Palm Sunday 2013
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 19:28-40

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, ‘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. 31If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ 34They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As 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, 38saying,
‘Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’
39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ 40He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’

Today is Palm Sunday. By all accounts it was a festive day. People got excited and they still do. Some wave palm fronds and others poke them into their sister’s ear. There is joy in this day, but even Palm Sunday isn’t a time of unambiguous joy.

A colleague told me a story, an account of one of those pastoral conversations that haunt you. A guy called him up one day, asking to meet with him as soon as possible. “Sure,” my friend said. The guy came and he was obviously distraught. It seems he was coming home in the wee hours of the morning after a night out with the guys. He parked the car in the garage, and was walking into the house when Jesus appeared to him. He described this appearance in great detail. The man’s story made it clear, to my friend at least, that this guy was not psychotic but did indeed have an experience of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

The man went on to say that he had never told anyone about this. His wife didn’t even know.

My friend told him that this experience must have been quite moving; transformative even. “That’s the problem,” he said, “see, if Jesus is actually who the bible and our church says he is, well, I am in trouble.” “What are you talking about,” my friend asked?

“If Jesus is, well, if its all true, then I have to change.”

What are you talking about, the pastor asked. You are a good guy, come to church, take care of your family, love your wife? What’s the problem?

I don’t know if others have ever had to wrestle with this kind of experience. I do know that we occasionally drag out some Saint from a prior generation as an example of discipleship. Heck, last Sunday I told the children the story of St. Patrick. Not everyone is expected to do what saint Patrick did. Pack a little suitcase and take the train right back into the territory that abused, just to preach the gospel. Not everyone has to do that. Discipleship is specific; everyone has their own call, their own vocation. Is it really that big a deal?

I was thinking about this. The account of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem made me think about this. I suppose the disciples struggled, what with his ability to be able to tell them pretty precisely where and how to get the transportation for the day. That would be unsettling. It could shift priorities, things like that.

But, as I thought about this I remembered that even with everything they had seen and heard, they were uncertain, cautious maybe. They knew who Jesus was and they didn’t know who he was.

And, the people along the road, they thought they knew who he was. As he rode up the Roman Road leading into the city, the crowd went wild! Throwing jackets down on the ground. Nobody said, ‘wait a minute, that jacket is suede, I paid $500 for that jacket. It’ll need to be dry-cleaned. You know, a suede jacket is never the same after that. I’ll just sling it over my arm, wave it in the air so I look like I am into in on this whole parade. No, they threw their jackets on the ground and the burrow walked right over them!

I also remember reading somewhere that there were those who were waving branches in the air, just like they do when the warrior kings approach the city. It isn’t a truce flag, unless you recognize this for what it is; it is a symbol, a symbol of honor and allegiance. Wave green branches as a sign of victory and triumph to the conquering hero! Surrender your alliance with whatever or whoever else is ruling your life!

And Hola!

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

The old song was ringing in their ears, and out it came. The same thing the angels said at his birth.

There were those who saw all of this, first hand, and went home. They went back to everything as it was.

People are funny, really. I expect there were some people there who were not only there, but were just as jazzed up as everyone else. They went home. There neighbor was out mowing the grass, saw them.
“Hey Jon, what’s up?”
“Not much.”
“Where ya been?”
“I was down at the Golden Gate, at a parade.”
“Really? For what.
“Some teacher, they say he’s helped a lot of people. Good preacher too, or that’s what they say.”
“Where is he now?”
“I don’t know, I was just there for the parade.”

Who can blame him? He has a lawn to mow.

It’s just that the more I think about this the more I think that it doesn’t really matter how we encounter this Jesus, we have a decision to make. Even though what we need to know can only be known by Faith, what we have we got second hand, we still have to decide. The easy part of the question is “who is this.” We have plenty of testimony about that. This is the easy question. The hard part of the question is the ‘so what’ part of the question.

The so what part is discipleship, ‘faith formation’ we say. What it is really is actually acting on all those things we say every time we affirm our own baptisms.

I can hardly ask all these, “do you promise” questions. “Do you promise to be Christ’s disciple, to follow in the way of our savior, to resist the power of evil…” It is a lot to commit to on a Sunday morning when the Sun is shining and friends and family are gathered.

Do you remember the guy who came to see my friend? Who Jesus actually was, and is, isn’t the problem. See, right here at this baptismal font, we all answered the question. It is what comes later, when who he is sinks in, that’s the rub. And I am pretty sure that this same Jesus isn’t interested in me using my pastoral prerogative to let any of us off the hook. Our baptism gives us an identity too, and it isn’t all gravy. Baptism gives us a vocation. There are things to do and be. Just in case Jesus ever appears to me in my driveway, I had better not relieve any of us of this responsibility.

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