Friday, March 21, 2014

According To Luke: Why A Parade?

OK, I imagine some of you are confused that I am preaching on the Palm Sunday story this morning since this is only the second Sunday in Lent and Palm Sunday is a month away.

I want to spend the rest of Lent looking at Jesus and the week he spent in Jerusalem so we had to get there rather quickly.  And to be honest, on Palm Sunday --- while we will celebrate the Palm Parade I am going to focus that morning on the story of Jesus on the cross.

I think that this is one of my favorite stories in the Christian year. 
I love it because:
It starts with a giant parade! 
And who doesn’t love a parade!

When Duke wins the National title next month --- wouldn’t you like to be there for the parade?

Or what about when the Cubs win the World Series this fall --- you can bet that I will be there!
          Any of you going to join me?

And think of the parade that we hold here in town every year.
          We even participate in that parade ---- the annual 4th of July parade.

And why do we love parades so much?

What is it about every parade that attracts us so?

We love parades because we love celebrating with WINNERS!

Whether it is our favorite sports team, or our country à we love parades because that means you are a winner!

Do you think that there was a parade in Bloomington or West Layfayette this past week when they both lost in the first round of the BIG 10 basketball tournament?

What awaited the team when they returned was probably not a parade but a lynch mob who are frustrated with Crean and Painter and their teams.

Parades are for winners
Parades are for champions

And that is why most of us love parades!

On Palm Sunday Eve, throughout the Hispanic world in places like Valparaiso Chile where Haley is spending the semester, there will be huge parades ---- celebrating Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. 

2000 years ago, Jesus and his rag tag followers crossed over at Bethany and started the decent into the Kidron valley and up the hill on the other side into Jerusalem.

Luke tells us the story this way:
Luke 19:28-40   (NRSV)
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

It was a parade, a huge celebration for the winner Jesus who was coming into town and would kick some Roman butt, and all the Jews who were in cahoots with them.

The way Luke tells the story, the whole town came out to greet Jesus and his followers.

They were so excited at the prospect of his getting rid of the Romans that they were busy waving Palm Branches.

And we all say ---- gee that is nice that they were waving palm branches.

But that was a really dangerous and subversive thing to do.

That was kind of like me wearing my Duke shirt when Kevin Mybeck and I went to Mackey Arena at Purdue for the Duke vs Purdue game a few years back.

Or when I sat in the stands in East Lansing, cheering Duke as they played Michigan State.

Or maybe my favorite --- when my friend Mark and I painted ourselves blue and sat in the Valparaiso student section watching Duke dismantle the Crusaders!

We got lots of dirty looks --- as you can imagine --- and was seen as the enemy by many of the Valpo faithful.

So whats the big deal about Palm Branches?

The Palm Branch was a nationalistic symbol for the Jews.

It symbolized freedom and independence.

So to pull it out and wave it at a parade was making a very clear statement to the Roman authorities.

They believed that Jesus was the ONE
The one who was going to overthrow Rome and establish a Jewish nation once again.

Jesus was a winner.

But, unfortunately our story doesn't end there.

Jesus disappoints all those who had gathered on Sunday for the parade welcoming him into town.

By the end of the week he had angered and disappointed every single Jewish group in town

They decided that maybe he isn't the one, after all.

And before the week is over, another parade begins to form.

And once again, people come out to celebrate with the victors.

But this time the victor was Rome, and it was a parade through the streets of Jerusalem out to a hill where Rome would crucify their political prisoners.

The crowd that on Sunday was shouting hosanna was now shouting crucify him.

And we scratch our heads and wonder how could that happen
          How could people shout hosanna one day and crucify him the next?

But should we be so surprised?

We shout for our team one minute, but when they disappoint us – when they fail us – often we turn on them – wanting somebody to pay for our disappointment.

If you're not sure about that --- just ask Tom Crean or Matt Painter!

Jesus came preaching a message that the crowd miss interpreted.

They thought they Jesus had come for just them and no one else.

But when Jesus began preaching about:
caring for our brothers and sisters,
caring for the widow and the orphan,
making sure that nobody falls through the cracks of society ---
they decided they didn't like that message too well.

Maybe Jesus wasn't the ONE after all

And so they turned on him

When he wasn't willing to champion their causes, their agenda, they no longer were interested in him.

Part of our challenge is to recognize which parade we are at.

Are we at the Palm Sunday Parade worshiping a messiah that we have created in our image?

Or are we at the Good Friday Parade, filled with hatred and disillusioned and just wanting to get rid of the do gooder and any cost?

Or are we at Jesus’ parade?  ---- a parade that takes us to the soup kitchen, the free medical clinic and the orphanage reaching out to heal God’s children.

As long as we fail to recognize WHO Jesus is ---- and WHY Jesus came, we cannot even recognize the parade we are attending.

But God invites us to abandon our:
Desire to place blame
Unfulfilled promises and commitments
Misplaced priorities
False messiahs

And join the parade of making a difference in the world

A parade that understands what God expects of each of us:
(Micah 6:8 NRSV)  What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Luke tells this story in the way that he does so that everything that is going to happen over the next week will make sense.

Unless we understand what kind of Messiah Luke is proclaiming Jesus to be --- we will never fully understand the power of the passion of Jesus.

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