When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “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.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 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.” [NRSV]
People like to celebrate. We like something to get excited about.
Look at any sporting venue of your choice. There are more acres and structures devoted to accommodating those who celebrate than those who play the games. Sometime the celebrations get out of hand and crowds rush the playing field, goal posts get torn down, the crowd takes the celebration into the streets and what was apparent joy turns into rage and violence.
Think of Jesus’ entry into the capital city: What would make you take off your coat and cut down the neighbors tree limbs to celebrate.
I lived in Grant Park when the the Freak-Nick celebration began in Atlanta. It was not as crazy in our neighborhood as some but there were a day that we were snowed in with abandoned cars filling the streets around the church. At the time it was very frustrating and unsettling. Looking back it was evidence of what a crowd of people who get lost in the celebration can do.
On one hand they can celebrate their leader because they hear what they want to hear and cheer on one another. In the next moment they choose the murderer Barabbas instead of Jesus.
I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a political action group asking me to join other clergy in the presidents invitation to use our pulpit time to encourage people to sign up of the “Affordable” healthcare plans. The president was crossing the line of church and state to ask us to pray for the poor; he was not asking us to help victims of storms; he was not asking us to care for the sick. He was asking us to promote his political agenda. Is that what we have come to celebrate?
Maybe we are to be quiet and reverent only. Should not Jesus have been shown more respect and people just sat and watch quietly as he entered Jerusalem? Jesus didn’t want to show all the pomp and circumstance. He choose a donkey instead of the emperor’s steed. Maybe celebration has no place in our worship. It would be proper to keep quiet and manorly. Right? Look and around and listen this morning: Where are the palm branches? the coats and crowds… We can be assured that we are behaving as we ought and there will be no need for threat or crucifix going on anywhere around here today. “Am I right?”
This text begs the question: What is the appropriate way to welcome Jesus into our town? Quietly as if it were against the law? Not against the law of the land, but the law of opinion and perception.
Rather the harden, stone-like hearts has been set free, bodies healed, lives transformed and eyes opened and the people were shouting, Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest! Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!
Let’s try whispering that together. <in a whisper> Hallelujah! Praise the Lord, Hosanna! Glory to God in the Highest! Blessed is he that comes in the Lord’s name. Hosanna! Glory Hallelujah!
Even when we all whisper it together our collective voice of praise is louder than one person sitting quietly minding their manors of respectability.
It’s not that God wants to hear certain words coming out of our mouths, but rather than try so hard to be quiet, let us try to respond the what God has done for us.
It might be the case Jesus has not come to our house; he might not have visited our streets; he might not have spoken to our hearts in such a long time that we have forgotten the joy. Is this the case?
Did Jesus want attention?
If you are going to start a parade riding into town. You must expect some attention. If you came riding in a shiny, red convertible Austin Martin, throwing candy and beaded necklaces to the crowd, you would expect some attention.
But if you came into town announcing you were a king, riding on a Murray Lawn mower and had your disciples throwing palm branches like a humble king David, you might not get the same attention from the crowd, but you would incite the eye of your critics. Jesus enters the city with intentional, radical risk and reveals the extravagance of God’s presence.
The text of Palm Sunday is one that asks each of us to identify where we are in the story? Are we paving the way with the coat off our backs? Are we waving whatever is within arms reach to celebrate? Are you shouting praise to God for all to hear?
Or, Are we wishing the parade was over and worried about who is going to clean up the mess? Are we feuding and steaming because of the irreverence of others? Are we resisting challenge and change? Are our dreams and expectation called to expand beyond our control and measure? Are we simply feeling left out?
Every Sunday is a celebration day. This Sunday is the beginning of a holy week of celebration leading us through the cross to the resurrection. Is it a journey you already know too well and will save the trip this year or will you make the pilgrimage again, if not for yourself for those who see your actions and hear your words.
There’s a party in the house… the prodigal has come home will we going in and join the father’s family and friends or will we stay outside?
As for me and my house, we will praise the Lord.