Sermon for July 18, 2012 Eighth after Pentecost “Rushing to hear Jesus”
With summer into full swing and the veil of COVID lifting we are seeking even craving a time to rest. This need for rest is well ingrained into our makeup and physic. From Genesis to Revelation rest is a recurring theme and continues even today. With the advent of online inquiry, I discovered that rest is mentioned 275 times in 265 verses. The scope is for mind, body, spirit and soul and from what I can glean (and can vouch for personally) rest is essential for our good well-being.
In the Gospel text today Jesus is aware that both he and the disciples need a rest. The disciples have just returned from a ‘mission trip’ and after the stories and accounts were told the weariness became obvious. So Jesus sent them to rest. The quickest way to find solace was by boat so away they went.
What is interesting is that not everyone rests at the same time. When Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, the people arrived there before them and rest was fleeting. And that leads me ponder what it was about Jesus that people would actively seek him out and spend considerable time and effort doing so.
In a time when many were proclaiming to be the Messiah, when there were many itinerate preachers and many claiming to have the true way…including the various Rabbi’s and of course the Roman Empire, what was it about Jesus.
For me Jesus is all about authentic and heart. He met people where they were, all people; the privileged and outcast, the women and men, the clean and sick, the young and old, the lost, weary and searching. And there was no ‘fake’ in him. The miracles and healing were not for show nor were a publicity stunt, they were the genuine desire to bring wholeness to lives. Physical, mental and spiritual wellness to whomever he encountered.
These same attributes were expected of the disciples as Jesus sent them out to minister. No extra clothes, no extra money, no sacks of lollipops for trinkets for children. Just the simple mission to announce the mission of Jesus and to bring wellness to those who are receptive along the way.
I expect the disciples were anxious and scared. What if we get it wrong? What if it doesn’t work? What if we get beat up? Plenty of what ifs. And when they all returned to Jesus the stories of awe and wonder at what was accomplished. If you could only hear the stories; people healed, relations restored, maladies mended, and each pair of disciples desperate to share their stories, all the while amazed that their original fears were for not. It is not to say that each encounter was picture perfect and they did not encounter harsh words or even abuse. We do know they were excited to tell Jesus and the others of all the successes.
At the end of the stories Jesus knew the disciples need for rest. Rest has always been a key path to restored mind, body, spirit and soul. The disciples expended plenty of all aspects of their energy and rest is now the order of the day. After 18 months of COVID and the world almost stopping in many regards, you would think that we would have found time for rest. But for most, that did not happen. A weariness and lassitude evaded our minds, souls and bodies and we crave rest more now than ever before.
At the same time Jesus and the disciples seek rest, word is spreading that not only Jesus but the disciples too have the capacity to heal, restore and bring to wellness. There is a hunger for this healing, for this possibility for wholehearted living, so much so that Jesus is sought, followed and word spreads quickly as to where he is and the crowds are there wanting to be healed and to hear the message of Jesus.
The attribute I would somehow like to harness, bottle and then dish out again is the excitement of people for Jesus. They craved his teaching, healing and presence. So much so that they would set out on (for them) long journeys just to be part of a large crowd with the chance of seeing Jesus. That would be a delight.
The topic for another day is ‘what have we done to the teaching of Jesus?’ teachings that are meant to set us free, open us to justice and love, and to be welcome to all? I long for and work for the day when the teachings of Jesus again have the eagerness and gentleness to change lives. The Spirit is at work…are we dousing the flames or adding fuel to the Spirit’s changing?
Sermon for July 18, 2012 Eighth after Pentecost “Rushing to hear Jesus”
Sermon for July 11, 2021 Seventh after Pentecost “Perplexed”
That John the Baptizer was in the cross-hairs of the political and religious leaders is to understate the obvious. Though John is portrayed as poorly dressed, locust and honey eating wild man (the show ‘The Chosen’ uses creepy John) he has done his time alone with God, sifting through his motives, strengths and weaknesses and emerges as the herald and harbinger of Jesus.
