Sunday, April 09, 2006

Palm Sunday Sermon

Sermon Texts
Mark 11: 1-11
Mark 15: 1-39
The week that we call holy week—the week that begins today and contains the remembrances of the most important aspects of our faith—begins with a parade. And the parade begins with a detailed description of going to get a donkey.
Jesus clues his disciples into the perfect love that is about to be expressed in the coming week by giving them what seems to be a menial task. Why does Mark give us such a detailed description on the directions to get a donkey on the way to Jerusalem? Perhaps it is a counterweight to the delusions of grandeur that are being promoted by the disciples on the way to the city. In their mind, they are on the march to conquer Babylon, and they want to know who would sit on the right and left hand of their new Messiah. But Jesus gives these disciples a humbling task that reflects the humbling task he must undergo in the week that follows.
We oftentimes think that God’s love is expressed in power. What we consider power is usually coercive power. But what we find hard to stomach and even harder to imitate is the divine ideal of Love as totally and perfectly vulnerable.
Several years ago a beautiful movie came out called “The Green Mile.” Tom Hanks starred as the prison warden on death row in the 1930’s south, and came to know one of the inmates who had strange powers. This man was literally huge as an ox—a symbol of this character’s power—yet his real power was in his vulnerability. Through his love, he healed a mouse, a woman, and even the warden himself. Through his healing love, he became more and more vulnerable. The movie is called “The Green mile” because the hallway to the death chamber is painted green, and the inmates call it the mile because it feels like a mile when one walks it to their death. John Coffee, the character in the Green Mile, walks his path willingly even though he is innocent of the crime for which he is accused. Much like John Coffee, Jesus Christ knew that thegreen palms thrown at the feet of his humble donkeywere paving the way to the cross.
. He goes willingly even though he is innocent of the crime for which he is accused.
Christ’s power come through his perfect love. Perfect love involves a submission to vulnerability. Every welt on his back, every thorn in his brow happens because Christ’s love makes him vulnerable. He’d been telling his disciples it had to be this way for some time, and they didn’t understand. More accurately, they didn’t WANT to understand. Mark tells us in ch. 9 that they were afraid to ask him what he meant when he told them that the son of man must suffer and be killed. They were afraid to ask him because while they were arguing about who was the greatest, Jesus was sitting a little child on his lap and saying “welcome this child and you welcome God.”
This terrible, beautiful passion of our savior says to us once and for all, “this is how to love—this is how I love you.” Christ was killed because he dared to love us as we are, he dared to love those who weren’t supposed to be loved. He died to show us that true power lies in vulnerability, it lies in submission, it lies in Love.
Can we learn this perfect love? Our Methodist heritage and the theology of the Wesleys say that we can. To learn it, we must pay special attention to the events of the passion story. It may involve fetching a donkey when we really want to sit by our King in glory. It may involve walking the path though we may be taunted and derided the whole way. Jesus looked with love on the world even as the very people he was being crucified with joined in the taunts and accusations. Can you imagine? Don’t those other guys being crucified have enough to worry about? This radical, perfect, vulnerable love might involve reaching out in embrace when we really want to slap or punch. It might involve placing a great deal of importance on the creative efforts of a little child when what we really want to do is get back to fixing dinner or writing a report or watching a tv show. That action alone could be placing the welcome mat out in front of our heart for God. Don’t you imagine that the disciples would have rather been suiting Jesus up with armor and perhaps killing a mounted Roman so that Jesus could ride in on his horse? Don’t you imagine Peter would rather have been basking in the glory of his master’s fame and respect rather than denying him as his master was being tried? Don’t you imagine Jesus’ disciple Judas would rather be drawing swords with his master to put down the evil Romans rather than handing him over to the Romans?
Showing that perfect love could mean letting go of anger or feelings of betrayal or mistrust and instead opening our lives to the future, opening our hearts to new possibilities.
Perfect love embodies vulnerability. What position is more vulnerable than open arms? It is in this action, when we go to embrace, that we mirror our creator and savior’s sacrifice. What we must sacrifice is our Ego, our desires, to the one desire of God---to building the Kingdom, to the authentic life that Jesus placed in the offering plate for us.
You would probably rather not focus in on the story of our Lord’s betrayal and beating and crucifixion this week and instead zoom right ahead to the Easter celebration. I challenge you to observe Holy week—to be here as we plunge into the stories of the Last week of our savior. If it is not your custom to be here in worship in the middle of the week, just imagine how out of custom it must’ve felt to the original disciples to hear about the path that their Messiah was going to take—not a path of glory and military revolution, but a path of vulnerability and spiritual revolution. Together we will observe the pain and the heartache—so that together we may experience the joy and the hope in a new light--The light that accompanies the resurrection.


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