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Which Way?

Sermon, Palm Sunday

Sunday April 1, 2012.

John 12:12-16

Which way?

12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!” 12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: 12:15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

There are definitely two distinct ways of approaching life on display for us to ponder on this Palm Sunday. The way of Jesus and the way of those around him, including his own followers. These ways are in direct collision as this unlikely, and yet much wanted new king strides into the holy city of David with huge commotion.

You can imagine the frenetic chit chat Only 6 days prior Jesus raised his good friend Lazarus from a four day tomb! And now, with a packed city, rife rumours, a city on the verge of its biggest time of year, their Vintage Festival – the Passover, comes this Rabbi from the north. He comes into the city from the East, over the Mount of Olives, down into the Kidron Valley, and back up into the Eastern Gate. This is all according to the ancient script. This is how it is meant to look and feel. This is Messiah stuff. This is the exact route of the Messiah and this Rabbi, who seems to have the power of life and death in his hands is doing what Messiah’s should do.

Of course the people throw down their jumpers and t-shirts on the ground, along with the branches they have already got for the Passover rituals. Of course they shout out those words of welcome to a king. “Hosanna!” God save us! Hail, O king – David’s son – Messiah”!

Sounds good for people living under military and religious oppression and fear. They are copping it from the Romans who rule with an iron fist and from the law makers who cover life in a shroud of guilt and unworthiness and endless rule keeping to appease God. This is the end of all that fear and control on both counts, they think.

Sounds good – not just for them but for us modern day members of the Christian Church who feel similar things they did. Our country is not getting more Roman, it is getting more non-Christian, more secularised, less sacred. The Christian Faith and all of its major teachings and central values and relationship expectations are less respected, listened to or at the very least, heard clearly.

Our nation and our church are aging.  We are having a hard time stemming the loss of the young and we are worried. It would be good to have a Messiah who would come in and turn the tables back in our favour – just make them all come to church, make them all believe the way we do and love the thing we love about being Christians and being St Petri.

We want him to fix things. They wanted him to fix things. His way of fixing things is different than we want or expect. He “fixes things” by calling us to follow and join him in his mission, not to make everything OK according to us!

John speaks an ominous word that betrays Jesus’ different way of fixing things, as he shares this happy scene with us.

‘“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The Pharisees are in a bind. If they take a heavy handed approach to this threat to their control over people and take him out, they would then be on the receiving end of more than just a few boos from people a little more steamed up than disgruntled football fans.  They would be dodging rocks and fire bombs – not unlike what we are seeing in Syria and Palestine.

Before we modern day Christians join the booing and stone throwing at these Pharisees, we might examine our own response to Jesus call and the change he brings. The Pharisees were not “unchurched”! They were lovers of their people, the culture, their heritage and they gave their lives to the betterment of the nation under God. They were trying to fix things!

But with a great belief and shared mission to fix things can come the love of self; self-importance and very narrow, self-orientated vision – not to mention a heavy hand that creates fear and oppressive control.

Could it be so with us? We like our life. We are familiar with it. We love our church. We are familiar with it. When Jesus comes along and says, hear me and follow me wherever I lead, we might struggle because this will mean giving up control to him and others at times.

When Jesus comes and says to us who have so much, give away things and time to those who don’t deserve it, we buck.

When Jesus says, “talk to me”, we say, I have not got time, or I don’t what to say or……

When Jesus says that this Church is his and that he is the Cornerstone of his people, not us, and that he is the head of the Church and shows us that things need to change for the sake of his purposes and plans, we might say, no way. “This is how the church is to be and over my dead body will anyone tell me otherwise”.

Friends, this Rabbi on the donkey who was welcomed by the crowd desperately wanting him to fix up their “church” and their lives is the same one they killed for disappointing them. From “Hosanna” to “Crucify him”, was their cry. It is ours too.

Has God disappointed you? Hasn’t Christianity worked for you? Has the church let you down? Has St Petri let you down? Has a Pastor got too heavy handed or not decisive enough?

With our disappointments, our fears for the future of the church and our future in it, with or impatience and even unwillingness to let the Call of Christ have its way in how we live; let’s go to Golgotha now. That’s the Jesus way. Let’s lay down the palms and be glad he entered our city. Let’s acknowledge that we did some chanting and some booing, some welcoming of his call into our listening hearts and some shutting the gate on his call for changes within our very souls and still go to Golgotha with him anyway.

His way looks ugly but it is glorious. It looks weak but it is cosmic level power of God. It looks fearful but it is complete freedom from having to be masters of the church, masters of our own lives – he is. In his Way of undeserved kindness and vision, he is calling us to let go of what we hold dear and let him live his Way in us. Change will happen – he will change us to be like him and being like him is the best we can be. No manipulation, gossip, control, pay back here – just this divine man offering us everything good and calling us to go his Way of fixing things – us serving and loving together in his name and under his time-line and in his vision of us – the holy, chosen, loved people of God in mission in this place.

He is fixing us and his world by calling us into his mission to love, to serve, to live by faith, not by sight – to trust his way, not ours. This is the different Jesus’ way of fixing his church, his people and his world.

So, which way we will we go in life? More control; more fear; more worry; more talk about the gloomy future of the church, or will we go Jesus’ way – from the palms to the cross and the empty tomb – with him

Let’s go Jesus’ way here at St Petri. Let’s leave the palms and head to Golgotha this week and so, be transformed into Lazarus again next Sunday –  walking, living, breathing bearers of the glorious cross in this city.

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