Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Cleaning!

It is that time of year again.
It is time for spring cleaning.
It is that time when we clean out all the clutter and dirt that has accumulated over the winter.
I spent most of my day off cleaning out our garage.
It had accumulated lots of stuff over this winter.
Mostly things that we didn’t know what to do with and said, “just put it in the garage.”
It is a satisfying thing to get rid of unnecessary things and to start again with a clean slate.
I am happy that we will be able to bring our garbage to the curb without having to move a bunch of things in our way.
Or that our kid’s bikes can now be safely kept in the garage without being lost in a pile of other stuff.
While I was cleaning out the garage I was thinking about the disciples and their reactions during Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I was thinking about all the things that they had to clear out to make room to believe the resurrection.

This morning we hear from the Gospel of Luke the same story we heard last week from the Gospel of John.
Luke of course changes some of the details to fit his own story.
Instead of Jesus telling the disciples to touch his wounds to prove that he is not a Ghost, he sits and has a piece of fish with them.
After all being resurrected is hard work and would make someone hungry.
But the essentials of the story are the same.
The disciples are in a room hiding out, Jesus appears, and they don’t know what to make of it.
“They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost.”
What they were seeing and experiencing did not go along with what they had known before.
Dead people don’t eat fish!
There is lots of disbelief and wondering going on for the disciples.
What they needed was a spring cleaning.
Not a physical one, but a spiritual one.
They needed to throw out the things that had accumulated in their hearts and minds from their life before the resurrection.
In the words of Yoda, the great Jedi master from Star Wars, they needed to “Unlearn what they had learned.”

What convinces them that they are actually seeing Jesus in the flesh is not just that Jesus eats some fish, but that Jesus then goes on to open their hearts and minds to “understand” the scripture.
Perhaps now that it is spring, and we are celebrating Easter, it is good time for us too to clear out the old things that clutter our hearts and minds.
Today is a good day to hear with fresh ears what it is that Jesus has to tell us about scripture.

Scripture gets a bad rap in the world.
It is used in all kinds of ways.
It is used as a political tool to win over people to our side of the issue.
It is used as a religious tool to keep out unwanted people.
It is used as a way to see our own self righteousness.

But what Jesus does for us and his disciples is show us that all scripture really points to fulfillment of a promise.
It points to a Messiah and his death and resurrection.
Without this lens scripture looses it meaning and value.

In Bible study a couple of years ago we were talking about how scripture gets corrupted by people.
I was showing my annoyance at this fact and asked the group how come scripture gets used as a tool of exclusion and division instead of as a way to unify and bring together.
One of the people in the study said, “Pastor I learned it at Church”.
That statement hit me like a ton of bricks.
It made me realize that we have to unlearn what we have learned.
The church too has heaped a lot of stuff on to Jesus and we have to clean it out so that we can see Jesus raised for us.
We need some spring cleaning, so that we can hear again the scripture.
So that we can believe in more than just a set of rules or principles, more importantly so that we can believe that Jesus is alive.
So that we can believe that Jesus is alive in our lives.

Lately I have been thinking about how I make decisions in my life.
I have to tell you a lot of times I don’t make decisions based on what is in scripture.
When I go to the supermarket for example, I don’t decide if I am going to have chicken or steak based on what is in the scripture.
When I want to decide what type of refrigerator to buy I don’t think about scripture.
In fact, refrigerators are not used in the scriptures at all and yet I still use one on a daily basis.
These are some silly examples but the point is that not every decision I make in my life is based on scripture.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I am saying.
It is not that scripture is unimportant.
Quite the contrary it will save your life.
What John and Peter preached this morning, in our reading from acts, that faith in Jesus wipes away our sins is true.
What we read in first John, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” is true.
And those truths will save your life, they will lead your life, give you comfort in hard times, joy in living.
The scripture gives us spiritual strength and understanding beyond anything else.

When you leave here on Sunday mornings I hope that you carry God with you.
I hope that what we hear from scripture is with you in all things in your life, because every day is really a spiritual battle.
Are you going to believe that Jesus is risen?
Are you going to know that Jesus offers you forgiveness and love?
We have so many messages in our lives that tell us different.
Message that say that the world is not worth it, that we are not worth it, that there is no mystery in everyday life.
The scriptures point us to a Messiah that saved us from ourselves.
I get upset when the message becomes that scripture somehow tells us a way to become better than other people.