The Gospel story is a hard one to hear at anytime let alone in this summer time of rest and taking it easy. I am not going into all the ego/religious/political and social challenges of the day but rather try and step back and take a longer view of the story and what it may offer in our day.
This story is recorded in Matthew and Mark. Emmerson Powery has done some interesting work in comparing this story in both Mark and Matthew. ‘In Matthew, Herod feared the people, who considered John to be a prophet (Matthew 14:5). In Mark, Herod feared John himself, considering him a “righteous and holy man”. Herod, in Mark, “protected” John (6:20) until the request came for his head. In Matthew, Herod wanted him killed (Matthew 14:5). Even after his agreement to fulfill his oath, Herod “deeply grieved” in Mark’s account (6:26). This word, “deeply grieved, sadness”), was used only here and to describe Jesus’ feelings in Gethsemane.’
It is no surprise that the Gospel authors viewed the same story with differing views. Still happens today. Multiple witnesses to the same event will recall the event through their set of biases, life experiences and perceptions.
So as we step back from this story we witness that life then and now has moments of challenge, joy and agony. When we are asked ‘who is Jesus?’ we all have our views. For some Jesus is about rules and obligations, for others breaking out of well established norms, for others a path to love, for others a radical, for others a person of no consequence.
It seems we are constantly re-imagining who Jesus is for us in our time and context. What I do know that as a follower of Jesus I have learned that it is not all about rainbows and butterfly kisses. Yes there will be moments of peace and joy beyond imagining but also we are not immune to the tragedies of life. It also means that as a follower I am aware of and even given glimpses of a plan that includes me… and is way more then me. That even in the joy or sorrow there is one who will laugh and weep with me and us.
The mission of Jesus was and is to change hearts for good. That has always meant that the holders of power and ego are challenged. In Jesus day the Romans ruled with might and impunity. Over the millennium the rulers have changed and for vast expanses of time the church was the bearer of rule and even set the rules. The church as we now know it is at risk of being even more irrelevant. For too long we have operated with the ‘we are right, God says so’ mentality and that has gotten us into trouble. We are on the verge of a new reformation and like before it will be a challenge. As John the Baptizer was the herald of the Messiah in his day so too is he the herald of the Good News of Jesus in ours minus the trappings of 2000 years of orthodoxy.
The message of Jesus in the 21st century is once again seeking a voice, seeking followers who are interested in heart, spirit and awe. Who have the courage to dare hope and live toward a more inclusive and loving understanding of the teachings of Jesus. That is not going to be easy since yet again we are up against a system based on law and ego, of not wanting to relinquish power and resisting dismantling that power that power for the greater good. The road will be bumpy but we know that with hope and spirit and truth the message will be received by hearts and minds that are opening to new ways of seeing and being.
Sermon for June 6, 2021 Anniversary “We are Family”
The end of the Gospel reading today is the teaching about family and who is family. On the way to that end, Jesus encounters all sorts of people and situations and each moment leads to the answer of the question; who is family.
So what does Jesus do? Well along the way to church he heals the lame, cures the blind, picks wheat from a field, comforts a mother grieving her child, eats with sinners. For that the leaders accused him of all manner of sin.
On the way home Jesus healed a lame one, told stories that offered a twist on well-known stories, played with children and fed thousands. And when he arrived home a paralytic was lowered through the roof and Jesus healed him. And the leaders called him a heretic and disturber of the peace.
Jesus lived the teaching: to love one another. And in the end that was just too much for the leaders and they sought to silence this rebel.
Today we celebrate anniversaries; of St. Mark’s and the United Church. I am convinced that it matters what we do on the way home. Worship is the time to hear the teachings of Jesus, to share stories of what happed on the way home and to encourage one another. We live in an age that fears the teaching of truth…and we are told to be quiet, to do our ‘thing’ on Sunday morning but don’t let it past the walls and doors of the building.
