Matthew 21:1-11 The Message (MSG)
When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”
This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:
Tell Zion’s daughter,“Look, your king’s on his way, poised and ready, mounted On a donkey, on a colt, foal of a pack animal.”
The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
As Jesus made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”
The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”
May God add a blessing to our understanding of these words.
It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that the last time I preached with you present in the sanctuary – was the last time I preached. That was way back on March 8 – the week before Bethany came for her candidating weekend and just the beginning of our understanding of the seriousness of this virus. That was not even a month ago!
I think many were still in denial (and I think some still are) of the impact and chaos and confusion this virus would cause in our lives. One source of information contradicted another source of information that also contradicted another.
I had to laugh at a Facebook posting I saw this week.
From the “Just Laugh” post: “Can’t believe I’ve lived in six different decades: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s, March.”
Humor helps, doesn’t it? There were many posts this week that helped me to laugh out loud. And I’m thankful for every single one of them.
And so, I thought my primary job in March and April was to get ready to leave you – silly me. I never thought that we’d be challenged to figure out new ways to do and to be church. This was definitely a learning curve that was, and is, a moving target.
Facebook live was a wonderful tool we tried that first Sunday. At the time it required 2-3 people to help with the audio/visual part. Techies Eric and Scott also doubled as Elders and Patrick Crocker preached. We had 136 people with us in worship that Sunday. That was the way to go, we thought, until we got the stay at home order. Shifting gears, once again, we worked at zoom worship for last Sunday. Funny how we ARE reinventing the wheel these days. If we don’t experience too many zoom bombs, this may be the way to go in the future. But who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Of course, there will always be glitches but I really like zoom because we can see each other. That to me is such an incredible blessing during this time of separation. Of course, it does not duplicate worship when we are together in the sanctuary, but nothing would. Over the past few weeks Eric and I have been in close touch because of all the various shifts and changes that come our way almost daily – sometimes hourly. Thank you Eric.
So our calendar tells us that today is Palm Sunday with Holy Week stretching out before us and Easter noted on that same calendar for next Sunday. The reality is that Easter is never a set date and theologically speaking, each Sunday is considered Easter. This year it really is a moveable feast during this un-mobile time in our usually very mobile society. Our routines and rhythms have been upended and many days feel emotionally like a rollercoaster ride even though we’ve lost track of what day it is! One day we think we have a handle on it all and the next day, not so much. And that is really ok because I think that right now, that is the new normal, and that is that nothing is normal.
This year, Easter will be celebrated the first Sunday you are all together physically and with Bethany, worshiping in the sanctuary once again –all very familiar but very different. None of us will ever be the same again. Perhaps we will understand the true story of Easter resurrection in our own lives after having lived through these hard, difficult, challenging and stressful days.
Your Easter will also be Bethany’s first Sunday in the sanctuary physically present with you since March 15 as she embarks upon her ministry in and among you. I can actually hear the joy of that morning, and I can feel the buzz of excitement as you gather together to understand the new life in community that will arise from this very, very long Lenten period. And although apart I will rejoice with you as well. So, here we are, as always, in this in between period, from birth to death, from crucifixion to resurrection, from fear to faith.
I did choose to follow the lectionary reading for Palm Sunday this morning. This reading gives us a wonderful sense of excitement from that crowd as Jesus approaches them. The cheering and anticipation of the long awaited promise fulfilled. Oh, that we could all ride on that crest of excitement and anticipation forever. But we know, as we continue our walk through Lent, sustained excitement is just not possible, nor is it real.
Today, we read how Jesus is making arrangements to enter the city of Jerusalem for Passover week. He knows that he can no longer just enter quietly, or anonymously – those days are gone. He realizes, too, there has to be some sort of strategy about his entrance. Too many people have heard about his teachings, of how he confounds the rules of the Pharisees and the arrogance of the Sadducees. He has shown that he’s not afraid of either the religious leaders or the Roman government. Too many people have heard about his miracles such as the feeding of the 5,000 and the healing of so many. Jesus is a public figure – kind of a rock star of his day.
So those gathered are primed and ready for a show. As word spreads through the crowd that this Jesus from Nazareth is coming to town, the people throw down palm branches in his path-symbols of victory and peace-and shout “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” It is indeed a wonderful moment in time.
By the end of the week, however, a mood of hate and hostility and fear has supplanted the mood of celebration. Even his own disciples betrayed him, denied him, fled from him. Ironically, he never turned his back on any of them. He came to save the most hostile and hateful, whether it be the thief on the cross or Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Jesus embodied extravagant love and grace. In a few short days the world turns incredibly hostile. They went from palm branches and parades to the crown of thorns and the cross; from cheering and hope to cursing and a call to death. (sermons.com)
Mark Trotter reminds us of the famous first words in Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult.” We need to remember that was true for Jesus as it is for us. Peck continues: “This is a great truth, but most of us can’t see it. Instead we moan more or less incessantly, noisily, or subtly, about the enormity of our problem. As if life is supposed to be easy for us, and therefore what has happened to us has never happened to anybody else before, at least not in this excruciatingly painful or insoluble way that it has burdened us.”
Mark Trotter notes that: “Peck says that he wrote that not because as a therapist he hears his patients say that, but because he has been tempted to say that himself. You could call it the ‘Law of Exceptionalism’ – the idea that this has never happened before, at least not to the degree that it has happened to me. ‘Exceptionalism’.
Trotter shares: I like that cartoon I saw a long time ago showing a huge desk, a huge CEO sitting behind the desk, in a huge leather chair. Standing meekly in front of the desk is a person in work clothes, obviously a lowly employee in that corporation. The worker says to the boss, ‘If it’s any comfort, it’s lonely at the bottom too.’
“Life is difficult for everyone. Someone once explained why they don’t like Lent. They said, ‘I’m not into suffering.’ As if suffering were optional. As if it were an adopted lifestyle.
Well, the reality is that Jesus was not into suffering either. We remember he prayed, ‘Let this cup pass from me.’ But when the time came for him to go on the text says, ‘He set his face steadfastly for Jerusalem.’” (Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)
So yeah, life is difficult. And we are all in this together. So, as we extend the Lenten season this year, maybe, for once, we celebrate Easter differently from the celebratory ritual it has become. Maybe, we celebrate the Resurrection just as the Disciples did: Alone: in the silence, hoping that faith outweighs the fear.” (Casey Kerins, Ezer Rising Post)
During these exceptional days perhaps the most important tools in our survival bag today besides facemasks and hand sanitizers, are faith, love, hope. And there will be joy, too.
May the God of life bless us in these days of turmoil and confusion, and may we be reassured, no matter where we are on that rollercoaster ride – God love us and walks with us. amen.
(Copyright DMC 2020)