Monday, April 10, 2017

Where Will I Find You? Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11
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.”

Nancy and I haven't been here quite a year but one of the things that has surprised me is that Indy doesn't seem to be a city of parades.

Maybe it is just because we moved from the Chicago Metropolitan area and there it seems like every weekend during the spring a summer there is a parade.  Every ethnic group holds at least one parade a year --- and many hold multiple parades.

St Patrick's day
4th of July
Thanksgiving day
and every other day in between seems to be a parade day.

Here, there just don't seem to be many

Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been in Chicago on November 4th last year when the city celebrated the World Series winning team the Cubs?

Some say it was the largest gathering of humanity in the world . . .

I love parades --- don't you?

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 --- we love parades because that means you are a winner!

Do you think that there was a parade in Cleveland on November 4th? 
Or did the Bulldogs have a parade last month after losing to the Tarheels?

You would think that there should have been.
          But there wasn’t one

Just like there wasn't a parade for Duke, or South Carolina or Gonzaga.

Parades are for winners
Parades are for champions

And that is why most of us love parades!

For years my parents wintered in a small town in Mexico.
Every year, on Palm Sunday evening they hold this huge parade
          A religious parade
          a parade 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.

It was a parade, a huge celebration for the winner Jesus who was coming into town and would kick out those evil horrible Romans, and the Jews who were in cahoots with them.

The way Matthew 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 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 attended a game at Mackey arena, watching my Blue Devils beat up on Purdue.
I got lots of dirty looks and was seen as the enemy by many of the Boiler faithful.

The Palm Branch was a nationalistic symbol for the Jews, 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.

For you see, while the followers of Jesus were holding a parade on the East side of the city --- and Jesus crossed over the Mount of Olives and back up the hill into the city --- another parade was taking place

This one was entering the city on the west side, and at the head of the procession was Pontius Pilate.

Pilate would come with his army to Jerusalem because of the Passover.
          They were there to keep the peace

Jesus rode into Jerusalem not like a king but instead he entered on a donkey (or if we listen to Matthew he seemed to be on two animals --- a donkey and a colt).

It was a peasant procession

And while the people were excited --- their parade did not have the majesty of the Roman parade on the other side of the city

The Romans came into town with Pilate at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers.

Pilate was making a clear statement of the power of Rome.

Pilate's procession embodies the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world.

Jesus procession embodied an alternative vision, a vision of the Kingdom of God.

But think for a moment what happens over the next few days.

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 constituent 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 victors were 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 --- don’t believe me, just ask Tom Crean

Jesus came preaching a message that the crowd misinterpreted.

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

But when he 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 he 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 in 2017 is to recognize which parade we are at.

Are we at the Palm Sunday Parade worshipping a messiah that we have created in our own image?  A messiah we want to do our bidding and follow our agenda?

Are we at the state’s parade, riding into town to show our might and our force and to let everyone know that if you mess with us, you are going to pay a huge price.

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 clinic and the orphanage reaching out to heal God’s children, all of God's children?

The challenge for us, this Palm Sunday, is to recognize which parade we are attending.

God invites us to join Jesus’ parade, but to do that we will have to abandon our:
          Desire to place blame
          Unfulfilled promises and commitments
          Misplaced priorities
          False messiahs

Jesus invites us to join his peasant parade --- the parade of which seeks to transform 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?

So where will I find you?

Which parade will you be at?

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