March 20, 2016
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Anthem: A Festive Call to PraiseSenior Choir
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
The Lord needs it. What a small sentence to hold so much weight. What does the Lord need? In this moment it is the foal of a donkey, to ride on, to ride into Jerusalem. In the days of Esther, what did the Lord need? The Lord needed someone with the courage to face the king and plead for the people, which is to put one’s fate in the hands of the king. What did the Lord need in the days of Moses? The Lord needed someone to turn aside and notice the bush that was burning but was not consumed in the fire, who would then go back to the courts of Pharaoh and speak the impossible, “Let my people go!”
The Lord had need of it. In our day, in our place, in our communities, what is God calling us to do and to be? This is a question that we will be seeking to answer. After Easter, we will begin the process of reVisioning who God calls us to be and what God is calling us to do. We will be gathering in small groups, gathering prayerfully, getting to know one another, especially those in our congregation we do not know yet.
When you receive the invitation to join in this process, please do so. Your presence, your discernment, your voice, your place in this church is needed for us to better become who God is calling us to be.
So Jesus is riding a donkey into the city. So what? It is a guy on a donkey in a city. But it is not just any city. It is Jerusalem, home to the Temple of God, the center of Israel’s world. But people ride in every day. Pilate rides in, either on a warhorse or in a chariot. What is a donkey compared to the strength and might of these rides?
But there are old, old stories, deep in the memory of those raised on the law and he prophets, of a king riding in, not on the mechanics of war, but on a donkey. There are old stories of the celebrations of defeat of foreign powers, and the procession into Jerusalem. And there is an expectation that this will be true again in the days of those who gather to witness Jesus.
And so the crowds gather. With branches of palms (John), with leaves from the field (Mark), with branches cut from trees (Matthew), or just with shouts (Luke). The crowds want something new. The crowds want someone to change the way things are. The crowds are shouting shouts of help that are also shouts of victory, religious and political and social and economic, because they did not really separate these things into different categories the way we do.
Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
The crowds of followers have seen the acts of power Jesus has done, healing, casting out, cleansing, making whole, returning people to their right mind, and they praise him in the place that has been the center of their connection to God.
And the religious authorities are worried. The argument will be made, “Let us sacrifice this strange preacher and teacher so that the Romans do not destroy the whole of our nation.”
And the Pharisees, worried about religious propriety and Roman domination and caught in the middle, tell Jesus, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
What does it mean, if these were silent, even the rocks and stones would cry out?
What would happen if all the political crowds, Trump and Sanders, Cruz and Clinton, were silent? What would happen if the 24 hour news cycle took a week off? What would we hear if Facebook went dark for a day? What if the TV preachers, and even those of us in the pulpits, all took retreat time at the same time?
What would the rocks and stones cry out in this deafening silence?
Would we see there are still beggars on street corners of our state capital? Would we finally look up enough to see that there are homeless folks here in Charlotte, along with a lot of substandard housing, and underemployed people? Would we start to look past all the blinders we put on to not notice someone in a wheelchair, or with a cane or a crutch?
Might we start to see our neighbors as just that, our neighbors, whom Jesus said to love as we love ourselves? Would mental illness be something that the community wanted to care for rather than to lock away or ignore? Would we be a people of remembrance, that we were once strangers, and so we welcome the strangers? Would we greet Jesus and care for Jesus today, in all of his distressing disguises, as Mother Theresa used to call the poor and the sick in Calcutta?
A while back, I started using a prayer before the sermon each Sunday. And I began with a familiar one, one I swiped from Dawn Christenson that went:
Let the words of my mouth,
and the meditations of each of our hearts,
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
our rock and our redeemer.
And I was gently chastised by a church member for misquoting the scripture. I was overjoyed; someone has read scripture!
But I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it is “O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.” (I went back and looked it up. He was right.) Why was this wording so important? Because this man was a farmer. Rocks are not good things. Rocks are things you break your back to clear from your fields each spring so that you can plant your crops and not damage your equipment.
If we silenced all the crowds, would not the stumbling blocks that keep people from living life abundantly bear witness to what needs to be done? Would we not hear and see what needs to be done? Is this not the witness of Paul in his letter to the Romans?
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves,
who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly while we wait for adoption,
the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22-24)
Thanks be to God. Amen.