Sunday, March 28, 2010
Philippians 2: 5-11
This is the amazing time. During most of the year, except maybe at Christmas, Transfiguration and Pentecost, we hear stories of a very earthly Jesus when we come to church. We hear about a Jesus who taught ethics, who was responsible for miracles, but rarely let people talk about them. No, when Jesus was on earth, the things he wanted people talking about were his teachings: who God was, what he was really like, and how there time was now here for people to expand their understanding.
The story we are going to embark upon this week, this Palm Sunday, is a story that is missing miraculous elements, missing dramatic healings, but is chock full of the teachings. Until the very end. It is the central story of our faith. Christmas has more of a grip on the public, secular imagination, but Easter is where we truly live. It is wall to wall Jesus teaching about the character of God; not as the judgmental list checker that the Gospels portray the Pharisees and Sadducees as believing in, but as the loving, all powerful and all giving Creator.
It is the story of a man teaching about the great love he knew that God has. His teaching style was By Any Means Necessary. He would tell you about God, he would show you through healing a loved one, he would put himself into a position that only God could get him out of. And the whole way teaching, modeling trust in the God he knew.
When we talk about the divinity of Jesus, as the second person of the Trinity, it isn’t that we should understand Jesus as God on earth. Jesus was fully human. He made choices, the same choices that face us. He took as his purpose in life, at some point, the purpose God had for him. At some point, he chose to accept the birth story his mother had always told him. In a culture like his, there was no adolescent struggle with purpose and identity. Jesus accepted who he was and what he was to do.
This is not to say that he was born to die. But he was born to be God’s son, and to be for the world the one who shows love in a way not ever seen before, the fullness of God’s love.
So he taught. So he healed. So he asked questions. So he sent others out to tell the story. And So, knowing it had to happen, he set his path on Jerusalem. The greatest number of people present at Passover, the most possibility of ruckus that would set people talking. Did he know that he would die there? I don’t know. It means more to me if he doesn’t. If he had the faith in God to allow whatever happened to happen, that’s a better lesson for me in my daily life than that Jesus allowed himself, in all his power, to be killed by small-mindedness and prejudice, the thirst for power and ambition.
The look on his face as he enters Jerusalem, coats spread before him, palms waving in the air, may be something akin to enjoying the moment than tradition may care to admit. When one has faith in the Lord that Jesus did, the certainty, it is absolutely true that one can live in the moment, because God has control of the world. So I think he’s smiling as he enters Jerusalem.
The frowns will come soon enough. Palm Sunday is about the potential of God’s people; Holy Week is about how we fall short. It is about the spreading of malicious rumors; it is about using situations to further ones’ political ambitions. It is about reacting in fear rather than with courage. Holy Week is about imperfect and incomplete human beings, it is about us as we too often are, as scared and stubborn, wanting so often to break through to compassion and grace filled people of God, but too frightened about what others will say to make the jump. And when we are not courageous and compassionate, the one who was sent to show us that love is hidden. Because of the fear of the people, because of the ambitions of the leaders, because of the prejudice and indifferent nature of the government, Jesus is killed for preaching unlimited love and grace.
It is that love and grace that we reach for now, as Christians. This is what we mean when we say “What Would Jesus Do?” It doesn’t mean who Jesus would vote for. It doesn’t mean who Jesus would send political contributions to. It doesn’t mean what news network Jesus would watch.
It means how can you show your neighbor the love of God as you have learned about it, as you have experienced it? How can you live in the moment, trusting God has his hand on the future?
Jesus showed God’s love by doing what he was called to do. All we are called to do is show God’s love, to neighbors, friends, strangers, ourselves. When the wider society hates certain people, we are called to love them. When our towns distrust people who are different, we are called to love them, welcome them, knit them into our communities. When people don’t like that, then comes the rub; God’s love against the world. The pain doesn’t come from God. The pain comes from people who don’t want to or can’t understand love, and God gives us the strength to endure and overcome. Sometimes, there are people who have loved so much like God that they have died, too, but God has never called anyone to die. They have just been called to love, and the world has responded with hate and violence.
We are called to love by any means necessary. The way Jesus did. And God has the future in his hands. This is what Easter teaches us. His love will be shown in the end. If we are faithful, God will take care of the rest.