“Jesus Came to Town”
Luke 19: 28-40, Palm Sunday April 14th, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now the reading from the Gospel According to Luke, chapter nineteen, verses twenty-eight thru forty.”
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,
30 saying, “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.
31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.
33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”
35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
37 As 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,
38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”
40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
“Having listened to this account of Jesus riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, let us consider its meaning and impact on our personal celebrations of whom Jesus is as he has entered our own lives.”
“Jesus Came to Town”
When was the last time you had someone over to your house, for dinner or coffee or just to chat and enjoy each other’s company? Or, perhaps, people come to visit for a host of reasons! Just this week, I was at home working on a writing, the doorbell rang. It was the Pest Control guy; you know the bug exterminator! He was scheduled, I had forgotten. I let him in to do his work. If I had remembered he was coming, I would have cleaned up my breakfast dishes before he arrived and made the bed. But he came none the less. The bugs, the ants, the cockroaches and such, they did not welcome him. They did their best to scamper and hid, hoping to come out and play yet another day. As the exterminator left, I must confess, I was glad he came. Living in southern Florida, it is good to have someone helping to control the bug population in one’s home. But, what about the truly, unexpected visitor… say, a friend you had not seen in years, or a relative whom has not been to visit in a great number of years. How would you receive them? If you had known they were coming, would you have done anything different to prepare? Or maybe, it was someone from down the street whom you had a falling out with a few weeks ago. Would you be ready to welcome them into your home today?
Today’s lesson is about Jesus of course, as it is Palm Sunday. Today, is our celebration and observance of that triumphant day when Jesus came to town with shouts of joy and Hosanna! ““Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” This all happened a really-long time ago. We also know that this time of celebration shall be quickly followed up with the time of Jesus’s arrest, his trial, and ultimately his crucifixion! That too, happened about two thousand years ago. Important times for us Christians, us followers of Christ, to reflect on; reflecting on their meaning for us in our day-to-day journeys of faith. Therefore, we set aside time, each year, to revisit these occasions and learn from them as-well-as to be reminded of the significance of their occurrence.
What I want us to now focus on is this: what if Jesus came to town this week, this Sunday? Would we recognize him? Would we welcome him? Are we ready to receive him into our community, our church and even into our homes?
Let us also be reminded that the parade for Jesus was not the only parade that day. Many theologians and biblical scholars would want us to remember that “…what the authors of the Bible take for granted and fail to mention is that while Jesus is parading in on a colt through one of the back gates, on the other side of the town, Pilate is parading in on a war horse accompanied by a squadron or two – of battle hardened Roman soldiers.” /David Ewart/ If you were there that day, knowing this, would you have paraded in with Jesus on his little colt, coming in the back gate? We, me included, would have been a bit nervous, don’t you think? But what’s this to do with us today, you ask? This accounting is about what happened back then, not what is happening today, you say!
One scholar, a theologian named Frederick Buechner approaches this thought from his vantage point. From where he stands, he sees this scripture from his understanding of the event, as he considers how Jesus and the disciples traveled into the city that day. He sets up for us a contrasting point of view, especially as we knowingly consider what comes after the parade. “Despair and hope.” (He tells us!) “They travel the road to Jerusalem together, as together they travel every road we take – despair at what in our madness we are bringing down on our own heads and hope in him who travels the road with us and for us and ‘who is the only one of us all’ – who is not mad.” Strong words to be sure. Yet, despair and hope often do travel side by side. When misery comes to sit with us in our lowest moments, oftentimes accompanied by sadness, we long for a ray of hope, hope which we pray will reawaken our spirits so that we might continue forward in our journey through life. In similar fashion, hopelessness is something most of us have experienced or know someone who has encountered it along their journey through life. At such a time, they, we, are in desperate need of a glimmer of hope!
Let us take a moment to consider the situation. Jesus had come to Jerusalem as a loving, compassionate healer. He was a teacher whom spoke of a new way of understanding the teachings of God, through the prophets and men such as Elijah and Moses. He was the Holy One whom made the crippled walk and the blind to see. He was the Conqueror, Vanquisher, the Victor over death, as Jesus brought loved ones back to the light of life, after they had tasted the darkness of death. They followed him and the disciples whom brought forth the young colt so that they too could perhaps be healed, or learn of his plans, his strategies and ideas to save them from the anguish of their lives and rescue them from the tyranny and oppressions of those whom governed them. They were much like so many in our society today. There are people all around us, perhaps quietly trying to sooth their anguish over the current state of affairs in many sectors of our society. In similar fashion there are groups of people, segmented factions of our communities, whom are feeling pessimistic about their futures as citizens of these United States. Many are feeling sadness and unhappiness in their hearts, wishing God, Jesus, or someone, would step-in and right the wrongs which they believe others have created! The irony here is that our humanness is what creates the need, the desperate need for Hope. Thus, hope and despair do walk side by side. Not hand in hand to be sure, but as either gets more resilient – the other intensifies as well. The desperate among us need hope. The hopeful amid and within society, they need to reach out to the despairing!
Have we forgotten that where there is despair there is always a glimmer of hope; if only we will stay open to it? Our Palm Sunday parades are about that hope! Our willingness to welcome Jesus into our towns and into our churches and our homes – is all about that spark of hope which still resides in our hearts. Palm branches are just a symbol of a warm friendly welcome. A friendly smile can be just as inviting. There are many, many ways to welcome a beloved visitor into our communities, our homes and our churches. Most everyone of us knows how to do this, as we all know what it feels like, and how good it is when others do it, to us, or, for us! We do… don’t we! Yes, of course we do! The vast-majority of folks whom visit our church say we offer a truly warm welcome. It seems to be deeply ingrained into our church’s DNA! Praise God! Put that one in the asset column! Welcoming visitors into our church is a wonderful thing and something we do well! Welcoming folks into our church homes often requires our making time to be there with them in some special way, in order to receive them warmly as our quests. It also takes our sincere showing of love and kindness, of course! Visitors, much like children, they can sense when our welcomes our sincere or not. Consequently, it is our sincere desire, to have others whom may very well be… very different then ourselves, in many and various ways, to come and join with us. Truly, we genuinely welcome them to be with us today.
Jesus came to town, in that first Palm Sunday procession, to symbolically state his humble leadership to those whom were willing to hear his message of hope. We still need his message. He came into town, despite the pressing and enclosing danger to him and his disciples. Jesus came and comes to our town, whether we have neither washed the dishes nor made the beds up clean. Jesus comes to town, even when we have lost our way and the cupboards are empty. There shall be time enough to mourn the things we shall lose and the loved ones whom shall depart from us. Therefore, we need to focus on current opportunities to be with one another. We need to be prepared for the unexpected guest who may stop in at any time. We need to remember how far Jesus went to reach out to all those around him, in every way that he could. His love for humankind spilled out in every word he spoke, in every teaching and lesson he offered and in every way in which he offered his healing and transforming touch.
Palm Sunday takes us into Holy Weeks activities, Maundy Thursdays Last Super, Good Friday’s humiliation, pain and death, then miraculously: Easter’s Sunrise (A true S O N rising and risen) and all that the Son of God has brought and brings to us! Yes, today, we celebrate that Jesus came to town. Let us raise up our Hosannas, as Jesus comes into our town, our church and our lives.
Hosanna! And Amen!