Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Monday, April 1, 2013

Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday

After reading portions from the Gospel of Luke, this is my sermon from Palm/Passion Sunday.

Grace and Peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It all began with such high hopes, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in a parade, palm leaves flying, people singing and shouting, with Jesus in the closest thing they had to a convertible of honor at the time. And it’s no wonder – for the people had seen some pretty amazing things from Jesus in the last three years. Jesus has healed people with skin diseases and people who were paralyzed. Jesus has calmed storms and cast out demons. Jesus has feed thousands and told story after story about the amazing love that God has for his wayward people.

And just a moment ago we heard what he got for it.

What began with shouts of adulation ended in weeping and the sound of the stone tomb being sealed, with the body of Jesus inside. The king who was supposed to bring peace and glory now lay in the cold darkness of a borrowed tomb. The one lauded by angels at his birth at Christ the Lord is now dead.

On NPR I heard a woman tell the story about her four year old daughter asking questions about Christmas and what it meant. So she bought her a children’s Bible and they began to read through the stories of Jesus. The little girl just ate up the stories, and seemed fascinated by Jesus’s message, especially how we are to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Later that year, they passed a church with a huge crucifix out front. The girl saw it and asked her mother – who is that? Oops, they hadn’t gotten to that part of the story yet. So her mother hastily explained that Jesus’ message of love was so radical that the people in power felt threatened and that Jesus had to go. His message was too dangerous, and so they killed him.

A month later, the girl was off of school for Martin Luther King jr Day and her mother took her out to lunch. The girl saw a picture of Dr. King and asked who it was.
Her mother told her that that he was the reason that she was off of school that day, that this man was a preacher… “for Jesus?” the girl asked.

Yes, for Jesus. And he had a message, too – to treat everyone the same, no matter what they looked like.The girl looked thoughtful and said, “That sounds like what Jesus said.” Her mother agreed.

The girl was quite for a minute, then she asked, “Did they kill him too?”

A dangerous message of love and acceptance proclaimed by a king attended by no one. A trial with a preordained result. A verdict that no one believed. An innocent man sentenced to death.

If Jesus really is a king, he’s not a very good one. No kingdom to speak of, no royal palace, no subjects left to stand with him, and no army to fight for him. In the eyes of the world, that man in the tomb is the leader of a failed movement, who got in the way of the wrong people. He did not play by the rules of power, and he did not fight back in any way, not even to save his own life. And so he paid the price.

But never in Jesus’ life did he ever follow any of the “rules.” His birth was announced first to dirty and smelly shepherds. And when he grew up, Jesus hung out with all the wrong kinds of people – lepers and tax collectors, the demon possessed and those with questionable morals. He chose as his students young men who had long ago been passed over by other rabbis. He healed on the wrong days and talked back to the wrong people. He was a troublemaker, and he had to go. But it didn’t have to be this way.

You see, Jesus had everything there was to have. He was GOD’S SON. He could have called down a legion of angels to his defense. He could have pulled off on last grand miracle, to dazzle the Roman authorities and to leap down off the cross, to the awe and terror of all. But he didn’t.

Jesus broke all the rules about what you do with power once you have it – to do all you can to consolidate it and secure it – and instead, he gave it all away.

Jesus had everything in the universe worth having, and he gave it all away – for you.
Jesus stood before all the powers that this world and said, do your worst. And as you can see, they did. Because how DARE Jesus say that God loves not just the rich and the powerful, but that God also loves the poor, the outcast, the ill, the sinners, the broken and the beaten down. How DARE he give us hope that there is a God out there who listens to you when you cry out, who carries your burdens with you, who gives you strength when there is none to be had?

Of course they killed him. Because they were afraid that it might really, be true. And we can’t have that, because we like to keep God in a nice, safe box of our own design. We can’t have that, because the God that Jesus shows us could be capable of anything, even breaking all the rules if it means a chance at finding us again.

Jesus was never very good at rules. He never let social conventions, boundaries, or regimes hold him down in the past. How do you think that tomb is going to hold up? Amen.

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