We have not always called this building home. Our ancestors started at homes and then in a barn, then a church building on Church Ave. that burned down… twice and then in 1960 moved into this home. Even with all the events for church and community, the reminder for us from Jesus is; what happens when we are not here is important, what happens when we are not here is our ministry. And just so you know, people will get upset, they always have and always will. And they will convince us that the truth of Jesus is fake news.
The UCC is celebrating 96 years and our work is uniquely Canadian and global. We have not always got things right and we do our best to make amends. But we do plenty right and in many ways leading the way in arriving at a place where we can truly love one another. The United church and for that matter all churches are reminded that our work happens between worship. There will be attempts to silence our witness and work.
On the Sunday after crucifixion the women trudged to do their work of preparing Jesus body for burial. Surprise…Jesus is not here…resurrection happens…go tell the family.
When we are wearied by the drone of tasks and the lassitude of living the life of a disciple…surprise…resurrection happens…continue telling the family.
For this day and everyday…we are all family.
Sermon for May 30, 2021 Trinity Sunday “Truth, Heart and Spirit”
Let me start by saying that I do not think trinity needs to be so complicated. Theologians and biblical scholars have for centuries have promoted the idea that Trinity is complicated, mysterious and beyond the grasp of mere folks in pews. To be perfectly honest, I did buy into that ethos mostly because It allowed me to defer any conversation about the nature of God as being too lofty and the Trinity just out of my and our minds grasp. After all, the scholars could not get it so how can I…is the logical conclusion.
Maybe what would work on this Trinity Sunday would be to come with questions, to come seeking to know, to experience God in all God’s fullness. To come and share stories, encounters, glimpses of God, all the while pointing to a larger truth beyond our images and stories. What does it mean to be born of the Spirit, redeemed by the Messiah and loved by the Creator? How does that affect my life day to day? How does this fit into our discipleship path? What is it like? Bring your honest questions and lay them before God. And then relish the conversation.
That’s what Nicodemus did in the shadows of the night. He came to Jesus with questions. The scene is delightful…the great Nicodemus, the teacher of teacher, a leader of the Sanhedrin coming to radical Rabbi Jesus seeking answers. Who is God? What is the nature of God? And Jesus answers; God is Spirit and Truth, God is about getting out of your head and into your heart. Knowledge is good but Jesus comes to open our heart with spirit, so you must allow the spirit room to be birthed again in your heart so you will live.
Nicodemus and many still today want to know the how and why, they want to stay in their heads where it is comfortable. But Jesus says it is like the breeze, the wind, it blows from there to here and beyond and we just accept it as truth. Just accept spirit and heart as truth and you will begin to understand. Jesus goes on to share a story that Nicodemus would know well. The story of Moses and Joshua and the people of Israel in the desert when after complaining to God they were overwhelmed by snakes. God told Moses to fashion a snake and place it on a pole, hold it up before the people and all who looked upon it would be saved. So too, all who look to the Son of God lifted up on a pole will be redeemed. Two stories that we all too often forget between benediction and call to worship. And yet are essential for life.
Nicodemus wasn’t leaning into Jesus, nor do we lean into Jesus the way Jesus wants us to lean into him. He wasn’t hungry for Jesus the way Jesus wants us to be hungry. I am the bread, I am the gate, I am the way, the truth and the life. He wants to be all for all—our light in the darkness, our hope in the midst of the world’s despair. He doesn’t want to be a side show, or a sometime friend. He wants to be the center of our lives and hopes and dreams.
How can these things be? That, of course would be Nicodemus’s reply. I’m sure, because it is often ours. How can these things be? How can we hold on to Jesus when the path gets slippery and the light grows dim? We must be born again. Has there been a phrase more divisive in the body of Christ than that one? Maybe. But this one has been misused and misunderstood since Nicodemus stumbled over it one night. Born again? “Anothen is the Greek word. Anothen. It means again and anew and from above.” All wrapped up there together. But not again as in repetition – same thing over again; that’s what Nicodemus missed. But neither is “born again” a badge of honour or an entrance certificate. That’s what many modern-day users miss. Rather, it is an invitation to join in the dance with Jesus—whoever believes; whoever takes him by the hand and says, “Lead me”; whoever says, “I find myself in you”; whoever leans for repose as the old hymn says, shall have life, abundant, eternal life.
