Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm Sunday 2019 Sermon

“The Gullible Crowd”                                                                                                 Palm Sunday 2019
Luke 19:28-40                                                                                                          St. Luke’s Episcopal

Palm Sunday... it’s traditionally treated with such jovial triviality. I even had a dear friend refer to it this week as the fun and games before the serious stuff that comes later in the week. But I sincerely believe that Palm Sunday is Jesus’ and the Gospel writer’s last gasp living summary message to us all before the inevitability of coming events in Holy Week swallow us – swallows us in the eventuality of evil despair inherent in all human fear and the human purposeful destruction of God’s will & purpose. The question facing us this Palm Sunday, is the same question that has always faced the church and humanity every Palm Sunday – namely: Do we idly wait for a magnificent do-gooder Monarch to rescue us or do we roll up our sleeves and set about the hard Holy task of building a world of love and healing? That, my friends, is the stark reality Jesus rides into Jerusalem carrying that first Palm Sunday. Sadly, because the maturity that is required to build a world materiality that is rooted in the deepest Jesus spirituality is so beyond the lazy banality of the typical human soul the answer to Jesus’ challenge has gotten consumed in the partying fluff of waving palm branches while secretly and ignorantly advocating: “Crucify Him.”

Perhaps I’m being overly, and I know sacrilegiously, harsh – “Hey Mark, WHERE is your party spirit, yer killing it here.”  But this Palm Sunday I trust I am speaking to serious adults not a bunch drunken freshman at a frat party. Because the stakes are too high, and the suffering too great for any mature adults to be eating, drinking, and making merry right now.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer for my entire adult Christian life has weighed heavily on my spirit. There is nary a month that goes by that in my prayer and meditation I don’t push out against The Veil – you know that veil – the one between this life and the one we only struggle to imagine – push against the veil hoping to touch Bonhoeffer’s shoulder, his arm, his hand trying hard to hear his voice or receive just a look from him.  In his book The Cost of Discipleship, he explicitly lays out the stakes of a Church & people who are bent on living out, what he calls, “cheap grace.” His execution at the concentration camp he spent the last years of his life in was testimony to how the vast number of people still silently let the crucifixion of Love happen while giving lip service to “Hosanna in the Highest.”

Let me lay out the meaning Of the statement Jesus was making on that colt 2000 years ago. Human beings are fundamentally lazy. I know because I frequently fall into it. My immaturity continues to haunt nearly everything I do. I want someone else to do the hard work for me. I look for a Messiah to rescue me. I can’t tell you how often I’ve howled at the full moon for Jesus to come and rapture me into heaven. Who of us can’t identify with “Calgon Take Me Away!”? So, the crowd has been living, LANGUISHING under the sadistic iron fist of Roman rule. The ONLY ones doing well are the toadies of the Roman Emperor - doing the Emperor’s bidding – Pharisees/Saduccees scared to death their own shadows might rock the cushy boat they’ve constructed for themselves. So they strive hard to keep the masses calm, cool and imbibed with hopes of a Messiah who will come and sweep the Romans away with his terrible swift sword. A conquering Messiah of this stature would come to the seat of power riding on a grand huge stallion breathing fire.  It’s true.
Jesus knew the seat of power in Judaism was Jerusalem. He had great faith in the Jewish people, but they were being duped. To affect a change he had to go there. He had become so acclaimed he could go nowhere without a mass of people in tow. He comes to Jerusalem on a colt. A wee donkey by some tellings. All 4 gospel writers are uncharacteristically unified on this point: it WAS a colt. Yet the gullible mob – under the influence of the snitches, the fakers, the fawners after the crumbs of the powerful – are whipped up to frenzy to believe AND WANTED their superhero. To believe this was their guy- the king awaited one, the defender, rescuer, and Savior. The celebration in anticipation was exuberant!  BUT he was on a colt. No sword. No army on chariots & in armor. A cloak and empty hands: proof positive this was no Messiah. And this dangerous public display of obsession with the “King of the Jews” was a public act of sedition against Rome itself. It would bring real horses and real swords falling upon all the wealth & power the Jewish hierarchy had worked so hard to carve out for themselves. This FAKE must die.

The message Jesus was sending that day was his last public statement: “This is NOT about me and what I can do. I’m not your Savior. I’m not going to do the growing up work that you all need to be doing for yourselves. I’ve been modeling and showing you the way. The way to salvation is through your love of God and of your love of neighbor. You must be thinking all the time of the other- healing, sheltering, clothing, feeding. Basic needs, basic thoughtfulness, basic caring for everyone around you.  Therein, IS YOUR SALVATION.

Power and wealth are frightened to death by one force - the rising of a mass action of compassion, hope, and mass sharing and defense of all - and by all I mean all- not just human mind you (though we aren’t even doing a good job with just humans), but I mean defense of all creation that gives and sustains life for the entire planet; that gives us the very air we breathe and water we drink. Those are fundamental to all life on this planet and they cannot and should not be for sale by the ones who have wealth or power! Any more than they should control who we love or who we feed or who we clothe.
Do you see? Do you hear? Do you feel? A humble man on a burro rides into a seat of power with open hands offering love as the example for all of us to do the same. And the forces of greed, violence, and graft - like they have historically done every damned time throughout the ages inside the Church and outside have done the same damned thing- they’ve done their best to crucify Love.

Palm Sunday is not a party or a celebration. It is a call to roll up your sleeves and take Love to the masses. It is the call to pry open tight little fists grasping to collect more & more for me and mine and open them up and share it with the whole world- to give our all and trust in a God capable of spinning out galaxies, that we’ll (TOGETHER) have enough for everyone. That is called faith. That is what forces of evil call “socialism.” That is what Jesus called Love.
Love, our love broken and poured out is what saves us. Fight the internal lazy immature temptation to hole up dig in and hope for a rescuer to come on mighty steed to save you. Look. Listen, Feel the power of Christian faith and community in action. Trust in it!  Then, pour your heart and mind and hands into the task of facing down the rich & powerful with your own style of little colt and open hands.