PALM SUNDAY

April 14, 2019

Palm-Sunday-

James Tissot – Jesus Enters Jerusalem

LUKE 12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 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!” 14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” 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. 17 So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. 18 It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19 The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!”

If Jesus had left his entrance into Jerusalem to the public relations firm Peter preferred, the entrance in the Holy City would have been splashier and turned out differently.  I learned a long time ago that ability to function as I in midst general demand for We is the great challenge of human life in general and leadership in particular.

His disciples loved Jesus, of course, but in an egocentric way that promoted conflict over who “they” would be in the new administration.  “Let Jesus be the head, but we will be right there. I want to be Secretary of State in the coming Kingdom.”

Jesus took control of his destiny, entering his own way, no on a war horse or chariot of Roman triumphs.  Taking his cue from the prophet Zachariah, he mounted the sharp backbone of a donkey’s colt, entering in great humility, not the feigned modesty of the perceptive politician.

Why?  First let’s look at the Epistle for today.

 PHILIPPIANS 2:5-8   Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Note that glory was not something essential Jesus’ identity as God, nor did he consider his divine status necessary, he emptied himself of divine prerogative, but emptied, humbled himself.   Why?  I think Theodoret, a Fifth Century  Father, was clearly on the money when he wrote,

Being God, and God by nature, and having equality with God, he thought this no great thing, as is the way of those who have received some honor beyond their merits, but, hiding his merit, he elected the utmost humility and took the shape of a human being.  Epistle to the Philippians 2.6-7  

 – Theodoret, Bishop of  Cyrrhus 393 – 457 AD

Palm 2

Egyptian Coptic Icon of Palm Entry

Jesus didn’t need to prove anything to anybody, nor claimed more than he merited.  He took a lower place as a servant.  Being God he never felt he had anything to prove to anybody.  That sense of self defeated the evil tempter in the wilderness.  In addition this hymn reveals that servanthood, humility and emptying of self (I would say “contraction” from the theme of our reflection) are legitimate and full expressions of God’s being.

Beloved, my prayer is that I grow such that I am no longer effected by the change of circumstances.  My identity is in God so I need not protect my ego.  I can see there, but I am not yet there.  I long for that place and my longing is a gift from God.  Let us elect the utmost humility, giving up the rule of our ego.  I know it is a better place, but my ego is frightened. That of course doesn’t feel good but it is good.

Ego pain is birth pain.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

When Religion Reaches the Wallet

Note: I regret that I have lost the citation for this posting.  I did not write it. It is true.

Acts 4:32-35

Luke portends astonishing signs and events that the resurrection of Jesus impacts in ever increasing ways: healings, convicting sermons about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, forgiveness; even a normal prayer gathering is rendered extraordinary. Chapter four concludes with yet another astonishing sign-the sharing of possessions. If true commitment is measured by wallets, then Luke wants us to know how deep a level of commitment this nascent community has reached. 600-Acts 11 Giving Money1

With one heart and mind they sell property and offer the income to be distributed among the poor and needy among them. Thus, poverty is addressed through personal inconvenience and the gospel is proclaimed.

The Walking Dead or The Raised Dead?

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

Tissot_son_of_the_widow_in_nain

Son of the Widow in Nain – James Tissot

LUKE 7: 11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, [means “lovely” or “pleasant” (Na’im). Though the location is uncertain, the site is probably the modern Arab town of Nein, six miles southeast of Nazareth. Only time mentioned anywhere] and his disciples and a large crowd went with him.  12 As Jesus approached the gate [Archeology – walls so there was a gate] of the town, a man who had died was being carried out.

In the First Century the dead Necropolis (city of dead) were always outside the walls of a town.  There is a reason we do not call our burial place down the street, the Saint John’s Necropolis.  Christians took the name Cemetery as the name of our burial place.

Why?  It comes from the word for sleeping – our dead or not so much dead as they are sleeping, waiting for the trumpet on that great day.   That being the case, Christians buried their dead right next to the Church door.

Jesus sees what he sees:

  • He was his mother’s only son,
  • and she was a widow;   She has lost her protector for the second time…
  • and with her was a large crowd from the town. [there is a shadow of things to come: The Virgin Mary, the Widow Mary also lost her son on Good Friday – though Jesus gave her a new son from the cross.

A procession of death met a procession of life.

  • According to Jewish burial customs,
  • the body was washed, eyes closed, mouth bound shut, anointed with spices, then wrapped in a linen cloth, laid on a plank, bier, or an open coffin..
  • Burial took place within 24 hours to avoid witnessing decomposition.
  • The poor were buried in shallow graves in potters fields, the wealthy in tombs.

