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Get the Donkey

Palm Sunday, Sunday April 14, 2019, St Petri.

Luke 19:28–4028 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’[a]‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

The disciple admitted he had ‘trust issues’ with Jesus. I get what he is saying.

Trust is hard for lots of reasons. It is hard to trust when we cannot see why something needs to happen that we don’t understand – like taking a donkey from a stranger for something we are not quite sure about.

It is hard to trust when we have been let down in the past. We did not like the feeling or where it led. We find it hard to trust because it means placing our destiny in someone else’s hands and those hands may not come through.

But what about spiritually? We find it hard to trust the freedom, faith and future of this new King of all kings, Jesus, for two reasons. 1. He is not like the kings we know or aspire to be, and 2. because we are all rule followers at heart.

Jesus is not your average king! He is different. He rules without rules dominating the ruling. What dominates in his ruling are not keeping the rules to keep the king happy but receiving the King’s gifts of love. He rules by freely forgiving, undeserved serving and lavish giving.

We find this hard to believe; hard to trust that he could mean what he says and do what he promises, to this degree and in this way.

This is because in our hearts we are rule keepers; rule makers. We actually want rules, even if we say we don’t. We need rules and we walk to their beat, whether we try and keep them all by being very good and expecting everyone else to be so too, or rebel against them as we be our own rule unto ourselves, and demand everyone else follow our own rules. We are rule shaped people.

Like going under the knife or going to an unknown place or meeting unknown people or putting ourselves into a position where we are taking on something new, we have “trust issues”, as the disciple here put it.

I would have wondered about ‘borrowing’ this donkey too! I can just imagine constable plod being quite unsatisfied with my seemingly lame excuse for stealing a donkey, saying “Because the Lord needs it”!

But other people, like professional lawyers and teachers of the rules of God (Pharisees) as well as local power brokers who had a lot to lose if they lost their grip on power also have trust issues. The more you have, the more you have to lose; the more rules you make the more rules you have to enforce; just ask any autocrat or mafia Don!

Strange people we are: In this Palm Sunday account, some people are faithful followers finding it hard to be directed by Jesus into an unsafe place (disciples). Other people; the Pharisees, who actually live in a very unsafe place when it comes to God’s acceptance of them, want to stay in that graceless place of fear, so much that they want to push the grace of Jesus out of their face.

And what about everyone else? The crowd here seem to be somewhere in the middle but very, very fickle. The crowd welcome this strange ‘king” with shouts heavy with long awaited victory hope at first, and then within a week, send up the violent unjust cry to get rid of this disappointing king as they yell, “Crucify him!”.

Easter is coming. It is coming for all three kinds of people; the faithful, the fearful and the fickle. Where are you at? Are you the faithful follower feeling unsure, or the adamant skeptic not giving an inch because of fear, or the fickle one who will trust anything that might fix your issues, until something or someone else turns up with a better offer or it looks like it just won’t work?

Whoever you are, can you see that something is happening? Something is happening that will transform our faith, our fear and our fickle following. We are here and you are here, and God’s Spirit is here, and Easter is coming.

Better still, can you see that God has been making good things happen for us a long time now? Can you see the font and the faces and the food of his Word on offer today?

Seeing what he has done and is doing helps us with any trust issue we may experience. These disciples eventually see what is happening; what this man of love; this strange new king is doing and that enables them to trust him.

Can you see something is happening as the King rolls into our lives again – albeit on a donkey?

Whether we are the follower unsure of the direction we seem to be being given by Jesus, or the cynic who is fearful of trusting this king who is upsetting our little world with his freedom and love which is undoing all the conventions, expectations and the very way we are all shaped, or whether we are the fickle crowd who just want some relief from grinding poverty of means or  body or spirit and will switch allegiance to get it, the issue is always trust.

The question always is, “Will I trust him?”, “Will we trust his direction when we don’t know why, and we cannot see where it will lead”?

This strange King will go on to earn our trust by his faithful, undying love for us. He will keep all the rules perfectly out of love (not fear) for those who could never keep them. He will willingly be wrongly accused and unjustly executed for all those who could not, would not or never knew that they could trust him.

This Servant King is speaking from the other side of his grave now. He says to you who may be faithful, fearful or fickle;

The Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,    to know the word that sustains the weary.He wakens me morning by morning,    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.The Lord has opened my ears;    I have not been rebellious,    I have not turned away.                                                  (Isaiah 50: 4-5)

Whether you feel unsure as to what Jesus is asking you to do or cynical about who he is and what he is doing for you, or just needing some relief from all that is getting on top of you, he has the words that sustains you in all of it.

He is waking you up every morning and especially on Easter morning so you can trust him with your ears as you listen to his word for you.

He has not turned away from you. He has not turned away from his Father and yours.

So, who are you going to trust for faith, friendship, full love and full life?

See what’s happening this week. Go get his donkey. Without it, the rest won’t happen.

Help him into your city; into your heart and mind; your friendships; your work.

Follow him into Easter. You will see again. You will see that he will do it all, say it all and give enough for trust to be possible for the faithful, the fearful and the fickle.

If you are going to trust anyone, it is him, right?

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