Monday, April 2, 2012

Save Us!

During lent I love to attend the Lenten lunches put on by the Greater Concord Interfaith Council.
For those who have never been they are basically a chance for lay people to get up and talk about their faith and how it affects their daily working lives.
For the last three Lents I have had the privilege of hearing some ordinary tales of people doing extraordinary things here in New Hampshire.
A man who makes his own furniture, a stay at home mom, a poet, a musical therapist, a doctor who goes to Jamaica to give free medical care.
This year we got to hear about a young man from our congregation that engages people who love music in doing community service.
These are stories that we don’t hear enough.
Every day we are bombarded with stories about all the bad things people do, but we don’t hear enough about all the good that is happening in the world today.
My theory is that we are too cynical about the world, and so ordinary person doing extraordinary things does not sell.

Today we begin the holy week by hearing the story of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
This week we will experience the events that lead to Jesus death.
I wonder about the crowd that shouts Hosanna today.
Hosanna means “save us”.
The great thing about Jesus is that he does what the crowd asks.
The problem is that he doesn’t do it in the way they want.
They expect Jesus to take over, to rise up the people and take over Rome.
They want Jesus to show power over the powers that have held them back.
This just might be our problem too.
We want to be saved but not in the way that Jesus offers.
We want it to be really magnificent and impressive.
We want to see it in the papers and on television.
We want a display of power and might.
But here comes Jesus on his donkey, not saying anything.
Jesus is not yelling or tooting his own horn.

We wonder where is God?
Why doesn’t God do more to stop evil?
But God is at work all the time.
We just don’t like the way God is working.
We don’t care about all those tales of people doing ordinary things.

A couple years ago a grandmother came up to me on a Sunday morning.
She wanted to tell me about her granddaughter.
She was so proud of her; she was going to be going to Guatemala to help poor people.
Wasn’t she great, isn’t she such a great Christian.
Well, yeah she is, but there are lots of great Christians in the world who don’t go to Guatemala.
There are great Christians who serve God every day.
I guess that I am disappointed that more of what is truly about discipleship is not given enough attention.
Discipleship is about following where Christ leads us.
If Jesus leads you to serve others in Guatemala than great but it doesn’t have to be there.
It can be right here in boring old Concord New Hampshire.

I see it all the time when I do funerals.
All of the funerals I have done are for ordinary people.
Their passing is hardly noticed by the rest of the world.
But what I notice is that each of them served God by caring for their families, giving to their church, helping those in need, and spreading God’s love.

Jesus entry into Jerusalem is a social commentary on the political powers of his day.
Instead of coming on a powerful white horse, he comes on a humble donkey.
Instead of being triumphant and to show off his power, he comes to give his life.
Roman empires would ride majestic white horses as a sign of their military might.
The Donkey is the symbol of one who comes in peace.
I think in our discipleship we should be counter cultural.
We should not work to be famous or powerful, but we should be willing to come in peace and win over others with love and self sacrifice.

The crowd that morning was expecting something.
They wanted this preacher/teacher from Galilee to save them, to give answers, and to help their life.
I suppose we all want answers.
One of the things about our culture today is that we have become very cynical about good that people do.
For example, there is an organization called invisible children.
It started when three college friends went to Uganda to do a film about the country.
They met there a child who told them about a man named Joseph Kony who was abducting children and forcing them into his rebel army.
They made it their life mission to stop this atrocity, by bringing it to the attention of our government.
This year they put out a video that made millions of people aware of what was happening.
Almost instantly they received negative press.
People criticized them because they weren’t really doing much.
Kony is already a wanted man for war crimes.
But this group helped millions of young people care about something going on in the world that had nothing to do with them.
Is it perfect, no, but nothing really is.
All of our attempts to do good are filled imperfections.
We are human and we can never truly fix all the world’s problems.
What we can do is act with passion to help those we encounter around us.

This is another problem of our world today.
We are always shocked when our heroes fail us.
When sports figures behave badly, actors who go through multiple marriages, or politicians who lie and cheat, we always seem surprised.
But why are we surprised?
I suspect it is because we are hoping that they will save us.

Perhaps this is what happens with Jesus during the next five days.
People become disillusioned by him.
He is not what people expected or wanted.
He seems too human.
How can he let himself get killed?
That is not what powerful people do.
They take power and solve problems.
This is no way for a king to act; it is certainly not a way for God to act.

In the Gospel’s one gets the feeling that some of Jesus’ own disciples feel this way.
The one they thought was the messiah; the one to redeem Israel, the one to sit on the throne of David is dead.

In our own faith lives we too can become disillusioned about Jesus.
We find our lives are much too complex and we feel that Jesus does not save us from everything.
But that is only because we missed the signs of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
We did not see that he was sitting on a donkey, we didn’t see that he was silent admits the praise; we did not see that salvation can come from giving away self.
We took the cheers to mean that this was going to be it.
Perhaps we rushed to Easter morning too quickly and we forget that the story takes a lot of unexpected turns.
The one who is a master acts like a servant when he washes his disciples’ feet.
The one adored by the crowd is left alone to die on a hill.
This parade leads to death and not confetti raining down.

This morning as we enter holy week are we ready for what is about to happen.
Are we ready to serve, to lay down our lives, to see Jesus die for us?
Salvation does come, but not in the way we want or expect.

Today we join in with the crowd.
We shout Hosanna, and hope that salvation will come.
Are we ready for it to come to us from one who dies to show us God’s nature?
Are we ready for the one who comes not to conquer with armies but the one who comes to conquer our hearts with love and grace?
Can we see the signs set out for us on his triumphant ride into Jerusalem?
Are we ready to follow Jesus and give of ourselves for our families, church, community, and world?
In doing we are truly saved. Amen

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