Who is This?
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

April 9, 2017
Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

Last week, we were privileged to hear Dawn talk about different ways of coming at scripture, different ways of reading the same passage. I want to tag on to that this morning. When Jesus rides into Jerusalem, it is a deliberate act that has a couple of ways of understanding it.

It echoes the words of the prophet, quoted by Matthew:

Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

But the other way people might understand it is an intentional jab at Rome. When a military leader won a great victory, Rome would hold a triumph. Starting at the Field of Mars in Rome, a great procession of defeated enemies and plundered loot and Senators would walk to the palace, followed by the one honored by the triumph, riding in a chariot, being praised by the whole people.

The kingdom of God is an inversion of the empires of this world. That is Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem. It is a protest, a mocking, a sign of disrespect for the ways of empire.

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”

The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus has made a name for himself.

No longer thought to be John back from the dead, or Elijah returned, but a prophet in his own right. Being a prophet means bringing a necessary and effective word of God to the people.

This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.

Galilee is a long way from Jerusalem. Which means that Jesus and his disciples who have walked with him all this way, have the dust of so many places on them.

Jesus has the dust of that northern province, up there where the troublemakers are, up by the pagan lands, past where the Samaritan heretics live.

Jesus has dust on his feet. Dust from Galilee, where the rabble-rousers and troublemakers are from. Dust from Tyre and Sidon, where pagans now run the prosperous shipping ports. Dust from Samaria, where the people follow God, but not like they do in Jerusalem.

Dust from the lands where lepers were cleansed, roads where only semi-serious disciples were turned away, tables where Jesus ate and drank with sinners and Pharisees, prostitutes and politicians, tax collectors and zealots against the empire of Rome.

And when the message of the kingdom of God, this inversion of the empire, this reign of compassion and healing and hope and peace, was rejected, what did Jesus say to his disciples? Smite them? No. Shake the dust off your feet as a witness. Don’t carry that place’s dust with you. Don’t carry their rejection with you.

In Japan there is a story of two monks, one old and wise, one young and impetuous. When they came to a river swollen by heavy rains, they see a beautiful young woman who cannot cross for fear of her kimono getting soaked and ruined, or the water dragging her away. So the older monk offers to carry her across. After they cross, they walk on for a few miles and finally the younger monk turns, red-faced and blurts out, “Sir, we are not supposed to touch women, but you carried her across the river in your arms!”

The older monk smiled at the young monk and said, “I set her down on this side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

Jesus says shake off the dust of those places that have no use for Good News.

Lent is a journey. Faith is a journey. What kind of dust do we have on us? And what kinds of dust do we need to shake off?

Most of us have cemetery dust on us. We grieve. We pray. We hurt. We love. And so we carry some of that dust with us.

But we also have grudge dust. The dust of old pain. The dust of wounds we have carried for way too long. Dust we need help shaking off, because we fear getting rid of it means getting rid of some of the good dust too.

We carry the dust of past generations in our memory, in our appreciation of those who made possible what he have today, the faith passed down from generation to generation.

But we also carry the dust of ideas and habits that no longer help, that no longer give hope, that make it hard to breathe fully and deeply.

At the beginning of Lent, we hear the ancient words of the church

From dust we come, To dust we shall return.

Even the word for mortal in the Hebrew scriptures is about dust.

…then the Lord God formed man [Adam]
from the dust of the ground [adamah],
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and the man [Adam] became a living being.

We are dust, with the holy breath of life breathed into us.

Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to remind people that the matter that makes
up all of life includes the dust from stars, flung out by the creation
of the universe.

We are beings of dust. But we are made of stardust.

We are dust. But God has breathed into us the breath of life, and be live.

And this is Jesus, who they will soon crucify. Jesus, who will then
be raised. Jesus whom we will come to call the Son of God. And the
love of God, the power of resurrection, the compassion of Christ,
knows our dust, walks with us through our dusty days.

Who is this?

This is Jesus. Carrying the dust of suffering and pain and love and
life and hope and joy and all of humanity, we dusty, dusty creatures,
to the cross. And there, we are washed clean. Fitted with new
garments. Given new life.

Who is this?

This is Jesus. The one we follow to the cross. The one we follow to
the tomb. The one we look for in the garden. The one who by the
grace of God meets us in his resurrection.

Thanks be to God. Amen.