How can these things be? They just are. Start leaning. And learning.
Lest, on this Trinity Sunday, I leave you with the impression that questions are somehow bad, forgive me. But no. Questions, dumb ones and smart ones, irritating ones and time-wasting ones, earnest ones and honest ones, are good. We need to ask to learn. But then lean as we learn. Trust as we seek. Believe as we wonder. How can these things be? Believe. And ask. And live. To be born of the Spirit is to ask your questions and seek God in truth, heart and spirit.
Sermon for May 23, 2021 Pentecost “The Voices You’ll Hear”
It’s a bit like…well and sort of like…but more like…and kinda like…
Trying to describe Pentecost at best leaves even the most eloquent at a loss for words. Even the disciples could not say exactly what it was like. “like the rush of a violent wind, tongues, as of fire” are the images they used and the fact that each one there was impacted in the same way. It must have been both aweing and terrifying at the same time. This is that intimate moment that Jesus talked of when he said: ‘the comforter, the Holy Spirit will come and be upon you’.
This is widely held as the moment the church began and is some ways marks the birthday of the church. The events recorded in the Pentecost story is also the story of the annual Festival of First Fruits, when the cities, towns and villages would have celebrations of early harvest. It is more that …it is the moment when the disciples ‘wake up’ to the truth that Jesus is really and truly the Messiah and that the teaching they experienced while travelling with Jesus will now be practised. The mantle of leadership, teaching, healing, proclaiming is now theirs. We have this image that the disciples just started without any anxiety at all. I am certain that is not the case.
I remember the first sermon I ever preached. It was Epiphany 1980, Gordon Cann ended up in the hospital on Thursday, his wife Ann called to ask if I would take over. I said yes of course, then thought OMG what have I done, what will I do. I was just going into my second term at AST and had no experience in preaching. On that Sunday I looked out and there were my parents, elementary school principal and teachers from all grades, Sunday school teachers (I was not always the most attentive student) and people I had know all my life…staring at me. I am sure that the gratitude and thanks were more for effort than content or style but I made it, scared, honoured, nervous and did I say scared. And that affirmed the path chosen for me and one that I still strive to follow. So I know the Spirit works in mysterious ways.
There are many ways in which we all are thrust, with varying degrees of preparation, into the fray of living. It may be church, work, school, job, sport or play. For reasons that seems to make no particular sense, we are driven in a particular direction and we go there. The disciples and friends of Jesus have been pretty secluded since the crucifixion and resurrection. But now all of a sudden, on one of the busiest weekends of the year, the doors are burst open and the people outside hear the message and teaching of Jesus in their own language. It is the moment when the few are forced to welcome the outsider and offer hospitality.
There is a story of a tourist was travelling in Germany, he had no knowledge of German whatsoever and had wandered off the tourist trail and found himself in a small village where he was having trouble making himself understood. He was about to panic when he was caught in a sneezing fit. A passerby smiled and nodded at him and said, “Gesundheit!” The tourist rushed after the man and declared, “O good, you speak English!”
In our context at St. Marks, different languages may not be the issue but I know for sure that the language we sometimes use in “church world” if not helpful or inviting for many. I will offer a personal example that shuts me down. ‘Have you been saved?’ I know it is a very Christian question but for me it is also loaded with plenty of narrow and harmful thinking. For me it comes from the asker being right and the one questioned being wrong. My response is usually; ‘tell me more about why that is important for you?’ My preference is to spend enough time with someone to get to know them so then I may be enabled to offer an invitation to conversation that is open, welcoming and ‘speaks their language’ so to speak.
By definition, Pentecost is the opening of our doors, the thrusting open of our doors, to the community. It is an opportunity to share the best teaching ever, by the best teacher ever, not as we see fit but in a way that others can understand.
