March 24, 2013: Palm Sunday – Passion Sunday

Posted on : Mar 21st, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“Children poking each other with palms in church are kind of funny. But grown-ups who turn on each other without a second thought are scary.

“Beware of the crowds that get whipped up in praise and adoration, for they could just as quickly get whipped up in hatred and cruelty. That’s what happened on Palm Sunday to Jesus, and it could happen anywhere on earth today.”

Those words written by Lillian Daniel, minister of the First Congregational Church, UCC, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, have really struck my consciousness as we prepare once again to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week.  Some of you may be asking, “What relevance does this ancient faith-story have for our lives today?”

That’s a great question. In fact, I was just thinking of that on Wednesday when I heard that Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader of the U.S. Senate decided to not include a vote on the civilian restriction of military assault type weapons in the Senate’s version of legislation to reduce gun violence in our country.  Sen. Reid and a bunch of other Democratic Senators don’t have the courage to vote for it, out of fear they won’t be reelected, so they’re going to not bring it up to a vote at all.

Of course we all know, sooner or later this legislation is going to pass.  We everyday American citizens are tired of children being murdered at school, of going to a movie theater or mall and having a mentally ill person indiscriminately shoot down folks like us.  We want common sense legislation that protects the innocent, and includes the right of those who want guns to have them – only safely.  We almost had another mass murder happen at the University of Central Florida on Monday.  A troubled student pulled the fire alarm in his dorm and had his military assault type weapon ready to shoot as his dorm mates filled the hall to leave the building.  Thankfully, he was foiled by his roommate who opened the door, saw him raise his gun to take aim at him, then slammed the door in his roommate’s face and called the police.

We all know this kind of indiscriminate killing is not going to stop until we limit access to the guns that have this rapid fire capability and the ammunition clips that feed the frenzy.  But apparently Senator Reid and a bunch of other Senators are too afraid, so they are hiding behind their own fear.

The killing will continue until something worse happens.  That is the Palm Sunday story played out in 2013.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and is hailed as a Savior sent to us from God!  He’s our one hope.  He’s the only one who has the courage to stand up for who he knows God to be and how God universally loves each and every one of us.  No exceptions.  No fear.  But the religious leaders of his day become deeply fearful that if Jesus’ Way becomes “the Way of the people,” they are going to be out of a job.  After all, they are the ones who created all the rules and regulations that made people feel bad about themselves and limited access to God.  You had to follow their rules to get to God!  So they manufactured a fear campaign, incited the people to turn against Jesus, and in a few short days, changed the chant of the crowd from “Praise God” to “Crucify him!!!”

As Lillian Daniel reminds us,

Children poking each other with palms in church are kind of funny. But grown-ups who turn on each other without a second thought are scary.

Beware of the crowds that get whipped up in praise and adoration, for they could just as quickly get whipped up in hatred and cruelty. That’s what happened on Palm Sunday to Jesus, and it could happen anywhere on earth today.”

The Palm Sunday story teaches us many things, and one of them is how hard it is to be a follower of Jesus.  As I thought about the events in our lives this week, I realized how true that is.  Right now we are following Jesus though…the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war, the struggle to reduce gun violence in our own country, the struggle for Marriage Equality as the Supreme Court hears arguments for and against two very important cases next week, and as we live through our own inner struggles, especially regarding our own self-worth, our purpose in life and who we are – I mean who we “really” are as opposed to who others want us to pretend to be.

Jesus doesn’t compromise on what he knows to be God’s will.  He doesn’t sell out what he believes or what he knows to be of God for his personal gain.  He walks into the anger of the crowds and once again teaches us that God’s love is greater than our fear or our hate.

That’s a story we need to hear over and over again, because it is “the story of our lives.”

Blessings to you as we begin this Holiest of weeks,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 19: 28-40

Luke recounts Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.
Hosanna in the highest!

Jesus went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Beth’phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here.   If anyone asks you, `Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, `The Savior has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them.  And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Savior has need of it.”

And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt, they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road.

As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,

Hosanna! Hosanna!
Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of our God.
Hosanna in the highest!

And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

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