Mark 11: 1-11
There’s a tradition about the palms that so many of us had last Sunday that says that these provide the ashes we use for next years’ Ash Wednesday. Now, my ashes are store bought, and in my little pyxis (the clay jar I keep them in) is enough to last me the rest of my career, unless they get spilled sometime in the next 30 years.
I tried once to burn the palms I needed for Ash Wednesday. Once. It was in Trenton, TX, my second year, and I had no idea what techniques there were to do it properly. I tried to do it in my barbeque, it seemed safer that inside. But they burned incompletely, and I didn’t catch them properly, so I neded up scooping them out with some of the ash alkready in the bottom of the barbeque. So my Ashes that year looked suspiciously too white, and smelled suspiciously like hickory and KC Masterpiece.
Store bought ashes are just fine, thank you!
We have now almost come full circle. Wednesdays’ ashes have become Sunday’s Palms. We celebrate today the day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding a donkey colt, and the people shouting Hosanna! It is also the week in which popular sentiment will turn against Jesus So quickly, and there are many factors that go into why.
1. He wasn’t the Messiah they were thinking of; and
2. The crowd listened to their leaders’ whispers, and began to think that Jesus needed to be dead.
I’m not going to talk about the reason for Jesus’ birth, or death, or how these events freed us and saved us-that is a sermon on it’s own, and perhaps several. Or you can just look at this article, written by a friend of mine:
It is our place, today, to meditate on these scriptures we have heard-where do we put ourselves in this crowd? How do we feel when we see the latest Messiah come into our city with confusing images, like on a donkey, instead of a grand warhorse?
And then, how do we feel when we go home, and already there is gossip swirling around about the things that this latest Messiah might have said, like wanting to destroy the temple, and that he may have upset all the folks in the outer courts by destroying their tables, where they keep their money exchange businesses?
The opinions begin to turn. And you may be there thinking “well, I would have known it was Jesus, and I would have seen him for who he was.”
Probably not. Public opinion can turn so fast. While not comparing them to Christ, may I remind you how many front runners the Republican party had just last summer? 5? 6?
The same human characteristics are at work then as are at work now. Public opinion can be fickle, and when it’s told to you by someone in authority, it carries even more weight.
It’s hard for this sermon to have one point, because in the story, we are in the middle. The last supper is coming in the story, the prayers in the garden, the arrest, the trial. We’ve been telling the story of the last 24 Hours all during let, but in holy week, we have to be aware of the story that comes before.
We know the end to this story. We know that Jesus is killed. We know that Jesus is resurrected, and stays with the disciples another 50 days, and then ascends to heaven, after telling the people that they will have the power to tell the story, to teach and to love.
But then we really don’t know the story in its entirety, do we? We really don’t know how it ends.
That’s because the story winds down the centuries, through the early church fathers, the church in Rome, and Constantinople, The Crusades, the birth of Protestantism, the colonization of the Americas and Africa, down to us right here right now.
The story isn’t finished. You and I are writing the newest chapters now. We are entrusted with the story. Our faith tells us how it ends, but it takes our actions to continue it-to write the new episodes.
We carry the story forward. May God give you the strength to tell the story, of Christs’ choice for us, and our choice for God.