So may it be that the Spirit that moved so many years ago with the disciples, enabling them to speak in languages of many nations and regions and be understood, stir in our language and motives so that we can speak in ways that are surprisingly inviting to those who hear.
Sermon for April 25, 2021 Fourth of Easter “I Heard the Voice…”
Since we have had the capacity to speak and hear we have been devising methods to be heard. Since the time Jesus said ‘if you have ears to hear then hear’ and we have been saying ‘WHAT’.
I heard the voice…implies that we actually listened but we are prone to say ‘what’.
The theme of Jesus as a shepherd or the shepherd continues this week with the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. As such Jesus goes to great lengths to ensure that all know his voice. As a son, brother, father, husband and many other things I know that there is much to learn when listening. There are the words and there is the tone of the words. There is the gentle tone of instruction and there is the stop in your tracks tone that implies imminent danger.
In the first letter to John there is part of the teaching for today, ‘we know love by this, that Jesus lay down his life for us…Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action…how does god’s love abide in anyone who sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?’ and a little further on ‘believe in Jesus and love one another just as he asked us’.
And we say…what.
In the Gospel teaching Jesus says ‘I am the good shepherd…the good shepherd gives all to the sheep even life itself.’
And we say…what.
Our what is not totally unjustified. I and others in my circle have been wondering how Jesus is relevant in the 21st century. It is not an easy thing to figure out and much like herding ducks or maybe sheep. Christians no longer claim rights to being the biggest influencer in Canadian society. In 2011 61% of people identified as Christian and in 2018 that number was 55%, also 64% of all people said religion/church has a declining influence on national and personal life. The fastest growing group is unaffiliated. So what has happened to the message and theme of love and loving action?
God is not unaware of the unfolding adventures of humans. Perhaps we are being led into a contemporary wilderness time, to be refined and redefined, to gain new perspective while not losing the witness of the past 100 or even 1000 years. To be the remnant from which a new understanding of God and Jesus’ purpose is revealed.
This, like the wilderness times of the past is challenging and we wish it were over but training takes time and patience and working through the difficult times. This is different than preparing for the second coming, that is a time that we cannot determine but continually prepare for. This is a time for refining the Good News for our day.
Maybe the image of sheep is still appropriate, they will eat the same thing from the same field even if the food is gone and they are eating roots. In the absence of a shepherd the sheep will do what they do. With a shepherd to guide and lead the sheep will have good pasture and clean water.
The was and is to follow the teachings of Jesus. To love God, others and self, to be seekers of peace and justice and to be a welcome of the stranger. We are so accustomed to saying…what… that we become deaf to the voice of the one who loved us into being.
I know that many hear the voice of God and Jesus calling them to listen and to action. Now as in any time of Christianity it is risky to publicly live into that calling. None the less, Jesus will continue to call your name until your what becomes a…yes…here I am.
Sermon for April 18, 2021 Third of Easter “You are Witnessing”
The resurrection of Jesus was and is an amazing truth. Last week we heard in John 20 “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” And this week we hear in Luke 24 “While they were talking about this (Simon and Cleopas taking about meeting Jesus on the Emmaus Road), Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.”
The account of Jesus after the resurrection is told from the perspective of a variety of authors in many differing contexts, I think, so that we can believe in resurrection. Like Thomas we are prone to wanting proof. We are suspicious of one account but when we hear the same account from a variety of sources then our capacity to believe grows. The terror and startling nature of the appearance of Jesus has not really dulled over the past two millennium.
For us 21st century believers, the terror is not persecution by the Romans or persecution by anyone for that matter. What seems to cause us terror is that we might be found out as being Christian, that we might actually have to explain ourselves, that we might have to live as though believing in a living Jesus makes a difference or that we might have to live up to the high calling of Jesus. What gives us fits is that we might be found out.
I learned this week the for Jews in Jesus day, all boys had to memorize the Torah (the first five books of the Bible before they were eight, and the same is true for Jews even today except now girls are included. Can you imagine have to memorize the Gospels before you were eight! We might argue that there is an app for that but then how many actually have the app? And how many use it?