There was a study done about why some places have hate groups researchers found that the number of hate groups in a community coincided with the number of big box stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Target.
One of the theories as to why was because these stores sell a life style of hard work equaling a happy life.
Along with this is a scriptural teaching that says that Christians are good, thrifty, hard working, and everyone else is bad adds fuel to the fire.
I was skeptical about the Wal-Mart part.
But I think there is something to their findings.
If we as religious people believe that our hard work, our moral fortitude, our religious nature somehow makes us better than other people I think that is a problem.
It leads to scripture being equated with an us, who are good, versus them, who are bad, mentality.

John and Peter in their sermon are trying to convince people that their healing of a crippled man who was begging for money had nothing to do with them, but was because of God.
Scripture always points us to God, and when interpreted at its best points us away from ourselves towards a loving God with the mission of saving the world through his son.

Perhaps one of the things we need to clean out this spring is the idea that our lives are dependent on us.
The resurrection was not about the disciples it was about God’s plan for salvation being plan being played out.
Once they realized this they could accept the reality of the situation.
Once they realized that they were in the presence of something beyond human control and imagination then they could rejoice that the risen Lord was with them.
In our lives when we die to ourselves, our need for control and easy explanation, we can rise again with Jesus.

It is time for spring cleaning.
It is time to unlearn what we have learned.
It is time to live in the glory, joy, and mystery of the risen Christ.
So that we might have our sins forgiven, and see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God.

Monday, April 16, 2012

God Is Still Speaking

This week I was at Starbucks and I saw someone that I knew from around town.
I was making small talk and asking him about his Easter.
He was telling me he had a very nice Easter.
They had an egg hunt and a big dinner with his family.
I asked if he had gone to church.
He told me that he didn’t because Easter was not really a religious holiday.
It wasn’t like Christmas.
I was shocked.
I think he noticed that I was surprised and said, “Well I guess originally Easter had religious meaning.”
It was surprising because I always feel that Easter is much more of a religious holiday than Christmas.
One of our members said to me the week before Easter, “If there was no Easter there would be no Christmas.”
Easter is the biggest day on our church calendar.
Without it there is no such thing as Christianity.
Jesus dies on a cross as just another prophet who brought God’s message and is killed for it.

Easter is everything for us because all of our faith is based on the idea that Jesus does not die but overcomes death.
How did we get to the point where people don’t think that it is no big deal?
How did we get to the point where people just think Easter is about eggs, bunnies, and having a great meal with family?

For us as Christians Easter is not a one day holiday.
In fact the season of Easter stretches on for the next seven weeks.
We will hear stories of Jesus appearing and being with people.
In fact, Easter never really goes away.
Every Sunday, no matter what liturgical season we are in, is a celebration of the resurrection.
Every time we gather and worship we celebrate that Jesus overcame death and sin to rise above it all.

I suppose that of all the things that Jesus did this one the resurrection is the hardest one to believe.
That is why we can understand Thomas.
We can understand why he desires to touch the wounds on Jesus hands.
We too are skeptical about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
But this morning in our Gospel reading from St. John we are told that the whole reason he wrote his Gospel is so we would come to believe.
“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name.”
John is most concerned that we might believe.
Perhaps we have done a poor job at helping others to see why this story matters to them.
Perhaps we have not done a good enough job of taking it into our own lives to show that believing in Jesus resurrection does give us true life.

For me a Jesus without the resurrection is just not a complete Jesus.
This week I also had a friend visiting.
He was saying that perhaps the divinity of Jesus is too much for modern people to believe in.
That most people agree with the moral teachings of Jesus and that the Church should be more concerned about teaching the way that Jesus taught us to live.
We should be trying to get people to understand about compassion and mercy.

I believe deeply that Jesus taught us about the model of the Godly life.
I believe in practicing mercy and compassion towards others in the world.
The problem is it gives an incomplete picture of who Jesus is, because what about all the times I fail to live up to that very high moral test.
I am not always merciful and compassionate.
I have my moments.
I bet that all of you do too.
I have moments of great selfishness.
Not only that but most Christians would agree that Jesus taught about mercy and compassion, but they would disagree how that gets lived out in our lives.
There are a whole host of modern day moral issues that good Christians simply disagree on.
So Jesus as a moral teacher is certainly part of who he was, but if that is all he is, than it leaves a rather big whole that is incomplete.

The resurrection shows that Jesus was something more to us.
Jesus rose so that we might have life.
We might have a life in all of its fullness.
What does that look like and what does that mean?
I think of the Christians that I have known in my life, the ones whose faith has touched me deeply.
I can say this about that faith.
It is not of this world.
It goes beyond what passes as common sense.
They were people who gave of themselves far more than most people.
They were people who lived knowing that although they struggled on this earth their destiny was far beyond here.
They were people who forgave well beyond what we would think is necessary.

