Palm Sunday

Message by Jason Storbakken

Bulletin 3.25.18

Notes:

In an ancient desert world there was a violent empire who took what they wanted by force. They sought to dominate all the cultures, people groups, and kingdoms that they came in contact with. This empire reached to the East and West and North and South. Many tried to resist this empire’s violence by the use of violence, but they were always defeated.

This empire humiliated its subjects and forced their respect. Whenever a local culture had a special holiday or season of festivities, the emperor sent their mightiest soldiers and warhorses to parade through their city square to show their strength.

Well, there was one small, but defiant group of people who were about to have their holiest season. The emperor sent his soldiers and warhorses to parade through the city. They forced the people to shout Hooray (or Hosanna in their local language). The people didn’t want to cheer those who hurt them, but they had to, otherwise the soldiers would further hurt or arrest those who resisted. So they half-heartedly shouted Hooray.

A few days later, a resistance leader (Jesus) arrived in town. He loved the people, and not the empire, and he despised the ways of violence and oppression. But he didn’t have any warriors – only a ragtag bunch of friends. Jesus knew that they couldn’t overturn the empire with violence, so they chose to mock the pomp and circumstance of the military parade. This act of fake respect! They didn’t have a warhorse, so they borrowed a donkey.

People didn’t realize until much later that this was actually part of an even more ancient prophecy uttered hundreds of years earlier (Zechariah):

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Little did the people know, but Jesus was actually a king that was more powerful than any emperor who ever existed. He reigned over all of earth’s kingdoms, and also all of the kingdoms throughout the universe.

Back to our story… Like the mighty warriors and warhorses who paraded into the city square days earlier, Jesus entered into Jerusalem on a donkey. His friends and all the people were excited to see a person who looked like them, and spoke their language and knew their customs, enter their city like royalty. The people enthusiastically shouted Hooray (Hosanna)!

The emperor and the military and the local leaders were very angry at Jesus and they were afraid of the people, even though they had warriors and warhorses. Out of fear, the empire said nothing at that time. But they began to plot and scheme how they might get rid of this rabble rouser.

Jesus spent the week teaching how love is the most powerful force in the universe, healing the hurting and heartbroken, and welcoming everyone who was formerly left out of gatherings, meals and celebrations.

On the holiest night, after Jesus and his friends ate a wonderful meal and sang songs, he went to a special garden to pray. In that garden, under the cloak of night, the authorities arrested Jesus. They mocked and abused him, persecuted, hit him, spit on him, and eventually they had him tied to a tree where he died.

His closest friends and family were heartbroken. Most of his friends hid because they didn’t want to be killed like Jesus, but his mom and a handful of friends stayed with Jesus at the tree. A few days later, Jesus’ friend Mary from Magdala was visiting the tomb of Jesus and to her absolute surprise Jesus emerged,  alive! His work was not yet done.

We had a similar story last week. Shadrach, Mesheck and Abednego – the three vegetarian slaves – had a faith and conviction that was so true that it struck fear into the heart of another empire (Babylon). Again and again, we learn in the Bible that the seemingly powerful, the big armies, and empires never have the last word. Shedrach, Meshech, and Abednego met God in the fiery furnace, and were then rescued, and even exalted by the empire that sought to destroy them. Jesus emerged from the tomb.

A theological movement… (or God’s revolution)

Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Fin

In many ways, things haven’t changed much over the last thousands of years. Yesterday there was a procession not dissimilar from the Palm Sunday procession. Children and families marched against violence, much to the chagrin of the government and corporations. Like Jesus who had no warriors or warhorses, only friends, families and children marched because they value life, because they believe that a world of peace and compassion is possible.

So, like Christ, let us empty ourselves of our biases and political schemes so that we might consider the things that Christ came to bring into this world – hope, joy, peace, togetherness, and love.