I am sure the math teachers would argue that knowing the plus, minus, division and multiplication is much preferred to always using the app (think Calculator), or the music teacher would rather you learn the notes than pull out the playlist. So the preacher and teacher of scripture would rather you know the Bible rather than just dig out the app when the mood strikes.
There may be other terrors that await the Christian but I am convinced that there are none that Jesus cannot allay. All you need do is ask. And if that is not enough then Jesus will simply ask ‘why are you frightened and why the doubts?’ The Christian life is not a one-way street where we are the ones served with a golden spoon. Jesus asks a lot of us and he knows that by times, what we are called to do will be hard and move us from our comfort zones. And Jesus knows that we can do what is asked of us…Today it is to be a witness to the living Jesus.
Did you hear the Gospel for today? ‘Thus is it written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’
You are witnesses of these things. This truth that Jesus lives and can change lives for good is our work, our witness. Jesus only taught love, only asked us to love and in Jesus day and today all we do is bully him and discredit him and cause his heart and body great suffering. For me what makes my and our actions a bitter pill to swallow, is that Jesus knew we would behave just as we have. And still the love is so great and forgiveness so real, that he rose from the dead to assure us that the worst we can do will not diminish his great love for us. Love and forgiveness is what you have witnessed at Easter. It is the message that we are witnessing to in our day. By our lives, our open hearts, our wading into scary places and yes overcoming our fear that our neighbour just might find out.
But it all begins with Jesus…for he named you, redeemed you and calls you to witness.
Sermon for April 11, 2021 Second of Easter “Well I Declare”
Believing or the possibility of believing is a mysterious realm. I think there are a variety of ways to hold onto a belief. There is the belief in real possibility, the belief of possibility, belief in fact and belief just because it leads to further understanding and belief.
This Sunday, or the one after Easter has developed into what we delightfully call Holy Humour Sunday. Now I love humour, good jokes and a good laugh and the necessary good belly laugh but a comic I am not. I come up with good lines a day late, or start laughing before the punch line so give the timing up. There are times I like the quick one liner, and times when the narrative spans a story. Think here Terry Fallis’ ‘Best Laid Plans’ or Stuart MacLean’s why you should not drink 8, 8 ounce glasses of water. But I digress.
I do not wish to malign marketing and advertising folk for they do a service and the church uses advertising, but they also can lead us to believe what might not really be true. Long before Easter was over, advertising was onto Mother’s day and graduations. Right after Christmas and leading up to Easter we were encouraged be believe that white bunnies laid chocolate eggs and that purple, pink and yellow spotted bunnies laid coloured eggs, that the Easter Bunny hide eggs in yards and fields and that Easter is all about bright, delight, rainbows and butterfly kisses. For the most part and for many that is where the story ends and after a sugar high we wake up the next day to our routines and life.
I would suggest using what we view advertising as a spring board to the larger beliefs and ways of being that lasts longer, way longer than a sugar high. We are in a time and age that is vastly different than anything we have ever known, not just in terms of COVID but also in the life of the church. The church we all grew up in cannot be replicated in the 21st century and our experience of church will be different than that of those who follow us. What is essential for today is that we faithfully live out (in our personal life and public life) the teachings of Jesus.
If today, we need to start with bunnies and eggs to lead to the truths of resurrection and life then so be it. If the Velveteen Rabbit leads us to understand the truths of loving and life no matter the nature of the adventure…then great. If the scientific exploration of the tiniest particles helps us understand the nature of a delightfully creative God, then awesome. And if taking a closer look at Mars or the expansive views of the Hubble telescope give us understanding of the height, depth, breadth and width of God, then that is good too. Everyone has to start somewhere on their journey of faith. And everyone on a journey of faith has not yet arrived at the destination.
