March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato

Palm Sunday
Text: Luke 19:28-48
Title: “Palms, Pathos and Peace”

“Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

We’re pretty used to the “praise the King” part of Palm Sunday so it’s interesting to hear Luke’s editorial addition to the loud shouts of “kingly victory”…

The crowd shouts: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”

Does it take you back to another part of the Jesus story? Perhaps 33 years earlier…17 chapters in “lukan” time…

See Luke 2 – – remember those outsiders of long ago? Those hillbilly, no-social-status shepherds who were witnesses to an angelic choir that announced Jesus birth. They saw and heard a multitude of heavenly hosts who praised God saying:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours.”

And this morning as we dwell in the world of our gospel story, it’s not the angels who sing of peace & glory… “the whole multitude of the disciples praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen…”

And they shout out “peace!”…. “peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”
And yet in the midst of this celebration of peace proclaimed, there is a melancholy and foreboding tone…

As Jesus rides into the city amidst the praise of the people, the festive shouts of joy, the people laying down their garment as a way of giving this King the “red carpet” treatment… we hear the sneer of the Pharisees [ they shout: “Shut up! ] but even more dramatically we are told of tears in the eyes of Jesus.

Jesus looks upon the city of Jerusalem and he sees not a kingdom to be ruled, nor a city to be taken by force…he sees his end. He weeps and cries out:

“If you, even you… [jerusalem] had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace.”

Did anyone in this frenzied crowd stop to hear his lament, or see his tears?

And then he prophetically tells of Jerusalem’s demise that would happen 40 years later.
He weeps because this judgment will come “because you [Jerusalem] did not recognize the time of your visitation from God” (20:44).

This is intense stuff is it not? We who are tempted to live a “Palm Sunday” Christianity where everything is “good” because everything is “God”…might come up a little short as we stumble into today’s text.

On Palm Sunday – – on the eve of the most intense, dramatic and powerful week of the Christian calendar and the Christian story. . . are we ready for this CRISIS & CALAIMITY that makes for our peace?

Q: What are we bringing to the Palm Sunday scene this morning? Are we in a season of revelry and celebration….or have we slowed down enough in this season of Lent to recognize that there is a low way…a humble, common, unimposing way…

In the midst of a “lower” and “slower” lent….One of my experiences in these days of Lent is that life is hard. That Christian hymn “everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before” doesn’t always ring true in 21st Century reality. . .

  • We look at our world…
  • We look at our city…
  • We look at the landscape of our lives and people we know…there’s no shortage of heartache, disappointment, loss, fear and struggle…

I’m not trying to get us all depressed and despondent….But perhaps this “sober look at reality” is good because we can’t just bluff our way through culture or our world by saying “Hey, I’m a Christian, and everything’s all good!” NO! These realities of life demand that our life with a living God really has to have some substance, gumption to it…

And it’s in the midst of crisis & calamity where Jesus is making a way for peace…

But maybe we’re too busy making Jesus relevant, spectacular and heroic!

[ ie: famous people for Easter Service / Easter 3-D ]

And yet trumping up heroic, religious superstars has never been Jesus’ way in the world. . .

Instead Jesus rides into town on a lowly donkey…not a warhorse….

And his eyes aren’t full of fury and 3-d magic, they’re full of tears…

“If you had only RECOGNIZED on this day the things that make fore peace.”

I want to pause with this image of “recognizing.”

  • If you had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace
  • [for ] You did not recognize the time of your visitation from God

Can we pause to recognize where and how God is at work?

Because there seems to be some connection between recognition and peace!

The things that make for peace are not the things that we conjure up by our own strength, our own finances, our own programs or ability to be nice, peaceful people. Somehow Jesus is trying to reveal to us that it is HIS VISITATION that brings us peace…it’s his mission, his destiny, his love for the world…

So as we go through this final week of Lent and enter into the three-day drama of the Easter story, the good news for us this week is that even though we are prone to miss the point, or not recognize the moment of God’s presence and peace that is before us…Jesus doesn’t miss the moment…he doesn’t miss his mission…he goes to the cross and lays down his life for us and all of the cosmos…

Jesus prepares a way for us…

When the palm branches have withered and are thrown into the ditches…
When our good efforts fail to bring peace into our relationships or instituions…

The promise and proclamation of Jesus is this:

Luke 10: “Blessed are the eyes that see. . . 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desire to see what you see, but did not see it….to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

When the disciples were seeing with eyes of faith & hearing with ears of attentiveness….they were:

  • seeking the way lowliness….they were grasping the reality of this great reversal…where things don’t get done with a bigger stick or a sharper sword… God’s work, God’s kingdom, God’s reign gets done in the way of the pauper….the way of the poor, the way of the meek….
  • When Jesus’ disciples were seeing/hearing with eyes & ears of faith, they were hearing the Jesus’ stories and recognizing that the way to the top is not by power, control and image….the way to God’s highpoint is through seeking out the lost, spending time with the beggar and the broken ones… allowing God to find us when we are at our worst….the least, the last, and the lost….

And Jesus would say to the disciples…and to us:

“Blessed are the eyes that see….Blessed are the ears that hear…”

Want to have a peaceful palm Sunday?

What to have a peaceful Holy Week?

The things that make for peace are the things that lead to Jesus’ humble last days and his death on a cross – – this event that we pay attention to on Maundy Thursday & Good Friday.

So follow Jesus to the cross this week…not because he’s the big hero or the “survivor” on Easter Sunday, but because he has become our peace.

There’s that old spiritual chorus from the 70’s…. “He is our peace, he has broken down every wall…He is our peace, He is our peace.” [Eph. 2:14]

A simple song with a rich message of what it means when Jesus comes to us and we embrace the presence and power of God’s holy visitation.

So let us keep on taking the way this LENT, as we turn the corner into HOLY WEEK…

“Jesus rides no high horse, just a lowly colt. He chooses to enter a deadly situation without force or protection. He gives himself freely and without reservation. This is a prophetic act, a sign of God’s vulnerable love, which risks everything and promises to gain all. This is the means by which God creates PEACE” (FOTW, William G. Carter).

Without Force. Giving freely. Vulnerable love…Risking everything.

Jesus’ “arrival” amongst us today, through this Word, and by the Spirit, is the visitation of God that offers peace…in silence, may that peace descend upon us anew…

    • silence to recognize God’s holy visitation to us today.

Jesus says: [John 14]

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Prayer Insert in Bulletin:
GOD, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)