Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Palm Sunday

Easter – The First Day


Palm Sunday is more than a parade, it is a turning point.
To understand what is happening you have to know what comes before, and what happens after. And the first thing you have to do is set yourself in the scene. This is occupied Palestine… this is the world where everyone works for Caesar… this is a world where the worship of Rome is overtaking belief in God’s goodness…

Jesus is a rebel, he is a prophet, he is the voice of the common, disaffected, faithful Jew – hoping God will turn the tables…

Turning the Tables

 What is the most important thing that Jesus taught us?
I suppose it depends on who you are talking to or what you are doing – I mean, there is the whole Good Samaritan story and how we are supposed to care for each other… there was the whole Lord’s Prayer and how we were supposed to relate to God… There was all that healing and how we are supposed to relate to the sick and lonely….

The more I think about it, the more I think what we are talking about is “be”
Jesus came and taught us to “be” … and we spend a lot of time talking about how we are supposed to act; which sort of misses the point.

“Who is this Jesus?” the crowds asked… and although the answers could very well reflect the actions, he is the guy who cured Barrabas, he is that guy who preached the sermon by the seashore, he is the teacher from Galilee….
The real answer was that Jesus simply was…  the love of God…. Incarnate…

And that, like it or not, is dangerous.

Jesus used to say it more like, “What is the Kingdom of God” but we use different words and think in different ways… for us the question is what separates the faithful from the secular, and what is it that God would have us be in the world.
This is the question of Palm Sunday… ok, people are paying attention, it is a High Holy Holiday of the church… what are we going to do to really make the point…. And when we do it… when we enter dramatically, when we cast out the moneychangers, when we upset the status quo and point out the problems… what will happen to us.

It All Goes Wrong

I had a friend on Facebook recently post a question. To boil it down to its simplest form, they wondered why life always has joy and sorrow. In their case their boyfriend was leaving for work but their parents were coming to visit. Simple situation, simple question, difficult answer.
Why does life not work out the way we hope, the way we expect, the way people like Jesus suggested it might?

Well, I think the truth is we have always been fooling ourselves, life is constantly pleasure and pan, good times and bad, love and loss…. The real question is how we handle it.
A day has passed for Jesus and the disciples. It started in the dark, looking for a Donkey,wove its way through a triumphal entry, a parade fit for a king, a final moment of recognition from the crowds…. Then there was that embarrassing bit in the afternoon where Jesus seemed to lose his mind, where he threw over the tables of the money lenders, where he cursed a fig tree, where he was…. Angry…. And, well, not like himself….

Imagine the ups and downs of a day like this? Imagine how you would feel if all your hopes seemed to be coming true, and then your friend seems to throw it all away?
So you have gathered on the outskirts of the city, night has fallen, the fire is crackling, maybe you are having a cup of coffee and trying to make sense of the day in your head.

Enter Jesus once more:
“Have faith in God, believe so deeply that there would be no doubt in your mind that if you said, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ to a mountain, it would move…. Pray, believe you have already received God’s blessing… forgive everyone… have faith…”

You see, it is not about what happened today, or what will happen tomorrow, that does not prove God’s love, or the goodness of the universe, the question is what do you have inside of you… how strongly do you believe?  Are you willing to confront the powers of injustice, to ride the waves of the crowds popularity, to risk the difficult path in order to help bring about the Kingdom…. Have faith… in yourselves.

I have never been happy making Easter, or Christmas, or Sunday something outside of the normal world. For me the point is, how is this supposed to play out in our day to day living. What does Palm Sunday point to in our world.

I guess for me it is about seeing in Jesus a moment when he was brave enough to stand up, a model of how I am meant to walk out of here and into my world.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of the end. Which is to say it is the first step Jesus takes when he decides, ok, enough is enough… so I watch the news, I see the world, I know… enough is enough… I guess I spend this week thinking about what next…
Hopefully you do to.

Let us pray:

Loving and gracious God, creative power that courses through our veins, spirit of courage and first steps. May we who have confronted the life of Jesus in this service now be empowered to confront the places in our own lives where we need to change, to overturn that which keeps us trapped on the wrong path, to open our heart to the journey through Jerusalem that in the end will allow us to not only see Easter more clearly, but understand God’s will more fully. Amen.

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