Sermon: “Our Road to Jerusalem”

 

“Our Road to Jerusalem”

Palm Sunday

April 1, 2012

 

Psalm 122

Luke 19: 28-44

 

 

Psalm 122

 

1          I was glad when they said to me,

            “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

2          Our feet are standing

            within your gates, O Jerusalem.

3          Jerusalem—built as a city

            that is bound firmly together.

4          To it the tribes go up,

            the tribes of the LORD,

            as was decreed for Israel,

            to give thanks to the name of the LORD.

5          For there the thrones for judgment were set up,

            the thrones of the house of David.

6          Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

            “May they prosper who love you.

7          Peace be within your walls,

            and security within your towers.”

8          For the sake of my relatives and friends

            I will say, “Peace be within you.”

9          For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

     I will seek your good.

 

Luke 19: 28-44

 

28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.   29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “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. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As 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, 38saying,

            “Blessed is the king

            who comes in the name of the Lord!

            Peace in heaven,

            and glory in the highest heaven!”

 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 

This is not a good week for Jesus.  We might be a bit confused because of his triumphal, jubilant entrance into Jerusalem with waving palms and people shouting hosannas!  It is supposed to be a good week but a lot of religious and political leaders just don’t get it.  They are threatened by this man the people call “king of the Jews”. 

This is not a good week for Jesus.  This is a week of suffering for Jesus.  This is a week of pain and suffering.  Scripture tells us of Jesus’ tears as he enters the city.  These are not tears of joy!  This is the week Jesus’ dies.

Yet here we are.  You decided to join with me in worship today. 

— Perhaps together, we can contemplate what it means that Jesus had to suffer and cry and die for us.

— Perhaps together, through the sacrament of communion, we can find a way to walk with Jesus integrating into our lives and ministries why Jesus had to die.

 — Perhaps together, we can discover within ourselves what it means to be a disciple of the one who put his life on the line for us – through death releasing us from our sins.

For the last two years I taken a great book off my shelf to help me prepare for this week of Passion for our lord.  This book, The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus’ final Week in Jerusalem, is written by two great scholars, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  I am still trying to clear my calendar so I can hear Dr. Borg speak in DeWitt the of May.

Borg and Crossan begin their book with the striking description of Jesus’ procession entering Jerusalem on what I can only imagine to be a beautiful middle-Eastern spring day.  It was the beginning of the week of Passover, the most sacred week for the Jews. 

Something you may not know.  There were actually two processions – two parades going on that Passover day:

One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession.  From the east, Jesus road a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers.  Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the Kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class.  They had journeyed to Jerusalem from Galilee, about a hundred miles to the north …..

 On the opposite side of the city from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. 

Jesus’ procession proclaimed the kingdom of God;

Pilate’s (procession) proclaimed the power of the empire.”  (pg. 2) 

These two processions from different sides of the city embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.   Borg and Crossan continue: 

 ”Imagine the procession….a visual panoply of imperial power.  Cavalry on horses, foot soldiers, leather armor, helmets, banners, golden eagles mounted on poles, sun glinting on metal and gold.  Sounds:  the marching of feet, the creaking of leather, the clinking of Bridles, the beating of drums.  The swirling dust,….”

 We don’t usually associate these images with Palm Sunday!!!   

 “Jesus was deliberate in entering Jerusalem on a donkey….countering what was happening (with the powerful and elite) on the other side of the city….”

 Jesus made the intentional decision to enter the city in exactly the way the prophet Zechariah (9:9) had predicted with these words:

 Lo, your king comes to you;

Humble and lowly

Riding on a colt,

The foal of a donkey –

 “There is a confrontation between two kingdoms….through the last week of Jesus’ life.    The week ends with Jesus execution by the powers who ruled his world.  Holy Week is the story of this confrontation.”  (page 4-5) 

III.

 We too live in a world full of such confrontations, conflicts and tough choices.    It seems that every time we open the gospel we are told to choose between Jesus or the powers of the world.  We come to church challenged to choose between discipleship and secularism.   There is no way to avoid this challenge.  When we leave worship we’re going to hear the news or read in the paper about the current battles that are taking place in the political arena…in hot spots around the globe.  Which candidate is making the news today?  What’s happening in Iran?  Syria?  Israel?  Columbia?  The Congo?  What’s happening in Jerusalem?  The occupied territories of Palestine?  When we leave this sanctuary there will be a parade of issues making it difficult to experience the joy of Jesus’ parade – his triumphal entrance into our lives.

 A careful look at scripture shows us that Jesus struggled in living in two worlds — the world of God and the world of earthly kings.   Like Jesus we ask how do we live in both worlds when it appears there are so many contradictions between them?

 The answer to this dilemma is in setting our priorities and maintaining balance with the choices we make …. choosing to embrace Jesus’ triumphant entry into our lives while at the same time accepting the authority of our leaders, kings and presidents…….in our case, the allegiance we give to nation and those who lead us as “one nation under God” paralleled with faithful allegiance to God!  Palm Sunday is a good day for us to strive to achieve some balance between allegiances….between nation and God.

One lesson from the gospel of Luke comes to mind when it comes to maintaining the integrity of balance between nation and God that says: 

 “Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, and to God the things that belong to God”  (Luke 20: 21)

 In this country, we give allegiance to the women and men we elect to office.  We may not always agree with the politics of our leaders…..at the same time we give appropriate respect to our leaders.  This is our responsibility as citizens of this city and state and nation.

At the same time, as Christians, we have the responsibility to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the context of the God-created world around us.  As disciples, Jesus calls us to bring into this world the love of God, the compassion God has for struggling neighbors, the values that lift up the need to be a healthy nation, a nation that defines its politics through the eyes of God.

The choices before us can sometimes be tough…..will we walk through the days and weeks ahead giving primary allegiance to the world in which we live; the consumer culture, the powers of the world that turn Easter into a secular holiday?  Or will we humble ourselves as disciples of Jesus and travel the road of faith that takes us through the struggles we experience – that brings us hope not grounded in government but rather “church” and all God has to offer us through Jesus’ life and death and resurrection? 

What this comes down to is not a choice but rather how we reconcile what it means to love this nation and all that it means to be an American with allegiance, as well, to God and faith we place in his son Jesus Christ in framing the value system that helps us live as faithful Christian-Americans.  

I want to leave you today with one final quote that comes from a brief interview the rector of the Christ Church of Gross Point had with Marcus Borg prior to his speaking to this congregation on March 17th

 Borg is asked:  “What is important for us to understand about the last days of Jesus’ life?”  Borg says:  “That his death was not planned or required by God, and that it was not about the forgiveness of sin.  His death was an execution:  he was killed by the powers, religious and political, that ruled his world.  They did so, not because Jesus had to die for the sins of the world, but because his vision was a threat to the way things were and he was beginning to attract a following.  So they snuffed him out.  That’s what Good Friday is about.  Easter is about God’s vindication of Jesus, God’s Yes” to Jesus and “No” to the powers that killed him.”[1]

All this being said, I pray that we can find nourishment through the sacrament of communion in receiving the bread of life and cup of salvation….knowing that Jesus lived and died for us.  I pray that through communion we integrate Christ into our lives as we walk these final days with Jesus’ toward the cross…..walking with him as well as he leaves the tomb – empty – risen in glory with God.

 

AMEN                                                                                                              1937 /  1958

 

 

[1]   www.Christchurchgp.org, Marcus Borg Interview, March Newsletter, CROSSINGS from the Christ Church Grosse Point, MI where M Borg was invited to speak and preach March 17th and 18th.

 

 

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