Maybe it was not so much in the way that they lived, but even more in the way that they died.
They died without fear.
They died in peace knowing that death would not be the final word.
I don’t know if they could have done that without knowing about the resurrection.
It wasn’t that they were “good people” it was that they were people of extraordinary faith.

You see there are lots of “good people” in the world, and a lot of them have no faith at all.
They are people with a strong moral compass that leads them to do very good things.
People of faith are different.
First of all they don’t know that they are good people.
They don’t do the things they do intentionally to earn points or make themselves look good.
They just do good things…well just because that is who they are.
Also, when they don’t live up to those high standards they are not afraid to admit it.
They are humble enough to know that they don’t always act with compassion and mercy.
But they believe that God is bigger than their mistakes.
They know this God through Jesus who forgives the one who denied him, and his disciples who fled from him.
The resurrection sets our sights above this plane.
It lifts our eyes to the heavens and beyond.

I don’t know if I can believe in Jesus without it.
I am sure this morning that what happened in Greenland, NH this weekend is on people’s minds. (Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed and four other officers wounded while executing a search warrant.)
I don’t know how to make sense of things like that in the world without the resurrection.
How do we make sense of a man who had given 26 years of his life to defending the public good, a man who by all accounts was a beloved member of a community, a man who was only days away from retirement, and for some unknown reason he still went to issue the warrant.
He was still doing his job.
How do we come to terms with a man like Police Chief Michael Maloney being shot to death over drugs and guns?
I can’t without knowing that this is not the end.
That God is rising up to new life Chief Maloney right now.
That God is comforting all those grieving hearts in Greenland.
One of the signs held up at the candlelight vigil in Greenland said, “God is still speaking.”
The resurrection helps give us perspective in a world that is out of control.

Today we celebrate Easter.
Today we hear the story so that we might believe in life.
So that we might believe that it is about more than eggs, bunnies, family, eating, or even morality.
It is a story that helps us to live in world where a great servant of the community is killed days before his retirement.
It is a story that tells us that God is still speaking, and God is telling us that death and sin are not the final word.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Resurrection As Art

I once heard a definition of art as something that catches our attention and makes us come back to it again and again.
That is what the story of the resurrection is for us as people of faith.
It is art.
Not science.
We fight a lot over doctrine.
What does the bread and wine mean, what does baptism mean, where to place the word from in the Nicene creed.
We even fight a lot over process.
How someone becomes ordained, who is in charge, what is the right structure of the Church.
It is interesting that the Gospel’s don’t address any of these questions.
And to make them answer those questions diminishes their importance.
The Gospel writers are concerned about theology, but even more so they are concerned about art.
They want to give us a picture of Jesus that we keep coming back to again and again.
They want us to hear the resurrection over and over and look at it from multiple angles.
To try to discover the meaning deeply imbedded in our human soul.
The Gospel is not something that makes sense, it is something that grabs hold of us and does not let us go.

This morning we hear the resurrection story from the Gospel of Mark.
And it is a strange picture that Mark gives us.
It is a picture of amazement, fear, and what will you do?
It ends without tying up all the loose ends.
Jesus never appears to the woman, or the disciples.
It ends with the woman telling no one.

My wife and I have this discussion about movies all the time.
She likes a movie that wraps everything up neat and tidy.
You know where there is no doubt that all the plot points have been resolved.
That everyone lives happily ever after, that the boy and girl get together.
She likes to leave no stone unturned.
In fact, her favorite movies are the ones with the words that appear on the screen even after the movie is over telling us that the Steve and JoAnn got married had three kids and died in each other’s arms at the age of 85.
I suppose if you like that kind of ending then the Gospel of Mark is not for you.
Mark’s picture does not wrap up all the loose ends.
Mark ends with a question.
What will you do with the story of Jesus Christ?

Since we are talking about the Gospels as art let me ask it in another way what will you add to it?
What picture will you paint?

The Gospels are just the beginning of the story.
The women who first experience the resurrection don’t know what to do with it.
Fear and amazement overwhelm them.
Fear that people won’t believe them, and amazement that it could be true.
Obviously this story does not end.

It is told over and over again throughout the generations.
It is so great that it continues to fill us with fear and Amazement.
Like a great piece of art we keep coming back to it.
We keep looking at it trying to understand all of its complexity.

I think it is because we desperately need this story.
So much death creeps into our lives.
We need to hear, to see, to experience again the resurrection.

