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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
April 14, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Central Passage
Luke 19:28-41
Palm Sunday C

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Palm Sunday C – April 14, 2019

Luke 19:28-41


Jesus! Shh!


              Not long ago, I saw a cartoon on social media by blogger and artist David Hayward. Jesus is trying to enter a church building. As he knocks on the door, the people in the building throw all their weight on the door, as one person cries out, “Don’t let him in! It will change everything!”


              Even if we chuckle, maybe we feel a bit convicted. For instance, I know that I often make comfort, convenience, and tradition my idols. I’ve heard the clichés all my life. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves. Don’t upset the apple cart. Are you sure you want to die on that hill? The fact that there are so many clichés for upsetting the status quo speaks to our anxiety about it. We have our worldview. We have our way of doing things. And even if those ways aren’t working for us anymore, we have a difficult time changing. We’re addicted, not to a substance, but to a dysfunctional way of being.


              In that way, we’re like the Pharisees in today’s processional Gospel. Remember that the Pharisees were not necessarily bad guys, especially in Luke’s Gospel. To be sure, Jesus chastises them, but they do not come off quite as badly as they do in other Gospels. Some of them, remember, warn Jesus about Herod. And of course, much of Jesus’ own teaching has its roots in Pharisaic Judaism. The Sermon on the Plain, the golden rule, the teaching on divorce, the disputes over the Sabbath, the belief in the resurrection – all those teachings have parallels in Pharisaic thought. So, if the Pharisees aren’t necessarily the bad guys, then how is Luke portraying them here, during the great procession into the city?


              It’s not Jesus’ message that they have a problem with. They fear the consequences of it. Jesus comes into the city as a king at the beginning of Passover week, a celebration already fraught with political overtones for an oppressed people. Just as God freed the Hebrews from slavery under the Egyptians, many in Jesus’ day thought that God would also free them from the Roman invader, enslaver, and oppressor. As people join the procession, the Pharisees may be afraid of a riot with a Roman backlash.


              This is much more than fear of rocking the boat. This is fear of overturning it. The Pharisees are certain that disaster will come upon all of them if Jesus keeps this up. The bitter irony is that disaster will come upon them because they don’t have the courage to overturn the old boat and climb in the new one.


              Jesus weeps over Jerusalem at the end of our reading. Mourning immediately follows celebration. Jesus loves the city. He loves the people. But he can’t force love from them. He can’t force them to abandon the sinking boat they know for the seaworthy one they don’t know.


              Jesus refuses to act as every tyrant throughout the ages has acted. He isn’t going to force anyone to do anything. Jesus issues commands, to be sure. He commands Peter, James, John, and Levi to come follow him. He commands wellness for those who are ill. The only ones compelled to obey his commands, though, are natural and supernatural forces. Demons submit to him. Waves and wind settle down. The stones will cry out. Human beings are different. No, Jesus won’t compel obedience from them. Jesus will take their disobedience – our disobedience – and nail it to the cross as he is nailed there. Jesus will take everything that separates us from God and put it to death as he is put to death.


              It is that very act of non-forceful, sacrificial love that gives us a new way to live. A way that is marked by courage. A way that is marked by awareness of the ways we are addicted to our own disobedience and stubbornness – our refusal to let Jesus into the building, so to speak. Jesus will indeed change everything if he enters the building. But he has already changed everything. Our cowardice, petulance, stubbornness, disobedience – all summed up under “sin” – have been mortally wounded. His forgiveness has already been given. His righteousness has already been imputed to us. It’s too late. The boat has been rocked. The waves have been made. The apple cart is upset. Jesus, literally, died upon that hill.


              The only thing, then, that is stopping us from fully embracing the new life we’ve been given in Christ is ourselves. The idols we’ve made out of comfort, convenience, and tradition. There’s a deeper tradition behind our own. And that’s the tradition of Christ who is always making us new people. Every single day.


              Let us pray.


              King Jesus, we are often scared to let go of our old ways of being and embrace your new way. As we enter this Holy Week, cleanse us of everything that separates us from you. Help us seize the opportunity this week gives us to reconnect with you and our baptismal calling in Christ, which ultimately ends in resurrection. Amen.


© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.