2022.04.10 Good Enough Palm Sunday
Scripture Luke 19: 28-40
After [Jesus] had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.”
Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Leader: A Word of God that is still speaking, People: Thanks be to God.
Thoughts about an Imperfect Life and Faith
Who are you in this story?
Are you one of the disciples, dispatched by Jesus with some puzzling directions to procure a donkey, following Jesus’s orders - as confusing as they may be - part of his entourage as he wound his way down the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem? Have you ever been confused by Jesus’ directions? What expectations have you put on Jesus that were borne out to be unrealistic? Were you shocked at the way that people received him, so much so that you started shouting out in joy and praise - or were you someone whipping up the crowd, getting them excited and ready for a revolution that was not meant to be?
Are you one of the owners of the colt, ready for a day of business as usual only to be interrupted by travelers, bewildered by who may have need of your pack animal, curious as to who the lord is? Have you been surprised by Jesus’s actions? Has Jesus ever done anything that left you scratching your head in wonder?
Are you the donkey, simply doing your duty and going where you are told, bearing your burden, plodding along one foot after another? Have you felt burdened by life’s pressures and stresses? Did you ever think that all you could keep doing was just keep moving, that survival was the only goal? Have you ever felt like sometimes you’ve carried more than your fair share - that people don’t fully understand the things you hold close? Have you unknowingly carried precious cargo - its value only realized in retrospect?
Are you part of the procession, laying down cloaks and palms upon the road for Jesus, preparing the way for a triumphal entry to Jerusalem, shouting and praising God? Have you ever gotten swept up in the press of emotion? Felt joy unspeakable? Ready to lay down anything at all for Jesus?
Are you a bystander to this spontaneous parade, wondering who this man is that is causing such a stir, caught up in the celebratory atmosphere or perhaps distant...questioning...doubtful. Did you ever feel that maybe all this Jesus stuff was just too much? Do you still wrestle with questions about who Jesus is - what he means - why he’s so important? Have you felt that maybe it’s better to keep your distance than risk a relationship with such an unusual figure?
Are you a Pharisee, disturbed by the procession making its way through the streets, worried about what the empire might think of such a display, wanting desperately for Jesus to stop what he is doing so everything can go back to the way it was? Have you ever not wanted Jesus to change you? Did you ever feel like maybe if Jesus went away, life could go back to being normal again? Have you ever felt afraid that Jesus would turn your world upside down if you really let him in - really listened to what he was saying and teaching - really followed his actions and way of life?
Who are you in the story?
Truth be told, we’re each probably a mixture of each of these characters. No one of us fits squarely into one category or another. Each of us carries with us multiple thoughts, feelings, motivations, and desires with us as we begin again the drama that leads us through hope, betrayal, suffering, and ultimately resurrection. We may be the ones standing and cheering “Hosanna”, dreaming that Jesus will fulfill all our wildest expectations only to be shouting “Crucify” on Friday when we realize that Jesus rarely does what we want him to do. We may be feeling a lot like the donkey, carrying our heavy loads only to realize that sometimes those burdens teach us and allow us to grow. We may think we’re an obedient disciple, going where Jesus tells us only to discover that the journey is difficult, and we are terrified of following the whole way. We may come with our doubts and our questions, unsure of this Jesus person and what he means and yet coming to recognize the new life that seems to grow everywhere around him.
Kate Bowler puts it this way in her meditation “When Words Fail”:
“Many of us are living in a strange, distended moment, the sameness of a world that groans for change. We need justice for all and miracles for the people we love. We need beauty that stirs our hearts and affordable health care for the parts of us that keep breaking.
There is hope for someday, but someday is not now.
There is a Christian version of this story. Holy Week begins with Jesus welcomed like a hero. Expectations are soaring: Jesus will fix everything. But by the end of the week, his best friends betray him, and he is convicted as a criminal and sentenced to death. He will rise from the dead and someday bring this world to a beautiful conclusion and wipe every tear from every eye.
There is hope for someday, but someday is not now.”
Where we find ourselves now - and where we hope to be - and how the disciples navigated that same trajectory - place us in that story of hope for someday. We travel the steps of Holy Week - from palm processional with the roaring crowd, the questioning pharisees, the faltering disciples, the exultant friends. We walk with Jesus, carrying our burdens even as we carry the burdens of others. We connect with the story of betrayal and crucifixion and identify with the joy and mystery and bewilderment of the resurrection.
This isn’t just a story that happened 2000 years ago. This is our story that we live into now, that has meaning for us now, that happens to us, to our loved ones, to strangers. It’s a story that we recreate and celebrate and share -- this story of changing expectations, this story of friendship and betrayal, this story of powers and principalities, this story of death and new life. This story happens all around us all the time -- the question is -- at any given time -- what part are we playing?
Who are you in the story?
This week, I invite you to consider that question. Consider the ways that you are a part of the road toward Calvary. Reflect on the role you have played in the past - and where God has led you now. Consider what in your life needs to die so that new life can grow? I invite you to participate in the story - maybe for the first time, maybe yet again. Relive this week with Jesus. And let the story lead you to that hope for someday - for yourself and for others. Amen.
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Pastor Melissa Yosua-Davis has been serving the community of Chebeague and its church since July 2015. She currently lives on the island with her husband and five year old son and 2 year old daughter, along with their yellow lab. Read here recent sermon excerpts, thoughts on life and faith, and current announcements for the church community. She also blogs at Going on to Perfection.