After my Dad died my mom and my sister, and I were in the basement cleaning out some of my Dad’s things.
We came across some slides that he had taken of our trip to Disney world when we were kids.
Along with the slides on the inside cover of the carousel was my Dad’s commentary on each slide.
We watched them and read his commentary and then we laughed until our sides hurt.
It was healing,
It was cathartic.
But we needed to remember in that moment when death was so close to us that life goes on.
That is the heart of our faith.
That even when death is near life goes on.
That is the picture drawn for us on Easter.
It is what we come back to again and again.

As one of our members said to me the other day, “Without Easter there is no Christmas.”
Without this day we are not here this morning.
Jesus death is just another senseless death.
Instead it is the central picture for our faith.

This morning on this Easter morning we need the picture of the empty tomb.
Jesus is not there.
We need the picture of the sun coming up just over the horizon when the story seems over it is just beginning.
We need that picture because it reminds us of life in all its fullness, that God has overcome death and grave.
It reminds us that life goes on.

This is why I love movies that really don’t end.
Movies that leave it open for the audience to decide what the ending will be, because that is real life for me.
Our problems are not neatly tied up in a two hour movie.
The hero doesn’t always win; the boy and girl don’t always live happily ever after.
But life does go on.

That is the resurrection.
It means that for us even death in this life is not the end.

We need to hear the words “Do not be alarmed.”
Look to the place where you thought there was death and you will see that there is nothing there.
The tomb is empty.
Jesus has gone ahead of us.
Jesus is going to meet us in whatever we face today.
When we say that this is the day the Lord has made we acknowledge that God is already involved in our day.
It is amazing.
It is incomprehensible.
And that is exactly the point.
We can’t quite figure it all out and put it all into some nice final doctrinal statement.
We can’t make a perfect doctrine that explains it all because it is not about the head, it is about the heart.
It is about us being so moved by the art that we forget that it does not all fit perfectly.
The story goes on and we will come back to it again and again.
(We had the children draw a picture of the resurrection during the sermon at this point I had them come forward and show their pictures to the congregation.)
Our children have drawn us pictures of the resurrection.
They know the story even though they don’t know what it all means.
Even though they don’t know how all the doctrinal statement works out.
This is what the Gospel is about art.
It is something that grabs us and it is a story we need to come back to again and again.
In our lives we need to remember that the tomb is empty and that Jesus has already gone ahead of us and there we will see him.
I hope that all of you here this morning continue to come back to the story again and again so that you will remember that Jesus is alive.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Remembering: A Good Friday Refelction

This reflection was inspired by the song, "I Will Remember Thee" by Jay Althouse.

It is hard to remember, because I would rather not.
I don’t want to remember the brutality.
I don’t want to remember the betrayal.
I don’t want to remember the desertion.
I don’t want to remember the denial.

Remembering the pain of that Friday, so long ago, hurts.
It forces me to remember my own brutality, betrayal, denial, and desertion.

It forces me to remember my own failures and losses.

It’s hard to remember.
I would rather not.

But we must remember.
Tonight we hear again the story and we remember.
We remember O Lord your sacrifice.
We remember your body broken.
We remember so we might know forgiveness.
We remember so we might know love.
We remember so we might know grace.

We remember O’ Lord not because we want to, but because we need to.

We need to remember those who hit you, called you names, whipped you, nailed you to the tree, so that we might not hate but love.
We need to remember that you were left alone deserted by your friends, so that we might hold our loved ones closer.
We need to remember your betrayal so that we might be willing to give more.
We need to remember your denial so that we might confess you as our Lord.

Yes, remembering this night reminds us of our brokenness
It reminds us for our own loss.
It reminds us of our own pain.
It reminds us of our sin.

But it also reminds us of your love.
It reminds us of your faithfulness.
It reminds us of your grace.
It reminds us that you are with us in all things.

When we are lost you are there.
When we are in pain you are there.
When we sin you are there.

Let not forget this night.
Let us remember your love, sacrifice, and grace.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Place to Belong!

We all want to belong.
In fact all of our growing up years are spent trying to belong.
Trying to like the right music, dress in fashionable clothes, and be cool.
Our whole human instinct makes us want to belong.
Biologically we are made social creatures who want to be accepted by others.
Perhaps that is why religion has been such a powerful force.
Ever since humans could talk and write there has been a belief in God, and a need to codify it.
What draws people together is a need to belong.

