SERMON 04-01-2012 Palm Sunday/ Capital Campaign
Psalm 118:24-29 Mark 11:1-11
Communion Meditation: “Entering into a New Hope”
What a joyous moment it must have been, welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem! It was the feast of the Passover, a pilgrimage into Jerusalem. It is believed that “as many as 100,000 pilgrims came to the solemn feast. The Passover feast of the unleavened bread… the historical celebration of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.” (Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, K-Q, 664)
We read in the gospel that “the disciples do as they are commanded, and the events unfold (one by one) exactly as Jesus said they would. Like other prophets, Jesus seems to have the power to predict future events. After the disciples return with the colt, they place blankets on it, and Jesus rides into Jerusalem… while “the multitude of the followers” sing the words of Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of (our God).”
(Feasting on the Word, Year C, 152, George W. Stroup)
Here we have the parade – the branches and cloaks on the road, the excitement, the hosannas – this king is different from other kings.
(Walter Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, Year A, 235)
This triumphant entry was a messianic proclamation… the procession was followed by those who knew Jesus as well as some curious comers to the festivities. “The disciples and the followers of Jesus caught up in the Jubilation of the moment, honoring him as a prophet who might usher in the expected Reign of God, but it is clear that the procession represents a mass movement… some hoped Christ might be an earthly Messiah, others witnessed him perform a miracle or two, a few more were healed by his power and in gratitude they spread their garments on the road before him.”(IBC, idem)
“Jesus did not draw attention to himself. It was the people who drew attention to him, laying their garments in his path, waving palm branches, and shouting Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! The Romans felt overwhelmed by the frenzy of the crowds of Jews entering Jerusalem from many near and distant lands. The parade itself was a threat to the religious Jewish authorities who felt harassed by the military and political overtones that this new movement was bringing.” (IBC, idem)
“Look your king is coming to you humble and mounted on a donkey.”
“Jesus acts out this prophetic moment, he enters Jerusalem as a royal king, as the king that Israel long-awaited and hoped for, only that as the Messiah he entered as a humbler king coming to claim his kingship on a noble beast as was the custom of kings. Only in war did kings ride upon a horse; when they come in peace they came upon a donkey.” (William Barclay, Luke, 239-240)
Here is “a city face to face with its Messiah… Jerusalem is a city confronted with a decision. What will it do with a Messiah who ushers in a reign of peace, not warfare? What will a city do with a prophet who cares deeply for it,…?” (Brueggmann, 236)
“By Jesus entering Jerusalem in a deliberate way he sets himself at center stage and every eye focuses upon him. Certainly it shows us his claim to be God’s Messiah… equally it shows us his appeal. It was not the kingship of the throne which he claimed; it was the kingship of the heart.” (Barclay, 242-243)
What happens in the days ahead – in contrast to this celebration, we know that, “Jerusalem becomes the place of rejection, suffering and death.” (Lk.16:21;20:18-19).
“Jesus shows his humbleness, as he faces his arrest, betrayal, denial, trial, mocking, and finally death. He proves his vocation to be the Son of God, refusing to come down from the cross, saving others and not himself, trusting only in God.” (Feasting on the Word, Year C, 154, William G. Carter)
What happens in the next few days ahead for the disciples? They are challenged by betrayal, denial, desertion, confusion, and doubt. The week ahead is not easy for anyone. The disciples will be shaken, tested, and want to run away from reality. Dealing with death is not something they wanted to talk about, remember they still don’t get it. Nothing is going to make sense till after the resurrection. The disciples are going to seriously think about all the things that Jesus told them. They are going to talk about it amongst themselves, with their spouses and their families, Jesus is the Messiah (that is the message). They are going to pray about how they can be used to spread this good news and they are going to pledge to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We see that commitment lived-out by them, soon after the ascension of Jesus. Each one was called to go into the world to make disciples of all the people.
What is happening in the next few days ahead for Central Square? Vision with me the same scenario only that is us entering into a new Hope, we this church is entering a new stage in our life. We just had a celebration, we have made all the noise necessary to get your attention relevant to this campaign, and we are filling good! We are happy with the purpose and are ready to move forward!
What is ahead for us?
Similar to the disciples, we are going to find ourselves asking many more questions about this campaign. The challenge is that we all get involved in this endeavor. We cannot deny that the debt is oppressive, we cannot deny that we are not able to be free to dream because of it and we also know that we cannot wait for others to do something; we all need to do it together. That is why we are being invited to think about our pledge, to talk about it amongst ourselves, with our spouses and with our families. We need to pray, prayer gives us the opportunity to invite God into the formula. We ultimately are going to need to make a pledge, a pledge that we commit to follow through in faith. We are going to give as much as we are able, until it feels good! A balance somewhere between sacrifice and knowing my part reflects the significance I put on being a contributor today to the work Jesus began 200 years ago!
The question for us, this week as we move to the Passion is to ask, what is the commitment we want to make to ourselves as we reflect on the future of our lives together as part of this community of faith? How do we continue to proclaim Jesus as the undeniable expression of God’s presence in today’s world and in the futures of our children?
The disciples took the challenge of Christ to follow the Messiah.
Their challenge became the message of good news that spread all over the world. They took seriously the need to pass on the love of God through Jesus Christ to the next generations.
Today we are faced with a meaningful decision, do we continue to do things a s usual or do we face the reality that in order to move forward we need to pay the mortgage, which will lead us to greater freedom.
Central Square Congregational Church, we are standing in front of our own Jerusalem; we are standing face to face with our reality. Our children and the following generations after them are crying “Free us to dream!”
We are called to free the debt, so that we can move forward into a future that will allow us to Dream! Amen!