13 When the Lord first time Luke calls Jesus – LORD- saw her, he had compassion [his heart went out to her] for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” According to tradition, the next of kin walked ahead of the body, so Jesus would have met her first.

At this moment when hope was all gone… Jesus met the procession and seeing the widow bent over in grief, his heart went out to her (splankna) and he did what anyone would do if they could, he removed the cause for her bereavement.

  • His feelings welled up in him, and he was moved out of himself toward someone who was overcome by life.
  • Jesus Himself was the son of a widow [scene by the gate is a shadow of Good Friday and beyond]
  • For the first time, Luke refers to Jesus as the Lord, particularly fitting as he exercises power over death itself.

14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the pall-bearers stood still. This is very illuminating:  You do not touch dead bodies or things associated with them!  If you touch it then you are ritually unclean. But notice the reversal here: here is the comic moment, comedy, at a funeral?

Not slapstick, beloved, comedy.  It’s this way! No, it’s after all and every one laughs.  This is the theme of every classic cartoon – the steamroller runs over Donald Duck – he’s flatter than a pancake – but no, he pops back – this reversal is at the very core of the Good News. So here’s the joke (if you can’t get the joke you will never get the Gospel as Frederick Buechner put put it once.).

Now, here it comes, you are defiled by touching a corpse – but only if the corpse stays dead!   (Jesus’ authority reverses the defilement, “cleansing” the corpse through Christ’s power over death.) And he said, “Young man,  I say to you, rise!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

Herbert O’Driscoll, one of the greatest Anglican preachers of my lifetime, says that we look in two directions in all sermons:

  • First:  THEM, THEN, THERE
  • Second: WE, HERE, NOW (Where is the now in the sermon?)

I pondered that question for a couple of days and then this question occurred to me?

How many of you watch The Walking Dead?

the-walking-dead-alternative-posterI keep thinking I will but I just can’t make myself to it.   What’s with Zombies? I confess I don’t like zombies.  Their rising popularity is a mystery to me.  Vampires I get, werewolves I get and ghosts I get, zombies not so much.

No, I am not a bigot!  I will not accept the moniker of prejudice either.  In point of fact, some of my best friends are dead.  I expect to be dead myself. However, if you are dead it seems the decent thing to do would be to stay that way (or at least until Jesus’ appearing in glory).

Psychologists seem to think that to see or dream that you are a zombie, suggests that you are physically and/or emotionally detached from people and situations that are currently surrounding you. You are feeling out of touch. Alternatively, a zombie means that you are feeling dead inside. You are just going through the motions of daily living.  To dream that you are attacked by zombies, indicate that you are feeling overwhelmed by forces beyond your control. You are under tremendous stress in your waking life. Alternatively, the dream represents your fears of being helpless and overpowered.

Resurrection of the Widow's son from Nain - Lucas Cranach, the younger. c. 1569

Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain – Lucas Cranach, the younger. c. 1569

I can testify that many among us, particularly the young adults, feel that they will not do as well as their parents.  The myth of inevitable progress has failed. No more can we assume that the next generation of Americans will do better than the last generation just because they are the next generation of Americans. A lot of people feel half dead, walking dead and decomposing as they go.

As I think spiritually, I suggest that the rise of the undead seems a creepy secular facsimile of resurrection (and not a very good one either).  Zombie movies may be entertaining but they are really very bad theology. We believe in the resurrection of the body, but those God raises are completely raised not living dead but living and not dead at all!

That is the point that Luke makes in the last half of chapter 7:  you don’t think there is any hope and yet I’m here to tell you that even at the grave of the only son of a “widow-woman” (as folks say in Alabama)  there is hope.

16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

A famous preacher named Mosley once looked into the Bible to see how Jesus did funerals only to learn that Jesus didn’t do funerals!  Jesus did resurrections!  On that day on the way to grave just past the city gate at Nain, compassion flowed from Jesus, love wrapped around that widow and touched that young man and he sat straight up talking a mile a minute – You see that The Rev. Mosley was right Jesus didn’t do funerals just resurrections.

Christ raising the dead - Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford

Christ raising the dead – Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford

All that Jesus did was done by his obedience to God. Jesus was so open to God that God’s power God’s love simply flowed through him like water through an empty hose.  We are called to available to God – open like an empty hose – is to water – “These things and greater shall you do because I go to the Father. And if I go to the Father the Comforter, the Spirit will come, and when he comes he will dwell with you and in you.

When the community of faith is filled with the Holy Spirit it too sits up and begins to talk!  All sorts of things happen.  We are not as those who have no hope.  We don’t need to be no stinkin’ zombies when we are raised  to newness of life by our Lord Jesus.