For Thomas it was in the asking of questions, of doubting the word of his friends who were telling him a fantastic story that defied human understanding. Unless I put my finger in his hand and my hand in his side, I cannot make that leap to belief. And Jesus says; here are my hands and my side, you believe now because you see and feel and experience, how blessed are those that come to believe and yet do not have the opportunity that you do this day.
Thomas opens the door for us to ask questions. To explore how we first came to believe, how that was nurtured and how it is lived out today. Thomas also gives us permission to keep asking questions that lead to deeper understanding. Jesus offered clarity to the questions by saying to Thomas and to all, that it is good to ask questions, it is good to probe. To the one with answers, I like to think he offers the teaching of patience. We may know how something works, math or science, art or language, faith and biblical knowledge may be easy for some but harder for others to grasp. So Jesus says to all the others, be patient in your teaching and always be on the lookout for new ways to explain old truths.
This hold true for the expert and the novice, for the well-practiced in faith and for the seeker. Whether we all know it or not, all earth’s inhabitants are on the same journey, share a common past and wonder about the future. Believing is a delightfully mysterious adventure and it begins with loving all that is into what was, what is and what will be. The one who so humanly demonstrated divine love beckons, follow me.
Sermon for March 28, 2021 Palm Sunday “Good Intentions”
Even more that 2000 years after the first palm parade, this day is filled with paradox and contrast. The King of Kings riding on a borrowed donkey colt, the King of Kings not on a red carpet but on quickly gathered palm branches and cloaks, the King of Kings with no army of soldiers, no angels and arch angels but a few men and women and the curious townsfolk.
What is interesting is that on both sides of the city there is a parade of the King of Kings. Jesus on one side and the Emperor on the other. Both claim the same thing. One has the might of army and government on his side the other meekness and obedience. The headlines in the paper the next day would read “who is the King of Kings?”.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves lets back up a bit. Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and the challenging days that are to come. Along the way he instructs some of the disciples to go on ahead and bring the colt that is there. If there are any questions just say: ‘the master has need of it”. As Jesus begins the ride to Jerusalem the disciples get more excited, the crowd grows, the quiet voices raise in shout and chatter, the way is cleared and finally, so the disciples think, Jesus is going to do what they always had hoped for, overthrow the government and end oppression, form them and the people of God.
Liking a parade all depends on context. I recall years ago travelling across the country, arriving in a small city and being stopped by a parade. There was nothing I could do, there were cars ahead and behind so like everyone else I got out and watched a parade. At first I was annoyed, after all how dare these people interrupt my travel. But then I did watch the parade; was thrilled at the talent in the bands and amused at the local zaniness of some of the floats and in the end was pleased with the distraction and did thoroughly enjoy the local cuisine.
In the parade of Jesus some were there on purpose and some just had their day interrupted and still they waved and shouted and enjoyed the moment. And then went back to their day. Much the same is true today; some will spend the day and week preparing, some will, by accident see the parade, some will not know it is happening at all and some will be at a completely different event.
For me, I am in a place where I can encourage and nudge folks to take notice of what is happening but I cannot force anyone to believe exactly as I do. If I see you at Christmas and Easter I will rejoice and suggest there is more in-between. If I see you in-between I will also rejoice as you discover the depth and richness of faith and spirit.
For all those here and all those with other places to be this day, may we be reminded that God knows where we are, God will put in our way, paths that lead to faith or make the one we are on be the path that leads to God. Today, it is enough that God knows…tomorrow… we may know. The spirit of God works in mysterious ways that always and in all-ways lead to God.
Perhaps Palm Sunday is the moment when we hear a commotion and act on the thought ‘I wonder what is going on?’ and then ask questions, get interested and want to know more. Maybe this is a gateway moment for the elders in faith and the seekers to go deeper and ask “what am I doing or how did I get here?
As we enter Holy Week and we all hold our breath and voices, creation will speak. The parade will end, darkness will cover the earth, the sun will be darkened and the veil of the temple torn in two.
Now…we are required to wait…one of the hardest things humans can be asked to do.
As it is and should be on this day and every day: God’s will be done. Even if we are silent…God’s will be done.