A Palm Sunday Sermon. Crown him,Kill Him, Follow Him

CROWN HIM, KILL HIM, FOLLOW HIM

PHILIPPIANS 2: 1-11 MARCH 25, 2018

  1. SAD PARADE

A Do you prefer good news or bad news? That’s a silly question. Everyone prefers good news.  I found a list of good news bad news items that apply to us preachers. The Women’s Association voted to send you a get well card. The bad news is that the vote was 31-30. 2. Your women’s softball team finally won a game. The bad news is that they beat your men’s softball team. 3. Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks. The bad news is that you were vacation. 4.  The Session voted to send you to the Holy Land. The bad news is it’s a one way ticket

.B. When you begin to work on a sermon for this week, the books all ask you if you are seeing this as Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. Some place the emphasis on the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Others see this as the beginning of the week of crucifixion. Some want to emphasize the good news. Others think of it as the beginning of bad news. I think it is both.

C. This is the Sunday when there is a strange mix of conflicting emotions. It is the collision of good news and bad news.  If you had never heard the story, you would probably conclude that this parade into Jerusalem is the happy ending to a wonderful story about Jesus being proclaimed as the Davidic King, come to set his people free. But we already know about Friday. We already know that things turn ugly for Jesus in just five days.

D. And so we read the story of this procession with a sense of foreboding. It’s hard to celebrate an execution. Parades are usually about joy. Super bowl champions have a ticker tape parade down Main Street. The President parades down Pennsylvania Ave. at his Inauguration. But this parade, when seen through the eyes that already know about Friday, looks more like the parade in Washington D.C. in November of 1963 with a caisson and a casket and a rider less horse.

E. The triumphant entry into the city was not the final triumph. And even amidst the Hosannas and praise, there is that underlying, haunting sense of foreboding and pending bad news.  All glory laud and honor to thee redeemer king, to whom the lips of children their sweet hosannas bring.  To thee before thy passion….  Oh, you had to bring that up.  I wonder if Jesus glanced up at the hill of skulls as he rode into town.  My guess is that he already knew how fickle people could be.

II. DOWNARDLY MOBILE SAVIOR

 

A. Mark tells us about the colt and the leafy branches and Jesus is coming through that gate to the cheers of the adoring crowd which is shouting, HOSANNA! A rough translation of that word is SAVE US RIGHT NOW!  It sounds more like a demand than an exclamation of praise.  In Stephanie Jaegar’s blog, she included a picture of a piece of graffiti on a wall in Jerusalem. It read, WE NEED PEACE.  It struck her as a modern day equivalent to Hosanna. The people of that region are desperate for peace. While governments and terrorist groups maintain a steady stream of bad news, the people long for the chance to live their lives in harmony and security and peace. The man who is responsible for opening and closing the Church of the Holy Sepulture in Jerusalem is a Muslim. He says he does this out of respect for the Christians. He said, “All I want, all any of us want is to live in peace and mutual respect.”  Can you demand peace?   It seems like that what hundreds of thousands of young people were doing yesterday. God does. Through the prophets God says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It’ an

B. I think that is what Jesus was hearing on Palm Sunday. They were desperate for some good news. They were ready to exalt and glorify this one who came in the name of the Lord; even this silly looking donkey riding They didn’t understand. Maybe we still don’t. Jesus came as more than a conqueror. He came with no army. He came to change the world with love. He was already a downwardly mobile messiah.  His poll numbers would drop rapidly that week. Paul tells us that he was one with God and willingly gave that up to become a human being with all of humanities limitations to die an excruciatingly painful death alone and in disgrace.

C. This hymn in Philippians is called the kenosis, the emptying of Christ. He humbled himself for the sake of all of us; even to death on a cross. He was the stone that the builders were rejecting. He knew that the crowd could not really exalt him. It was only God who could do that. And God would do that, so that we have the audacity to call Friday, good.  God has this amazing way of turning death into life and bad news into good news.

III. OUR KENOSIS VICTORY

A. Defeat becomes the ultimate victory.  Jesus knew that this parade into the city was not the ultimate victory. That would come a week later. But there was no shortcut to the empty tomb. It was by way of the cross. And when Jesus totally empties himself in death, God highly exalts him. So that his is the name that is above every name. Something like I AM!  They crown him; they kill him: will we follow him?

B.Jesus 8is Lord and Savior. That’s what this passage asks us to believe. But as my late New Testament professor used to ask “What does this passage ask us to DO?” Paul sums up the ethical expectation in this line. “Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus.” In other words, have the same attitude that we have seen modeled in Jesus. That would tell us that Palm Sunday’s triumph is short lived as is any exaltation that comes from people. We have lots of examples of self -inflicted decline.  As they say, It’s a short trip from the penthouse to the outhouse. Remember John Edwards, Gary Hart, Richard Nixon and now Bill Cosby. But Jesus was not like them. Jesus is less.  And He tells us that our call is to be self-emptying. So we take on characteristics like humility, and compassion. We start to put the interest of others before self-interest naturally.

C. Famous jazz trumpeter Miles Davis was asked to write the score for a movie where there is a major plot twist near the end. Davis said, “Well it got a wrinkle in it don’t it?” So this happy parade into Jerusalem turns deadly. It definitely has a wrinkle it.

D. Jesus didn’t pull punches. He said, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” WOW!  Jesus, you aren’t making this Christianity thing an easy sell. It might have been if Palm Sunday were the happy ending of the story. But now, there is a cross involved.  And the final exaltation is not by humanity, but just as with Jesus, it is God who ultimately wins the victory for all who are willing to empty themselves of self. And that is indeed good news.

IV. DEEP-SPIRITED FRIENDS

A. And while the rhetoric may sound easy, living it is hard.  We take up crosses many times without deciding to do so.  A child dies. There is no greater agony than that.  You are “down sized” at 55. The doctor says, “It’s malignant.”  Your husband leaves you with 2 kids and an uncertain future.  Your best friend commits suicide. And we ask ourselves are we strong enough to cope? And the answer is   And then God comes alongside us and holds us and weeps with us and reminds us that this is not the end of the story. And when hope is renewed God helps us see beyond the easy good news of our Palm Sunday victories through the pain of our crosses and to the bright light of a real victory that only God can offer.

 

 B. So often it is defeat and loss that make room for grace. An ancient Rabbi wrote that “the Word of God is laid upon the heart of a man. But it cannot penetrate until that heart is broken.” God allows us to see the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be. And here is even better good news; you don’t have to go through it alone. Somebody you know right now has a broken heart; maybe it’s you. But it is is always all of us. When one weeps we all taste salt.

C. When Paul writes Have the same mind in YOU that was in Christ Jesus, it is the plural you. A friend of mine named Eileen was from Texas. She kept saying YALL to me. I asked her what the plural for YALL was. She told me that the singular was YALL and the plural was ALL YALL!  This word from Paul is ALL YALL.  God wants us to be in this together when we face the pain and when we experience the victories.  We are made to face it all as a community of believers, supporting one another as Peterson’s translation says, “As deep-spirited friends.” When Jesus went out to Gethsemane to pray he only took his closet friends with him to the garden of anguish. We all need garden friends. That should be our goal as a church. It should be a place to bring your deepest pain and our greatest victory to share. You are here for me, and I am here for you and that is really good news.  I close with a song by K. Blanchard. (Play the song)