. The rest of you are welcome to listen. In fact I encourage all of you to think of yourselves as a fresh new confirmands, and I want you to think about the crazy thing you have just signed up to do. And I hate to say it, but there’s really no turning back on this thing. You certainly can quit showing up for worship at some point in your life. There comes a time in life when nobody can make you get up on Sunday morning and clean yourself up enough to be seen by respectable people. You can quit trying to learn more about Jesus, and you can act like you’ve never met him, but I’m sorry to say that you really won’t be able to get Jesus out of your life.

You’ve already had too much exposure to him to forget you ever met. This is just one more thing you can blame your parents for doing to you – they introduced you to someone that’s going to hound you for the rest of your life. But it’s not all their fault, sometimes Jesus gets attached to people for no apparent reason.

A woman named Anne Lamott wrote a book entitled Travelling Mercies, and in that book she relates her rocky journey in to the Christian faith. Her mother took her to church on rare occasions, but her father thought Christianity was a joke. She was a very educated person, and she was working as a writer. She is very creative, and funny, and she was always a spiritually curious person, but she was sort of a mess of person. She had a serious substance abuse problem, she had family problems, she had job problems, she had relationship problems, and she had a serious medical problem. Occasionally she would seek solace in a small church near the houseboat she lived in in the San Francisco Bay. She was lured inside the church by this powerful gospel choir. She would show up on Sundays to listen to the music, but she always slipped out before the sermon.

She thought that was a safe amount of exposure to the church, but it wasn’t. I don’t really know what to think of this, but she came to feel that Jesus was following her around. She said he seemed to be like a cat. He wasn’t an imposing figure, but he was never far away. As I say, she had a medical problem that she was treating with pain pills and alcohol, and that may have contributed to her feeling that Jesus was following her around like a cat, but as she was laying in her bed one day in a terrible state of mind and body she said Jesus just remained crouched down in the corner of her bedroom. She sensed that he wasn’t going to leave her alone, so she finally gave up and decided to start following him.

The way she describes her journey into Christianity and in to a life of sobriety is much funnier and saltier than I can describe from the pulpit, but I think it’s a powerful testimony to the relentlessness of Jesus.

You just can’t shake him. Jesus can get inside your head and your heart and you just can’t live a normal life anymore. Before you know it you can’t just think about what you want to eat and drink and live and do. You hear Jesus putting all these other ideas in your head. You find yourself wondering if your neighbor has enough to eat and who’s checking on that person you don’t really know but who seems so sad. You can lose focus on your career, and get involved things that won’t earn you a penny. And if you really let Jesus in he’ll take all of your money. Most of us are able to draw the line before he gets that far, but you’ve got to keep watch – he’s powerful – he will take over if let him.

But it’s not so bad. Jesus creates some complications for us, but it’s only because he doesn’t want us to live dull flat lives. I’m sure he would be happy for us to latch on to easy and comfortable lives if we weren’t inhabiting a planet that is being held hostage by powers and principalities that have no regard for human rights or ecological sustainability. But this is the situation we are facing. This world is a mess, and Jesus needs some people like us to get in the way of the dehumanizing systems that are out there.

That’s what Jesus did when he was alive and walking around in ancient Israel. He was engaged in an epic battle with some of the evil powers of his day when he entered Jerusalem for the last time. And the way he decided to attack those powers was to engage in some powerful street theater. It would be his final trip to Jerusalem before the religious and political executives got together and crucified him, and he wanted it to be a memorable occasion.

Jesus didn’t want to slip in to Jerusalem unnoticed – which would have been the safest thing to do. Jesus didn’t just want to be safe – he wanted to create a spectacle – a spectacle for the ages. So he ramped up the enthusiasm of these different groups that had come to Jerusalem for the biggest festival of the year. He tapped in to the enthusiasm of the zealots who were excited about the possibility of armed revolution against the Romans. He encouraged the disciples who were excited about the possibility of God restoring Israel and providing them with high level appointments in the new nation of Israel. Jesus knew the Pharisees and high priests would get excited about his big procession because it would provide them with the opportunity to report him to the police. And of course there were all these other people around who were just looking for a party and he provided them with a great opportunity to drink and dance for a cause.

Jesus perfectly orchestrated some high street drama on the day he entered Jerusalem. Jesus tapped in to the high expectations of many different interest groups and individuals – of course none of them got what they wanted. This march didn’t turn in to the revolution the zealots expected. God didn’t step in and establish the new administration the disciples were counting on, and the spring break revelers were disappointed in how quickly this party came to an end. It did turn in to the crucifixion the religious authorities were counting on, but that didn’t play out the way they had hoped. Just when they thought they had put Jesus to rest he reemerged in a new and even more powerful way.

As I say, you just can’t shake him. Jesus didn’t do what anyone expected him to do, and he never will. And this is who you confirmands have said you wish to follow – which is such a good thing. Because even though you can’t predict where he will take you – the place he wishes to lead us all is nothing less than the kingdom of God. He doesn’t want us to just abide on the surface of the earth – Jesus wants us to soar with spirit.

You might not remember anything else I’ve said today, but I’m going to show you something that you probably won’t forget. Because in honor of your confirmation I bought myself a new toy!

(At this point I pulled out my new ultra-light remote controlled airplane and I proceeded to do a little flying in the sanctuary and I concluded my sermon with the following line:)

Because the truth of the matter is that none of us have any idea where this business of discipleship is going to take us!



One Response to “Palm Sunday Year A, April 13, 2014”

  1. Mary Henry Says:

    Gr eat s eRMon! I wisH I could have been there to see the plane. I bet those kids will remember the day forever!

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