Palm Sunday 2013

“Palm Sunday 2013”
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013

Brackets and baskets
Who knew Harvard had some jocks?
March madness indeed

I think it has been at least a year since I’ve given you a Haiku, so there it is.  There’s your year’s worth of my three line creativity.  Inspired by what can happen when even Harvard gets a chance to play, I could only express myself poetically.  Anything can happen with college basketball this time of year, as small and unheard of schools bust their way through the brackets into their 15 minutes of fame.  How else would we have ever heard of Gonzaga, Davidson, Iona, and Butler?  This is college basketball at its best.  The enthusiasm, hoopla (no pun intended), and the colorful passion from the fans in the stands leave no doubt that this is true.  Those of us without tickets watch the action from our screens and can’t help but be drawn into the excitement , celebrating the underdogs, the upsets, and the victories as the bracket gets smaller and smaller.

As we begin Holy Week today with Palm Sunday, we get to witness another display of excitement and celebration coming from a crowd.  We even had the opportunity to reenact it a bit right here in our chapel, with the help of these great jazz musicians, the palm branches and processional.  I’m thinking there must have been a dixie land jazz band fronting Jesus that day.  That seems only appropriate.  Wouldn’t it have been great to have been there that day, lining up on the street going into Jerusalem to see a true hero of yours, hearing the crowd begin to chant “Hosanna! Hosanna!” How amazing would it have been to then see this Hosanna riding toward you, riding atop a donkey and engaging you with the smile of heaven and a look about him that assured you that he was one of you?  While we don’t get to journey back into time to be there, we do have the opportunity today to catch a similar glimpse of Jesus.  We actually get to have a better seat in the parade than the people on the streets of Jericho, one affording us with a view of Jesus that can be life changing.

I say “can” because, even though Jesus enters where we live, not everyone shows up at the parade.  Not everyone chooses to find a palm branch and become involved in the processional.  How is it that you and I can catch a glimpse of Jesus this week?  How can we be sure not to miss all of the action taking place between Palm Sunday and Easter?

Just like with any parade or big event, the most important thing we can do is to show up.  The people who heard Jesus was passing through into town did just that.  They showed up.  Not all of them knew who Jesus was.  Not all of them had heard the man on the donkey teach.  Not all had fully understood why some people in the crowd were calling Jesus, “Hosanna” with such emotion.  I am sure the feeling of hope in the crowd, the tears of some of the most notorious sinners in town, and the dancing of neighbors once so lame they could barely walk was instructive for those just seeing Jesus the first time.  Word that Pilate’s entry on a nice street on the other side of the tracks was working through the crowd, but nothing could match the swell of the crowd for Jesus.  The crowd lining the road for Jesus was buzzing with unbridled enthusiasm.  It was clear that the people who showed up showed up.  They were fully present.

In the words of Woody Allen, 80% of success in life is just showing up. You have shown up today.  But have you really showed up?  Are you really here, taking in the sights and sounds of the entrance of Jesus in this place?  And will you show up for the rest of the week as Jesus gets off the donkey and heads on in to Jerusalem?  We have a great opportunity to show up and be fully present with Jesus. Part of showing up is learning more of who this donkey-riding religious star is.  It is knowing how he differs from the Pilates of our world, those who demand attention, riding in on their flashy stallions.  We show up when we google Jesus as he speaks ancient words of Scripture and applies them to himself.  We are present in the moment of Holy Week when we are visiting with other people around us about what this Hosanna means to them.  And showing up for us means that while cheering aloud we are silent enough within to remember what he means to us; what he has done to save us from ourselves and our sins. We show up when we allow Jesus to enter and parade into our lives.

As we show up, we should also allow our praise to be heard.  The people along the streets of Jericho that day didn’t care what anyone thought about their cheers.  The only people who criticized their behavior were the Pharisees.  What they really seemed most upset about was the fact that Jesus didn’t refuse their enthusiasm.  He welcomed it, stating that no one could stop the recognition of who he was.  Even if the people weren’t cheering that day, the rocks would cry out.  Unlike Pilate, entering across town, he didn’t require praise.  His ego didn’t depend on it, nor was his reputation helped by it.  A man who could bring praise from a rock had no worries about the volume of cheers.  He was honored by it, receiving the honor and welcome they had shown him in his ministry.  I think what he really loved that day was the satisfaction of their souls; that they, even if just for that parade moment, had really understood what God was up to in their world. Such an understanding took the form of cheering and dancing in the streets.

Have you ever seen unbridled enthusiasm?  I saw it recently in a VIDEO OF DANCING NANA.  I have no idea why Nana is so excited, but her 80 year old body knows why.  SHOW VIDEO.  Her hips don’t lie!  Her body can’t help but manifest the pure joy within her soul.  And her display of praise is being seen and heard on Youtube around the world.

I invite you to continue letting your praise for Jesus be heard.  Don’t just show up, shout out.  Be willing to do more than a Pharisee or a rock this week.  Make sure that your voice isn’t being squelched by the religious elite, the distractions of the day, or the fears of the few. Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we allowed our souls to be so full of the joy of Jesus that we become an inspiring spectacle for our world to see?  Just think of what it would look like for the overflow of joy you have from Jesus to take such a beautiful form that your family members, classmates, co-workers, and neighbors become happier and better because of it.  Sure, people may poke a little fun at you.  Some will say someone like you has no business doing a Jesus dance like that.  But Jesus will see it, knowing it’s for him and that even the rocks can’t compete with what is coming from you.

Finally, you can make sure you don’t miss the action of Holy Week by joining the parade, by getting in behind Jesus to where he is going next.  Luke doesn’t report for us if anyone did so that day as Jesus went into Jerusalem.  I am sure there were those who did.  There had to be some people so excited they couldn’t let this Hosanna get out of their sight.

Showing up, praising out leads to going with.  With Jesus that is.  The very Jesus you have shown up to see and been willing to cheer is now in need of a few followers.  He knows that not everyone in the crowd will move from praise to passion.  He doesn’t need everyone, just a few to go to the cross with him.  Today, as the chants of “Hosanna!” is still ringing in your ears, are you willing to go with Jesus?  “Just where is he going?” you might ask.  Just as Jesus stepped into the messy and dangerous world of Jerusalem that day, so he continues to walk into places of need today.  Following him will take you into those places.  Places like down the hallways of the Highland Center, into the programs and ministries that serve people in need.  It will take you to places like Lake Providence, a city filled with cycles of poverty that grind like gears on people.  Following Jesus this week means walking into the danger of systems that work against the goals of your Hosanna.  It means that you become a part of the movement of Jesus in your city, picking up the cross where he left it.

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


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