Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday has come and gone

So, Palm Sunday is already over and we are now almost halfway to Maundy Thursday - the sad day with the funny name. Below is the transcript from the Palm Sunday message.
As part of the service, during the children's message I talked about how we are kind of like the palm branches: we can be used to praise God (just like on Palm Sunday), but we can also be a piece of what leads Jesus to the cross. While I was talking to the children, I formed one of the palm branches into a cross to illustrate the point.
Sometimes we are a face in the crowd on Palm Sunday, praising God with our lives and other times - far too often - we turn and twist our lives in a way that points Jesus to the cross.
The thing about being part of the crowd, and this is the thing that we so quickly forget, is that being a part of that crowd is a choice. We have the choice, we make the choice to use our lives to respond to God's passion and love for us with praise or to respond by twisting our lives into a arrow pointing Jesus to the cross.
Jesus had a choice too, he had lots of choices actually. Every minute of his life here on earth he could have made the choice that we weren't worth it. That all of our faults and sins and slights were too much and that he was going back home to heaven.
Instead, he continued to make the choice, every minute of every day, to live a life of passionate sacrifice because of his love for us.
. . . Sorry, I forgot I had already written the sermon. Oh, well, here it is:

Luke 19:28-40 (The Message)

God's Personal Visit

28-31After saying these things, Jesus headed straight up to Jerusalem. When he got near Bethphage and Bethany at the mountain called Olives, he sent off two of the disciples with instructions: "Go to the village across from you. As soon as you enter, you'll find a colt tethered, one that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says anything, asks, 'What are you doing?' say, 'His Master needs him.'" 32-33The two left and found it just as he said. As they were untying the colt, its owners said, "What are you doing untying the colt?" 34They said, "His Master needs him." 35-36They brought the colt to Jesus. Then, throwing their coats on its back, they helped Jesus get on. As he rode, the people gave him a grand welcome, throwing their coats on the street. 37-38Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:
Blessed is he who comes,
the king in God's name!
All's well in heaven!
Glory in the high places!

39Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!" 40But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise."

Prayer: God open our eyes to your work in us and around us. Guide our hearts and our minds as we seek you and seek your will for our lives. Allow us to hear your words as you speak through me. Hide me behind your cross, so you are what is seen and speak through me so you are what’s heard. Amen

Today is a big day in our church and in the life of the church universal

· Palm Sunday – a day of celebration. A day where we remember (and often reenact what is usually called Jesus’ ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem.

· It is also the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week in the life of our church

· But to be honest – for me it has always been a difficult part of the story to really get into or to ‘enter’.

o It is the beginning of a story (or maybe the beginning of the end of a story, and I know how the story ends – so I just want to skip to end so I don’t have to dwell on or think about the rest of the story.

· It seems to me to be a Sunday of contradictions.

o Palm Sunday usually is focused on the celebration

§ Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Here comes David’s Son – the rightful and deserving King!

· These are the words that ring out from the crowd of people that greet Jesus as he enters the streets of Jerusalem

· These are the words that are echoed in this church and in churches around the world on this and every ‘Palm’ Sunday.

o But Palm Sunday, is also the start of Holy Week

§ And we all know what Holy Week holds

· Maundy Thursday & Good Friday

· Judas betrayal

· Peter’s denial

· Jesus’ trial

o Jesus’ suffering

· And finally Jesus crucifixion and death

· The contradiction is so stark in so many ways

o Maybe no where is that more evident than in the role that the crowd plays in Palm Sunday and in the Holy week to come

· The crowd that was shouting Hosanna on Sunday is the same crowd that shouts ‘Crucify Him’ Thursday

o There weren’t two different crowds – one that hailed him as king and the other that was shouting him down as a criminal.

o Instead there is just one crowd, made up of people that praised Jesus and longed for his word on Sunday and were calling for his head and wishing him dead come the weekend.

§ How did that happen? How could that happen?

· Can you image being there in Jerusalem that week

o Can you image having welcomed Jesus into the city as the promised liberating king – the savior who is Christ the Lord.

§ And then, merely a few days later those shouts of Hosanna have faded . . .they have been replaced by shouts not of praise, but by ‘Crucify Him’

· So, how does it happen? How does it work? What does it look like? How the crowd gets from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. I can’t imagine doing that.

o How could they turn on Jesus, how could they do that to him

· But then, I began to really think about it

o Could I, would I praise Jesus one day and turn my back on him the next?

· The truth is I didn’t like the answer I came up with

o If I am being honest most of the time it doesn’t even take me several days to go from praising God to turning my back on him.

o Often, all it takes is getting cut off on the way home and engaging road rage – or getting involved in gossip right in the parking lot.

· You see it is so easy for us to stand here and praise God with our words and our actions – but, sadly it is just as easy for us to turn our back on Christ with our thoughts, our words and our actions

o We most likely will never say the words ‘Crucify him’ but it is our actions as much as the words of that crowd 2,000 years ago that nailed Jesus to the cross.

§ When we use our words to hurt others or to cut them down we are saying ‘Crucify him’

§ When we ignore the needs of those around us, because dealing with them would be inconvenient or difficult, we are saying ‘Crucify him’

§ When ever we put our own selfish interests before the will of God we are shouting ‘Crucify him’

· The truth is that if we look closely at that crowd on Palm Sunday and through Holy Week you will see my face and you will see your face as well.

· Our lives are a study in contradiction.

o Just like the palm branch.

§ Used today to praise, to honor and to worship

§ But tomorrow (or even just a little later today) that same instrument of praise and worship is easily fashioned into a cross

· And this is the pattern of our lives.

o We say words of praise, thoughts of worship

§ And then we fail to act to help our brother in need

o The same mouth we use to praise God we use to curse or lie or gossip

o The hands we use to do good work in God’s name is not only used for good deeds.

· But this is the scandal of the Gospel of Christ – he has heard our cries and responded by saying:

o Forgive them Father for they know not what they do

· He has felt our betrayals and denials and said this to us:

o This is my body broken for you

o This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins

· Jesus knows all the ways you and I have fallen short and turned our palm branches into crosses – and he knows about all those transgressions to come

o And the gift of grace for you and I is that Jesus does not come in spite of all of that, but because of it. Because of your sins and mine. Because of my cross and yours

o Jesus came, lived among us, died for us and rose again so that all of our crosses could be undone and our crimson sin be turned to white.

· Lets pray:

o God we are here praising you now, but we know that we don’t always praise you. We use our words and actions and sometimes our lack of action to turn our backs on you. Forgive us. Cleanse us of our sins. Renew us, by your sacrifice and by the power of your Holy Spirit so that we may go through our lives as new creations – living into the life you have claimed for us. As we turn our thoughts to your love and sacrifice for us this week guide us as we seek to more faithfully follow you, serve you and praise you.

o Amen.

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