And yet…We spend so much of our life feeling like outsiders, like we don’t belong.
Tonight we come together to remember a powerful night.
It is a night that we reproduce every time we gather as a worshipping community it is a night, when Jesus drew all things to himself, when he gave a gift of belonging.
Tonight we heard from St. Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.
St. Paul is writing to a church that is in conflict.
The church in Corinth was divided and some were made to feel that they didn’t belong because they didn’t have the status of others.
Some could talk in tongues and others couldn’t.
Some had more money and used it to exclude the poorer members of the community.
Some were spreading division by teaching different doctrines.
Paul is trying to pull them all together.
So he tells them about a meal that happened with Jesus and his disciples on the night he was betrayed.
He is handing off the gift that he received.
It is the gift of the meal that bonds us together, and that makes us belong.

It is regrettable that over the centuries the very thing that is supposed to bring us together has been the thing that has become the symbol of our separation.
As Christians one of the things that we should be united over is that in this meal that Jesus gave us we can come together.
Perhaps the meal has even greater meaning for us.
Perhaps it could be the place where we all come together.

The Passover meal was originally the meal of remembering God’s release of the Israelites from captivity.
Jesus uses that meal as a way to expand the plan of God’s salvation.
God’s plan of salvation is not only for Israelites, it is for anyone who remembers that history, and the history of God’s salvation.
Jesus expands the meal so that even more people belong at the table.
It is too bad that we have made God so small as to believe that this meal is only for those who believe what we believe.
It is only for those that hold the same doctrinal positions that I have.
This meal is for all.
It is a meal given in grace.
Consider that Jesus celebrates this meal with Judas his betrayer, and Peter his denier, and the rest of his disciples that will abandon him.
Jesus knows that the “shepherd will be struck and the sheep will scatter”.
But he is there anyway, offering himself up.
Jesus knows that those of us who come here are broken too.
We are not without sin.
I will never understand why people who have sinned feel that they can’t come to celebrate communion.
This is exactly where you belong because it reminds you of forgiveness and grace given in Jesus Christ.
It is where we belong.
We belong because God has invited us.

In high school I went to a party.
I didn’t really know the people throwing the party, and I hadn’t really been invited.
It was one of those things were a friend of mine had heard that it was happening.
“Come on man, come with me to this party it will be great.”
So and so told me that it was going to happen.
I got there and some other people had pulled up before us.
They too had gotten hold of the news of this party.
Someone came out of the house and started yelling at the people in the car that just pulled up.
“Casey, you are not invited get out of here.”
“Go home”
Perhaps we shouldn’t go in either.
But my friend insisted that all was well.
We went in but you know I never felt welcomed.
I wasn’t really invited.
I didn’t really belong there.

This is much different picture from what we get tonight.
Tonight everyone belongs.
No one is asked to go home, or made to feel unwelcomed.
Tonight we are invited to come.
You are welcomed here at the table that Jesus has prepared for you.

Tonight everything is ready the food and drink, the host has even made sure your feet are cleaned from your long journey.
Tonight we all belong.

Perhaps someone here tonight does not feel that they believe totally everything.
Tonight perhaps some of you have questions or doubts.
Are you welcomed too?
Of course, Jesus did not ask everyone to make a profession of faith before offering his life for them.
He gave it freely as a gift.

The other things in our life, that we belong to, have to do with status and/or our abilities.
If you belong to a sport team it is because you have a special ability.
If you belong to the YMCA it is because you paid for it.
If you belong to club of some sort it is because you have some common interest with the people there.
If you belong to singing group it is because of you talent.
If you belong at work it is because you have a skill and you are judged based on how well you perform your tasks.
Tonight Jesus invites us, through this meal, to belong.
Nothing is needed from you only your presence.

Jesus invites us all rich and poor, those with spiritual gifts and those who are poor in spirit, those who are sure and those who doubt those who think they are sinless and those riddle with guilt, those who have found and those still searching.
Here is the place for you.
Jesus has set everything up perfect.
It is bread and wine with words of remembering what God has done for us.
When we share this meal we remember that God free the Israelites from slavery.
We remember that Jesus frees us from sin and death.
We remember that God forgives us and loves us.
We remember that Jesus is the one who comes to serve.
We remember that we belong.

For me the table is a sign of God’s kingdom.
It is the place where we belong.
It is the place that we call home.
The place we feel equal.
And the place that we most feel loved.
This is the place we belong.

So tonight it is not I but Jesus who invites and welcomes you.
Jesus sets tonight a feast before us of mercy and grace, a feast of bread and wine, water, and word.
Tonight we are our dirt is washed and we are welcomed into a place of love.
With Jesus we know that we always belong.

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