Sunday, 24 March 2013

Donkey riding king

Luke 19:28-40
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it? ’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it. ’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

You may remember that, last week, we observed Passion Sunday.
There is always a fair bit of debate around the church at this time about Palms, Passion and Holy Week.
This Sunday, in particular becomes confusing for people because it can be either Palms or Passion - or both.
And, I'm sure you'll agree, it's difficult to observe both - the happy, excited, hosanna shouting crowd who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and then the agony that Jesus endured as he was betrayed, arrested, tortured and killed.
There is also the danger that, when we celebrate today as Palm Sunday, anyone who doesn't attend any of the services between now and Easter Sunday would celebrate Jesus riding into Jerusalem and then celebrate his rising again at Easter, and the crucifixion would be overlooked entirely.
That's why there was the option to observe Jesus' passion last Sunday - to try and ensure that we get the whole picture.
So - we have the luxury of celebrating Jesus today.
Celebrating, with the disciples, " the king who comes in the name of The Lord."
The version of events we read from Luke's gospel this morning focuses on the disciples.
It is the disciples, in Luke's version who cry out: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of The Lord."
Not children as in other gospels.
But Jesus disciples, praising him because of all that they had seen this man do.
And so, our focus, this morning might be on our response to Jesus.
As Jesus disciples today.
How do we respond to him.
How do we encourage others to respond?
Lets focus, just for a moment:
On the ways we champion this king.
And on the ways we imitate our leader.
When do we have those moments when we cry out: Blessed is the king, who comes in the name of the Lord?
When do we have such bursts of enthusiasm.
Such welling of gratitude and awe, that we have to share our excitement?
Well? ........
It's not a very Presbyterian thing, is it?
To get carried away.
To be caught up in the moment.
To be filled with enthusiasm.
Even if we feel it in isolated moments in our own lives, we're unlikely to share it with others, far less make a public spectacle of ourselves.
And yet, I wondered.
Here, in our worship, week by week, when we celebrate being a family together, when we catch up with each others news, when we share what our week has held, or what it might promise, - isn't that our, albeit very subdued version of thanksgiving, of blessing the name of the king who comes in the name of The Lord?
And every time we go into our work place and speak of the things we share together in church, or tell tales over coffee of things we have enjoyed doing together as God's family or experiences we have shared - isn't that our way of saying: Blessed is he who comes in the name of The Lord?
As disciples today, we follow Jesus - about whom we cannot help but rave on occasion - because following Jesus is a pretty awesome journey.
Following Jesus exposes us to all kinds of experiences, some of which cause us to cry out - or with our Scottish reserve - sing into ourselves - "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord."

Being moved to praise Jesus, how often are we moved to imitate him?
We marvel at his patience, his insightfulness, his frankness, his compassion, his love.
His ability to respond with grace in every situation, even when he had harsh things to say or to teach.
How do we imitate those things?
We who are so frightened of causing offence that we dilute everything.
We who would rather keep silent than draw attention to ourselves by speaking up for truth and love?
And how would we even begin to imitate Jesus the donkey riding king?
How can we mirror that humility, that honesty, that subversion?
Jesus riding into the city on a donkey was a well planned and executed act.
It was not some whim or some quirky token gesture.
It was thought out - designed to have real impact on those who witnessed it.
Designed to live on in memory.
To be told and retold.
So that, even long after the contemporary social and political impact had worn off, still this event - Jesus the king riding into the city on a donkey, would make folk stop and think - and cry out - "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of The Lord."
Jesus was in fact mimicking - and mocking- similar parades, when the rulers of the day, processed into the city in all their pomp and circumstance.
And people lined the streets to glimpse the spectacle.
These rulers, who occupied the country and oppressed its inhabitants, were despised and feared in equal measure.
So the crowds who turned out to welcome their procession would just as happily cheer on their downfall.
Just like the crowds who welcomed Jesus - even his disciples.
There was a culture and an expectation that those who were hailed as heroes one day would be condemned the next.
Which goes a long way to explaining how an adoring crowd could so easily turn into a crowd baying for blood.
Such was the social and political unrest of the day.
Their fickleness was a cultural norm.
Jesus knew exactly what he was doing that day.
Mimicking the oppressor's processions.
Playing to the crowds fickle cheering.
And setting himself up to be mocked and ridiculed by the same crowd later on.
And his politically subversive statement, riding a donkey, signalling humility, was not lost on the crowd but turned against him when the time was right.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught and modelled for the people how to live peacefully under an oppressive regime - whether the oppressors were the religious or the political authorities of the day.
Jesus modelled how to live peacefully but subversively.
He showed that it was possible to make a real difference but by peaceful means.
Remaining within the law yet still making progress toward a fairer, more just community even within the confines of an oppressive regime.
Jesus encouraged folk not to simply shrug their shoulders and put up with injustice, but to find ways to make a real difference by treating each other differently.
Not to respond with like for like.
But to respond with love, disarming love that can't help but make a difference.
To respond with a love that cannot be subverted or diluted.
Love that changes things.
Now love can be misunderstood - Jesus love certainly was.
Love can be ignored or even rejected.
But, still, it will have an effect, not least in the giver.
Our giving of love can never diminish us.
Our giving of love, even when it is misunderstood or rejected, enhances our lives and makes us whole.
As Jesus disciples today we are called to imitate our donkey riding king.
Imitate his peaceful subversion.
Imitate his humorous mimicry.
Imitate his will to change things.
Imitate his willingness to be noticed as a force to be reckoned with by those whose unjust regimes he threatened.
And last, but not least - Imitate his persistent and selfless loving.

The Pharisees who witnessed Jesus parade wanted the disciples silenced.
They saw it, not only as an unseemly spectacle, but as the real threat that it was to the injustice with which they had bedded down, a threat to the compromises they had wholeheartedly embraced.
They wanted Jesus to silence his disciples.
But Jesus told them - "if these were silent, even the stones would cry out"
He knew full well that the time had come.
He'd come too far, pushed too many boundaries and burned too many bridges, to stop what was going to happen.
Jesus fate was sealed - as was ours.
The world was about to witness the incredible depths of God's love.
A love that nothing could silence.

As we continue our journey through Lent, into this Holiest of weeks, are we prepared to be disciples who stand with Jesus?
Disciples who hail him as king - even a donkey riding king?
Disciples who journey with him to the Garden of Gethsemane?
Journey with him through betrayal and arrest?
Journey with him to the cross?
Messing up along the way - being frightened, confused, even denying at times?
But journeying on because we know forgiveness and boundless love?
Are we prepared to be Jesus disciples today?
To see in the subversive procession of a king riding a donkey a hard and painful road that is demanding and costly - but that through the incredible power of love, brings peace such as the world cannot give?
Are we prepared for that kind of discipleship?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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