Today is one of those days. We go from high high’s, to low low’s. We go from waving our hands and lifting our voices, to deep cries of feeling forsaken. We go from feeling full of life, to a growling emptiness in the pit of our stomach.
Our worship today, as disconnected as it may seem, begins the most important week of the Christian year in two-parts: Jesus, fit for a king entry into Jerusalem, and his passion and death. It is for some like watching the beginning of a movie and fast-forwarding to the final scenes, like reading the beginning of a story then flipping to the last chapter to see how it all ends.
Of course as Christians we know how the story ends. And yet many won’t step foot into a church until after they have found their candy laden baskets and eggs. They and perhaps you are one of them are too busy, too distracted, or too bummed out by all the drama of the week to deal with it. And so we come today to wave our palms and hear about the drama according to Matthew.
We like the fast forward on our remote control lives, we love to read our Cliff or Sparknotes rather than the whole book, we avoid what depresses, disturbs, or disrupts our lives. We live for Christmas and Easter mornings and avoid the smelly barns and funeral homes of our lives at all costs. And so we find ourselves this morning, having waved our palms and heard the passion story… hoping that the joy of Easter gets here without too much of a hassle in between.
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The news of Jesus maybe yesterday’s news for some. Yeah we know, the last week of Jesus’ life starts with his triumphant “fit-for-a-king” entry into Jerusalem. Yeah, yeah, this king thing was foretold by the prophets, Matthew’s story even references Zechariah in verse 31 (Zechariah 13:7). And for some of us we see this whole palm procession thing as Christ entering this assembly now, just as He entered Jerusalem then.
For those who don’t sit back and think yeah, yeah, been there, done that… we get excited and praise His presence among us shouting (okay we’re Lutherans, most will say, while others whisper) a joyous hosanna.
We say hosanna with some not having gotten beyond the going through the motions. Waving palms and singing joyous Easter hymns, skipping the middle of the story, cutting to the end and not dwelling in the messiness, the mysteriousness, the real human experience of Jesus. They find it hard to know or experience Jesus in their lives, because they fast forward through the messy parts, and longing, sometimes pray for the hosanna, happily ever after parts.
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I love Weber and Rice’s rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar” because it shows a modern and yet realistic view of our human reaction to Jesus. We want him to be a king… we want him to be a celebrity… we want him to be a superstar.
- We want to know him, or maybe just have others think that we do.
- We want to be “with the band” not to know him, or ride on those long boring bus rides, or set-up to do ministry with him.
- We want the V.I.P. pass, we want the best reserved seats, and we want to have His glory rub off on us.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” captures the glitzy craziness of that first Palm Sunday. It was a nationalistic religious fervor that whipped the crowd into a frenzy as they waved their palms, wondered what’s in it for me, paraded past the Roman barracks and thumbed their noses in the face of the occupying forces. This circus atmosphere was about this outsider candidate who was here to take charge, kick butt, and make my life better.
Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey sanna, ho sanna…
Hey, hey JC, JC won’t you smile at me.
Jesus Christ, if you’re divine, turn my water into wine.
Prove to me that you’re no fool, walk across my swimming pool.
Hey sanna, ho sanna, sanna, sanna, hey….
The timing was great, Passover… a busy week where Jerusalem was jammed packed with people, a great week for business and a great week to gather with family and friends. The people loved the excitement and all the commotion (think kids the week before Christmas). To top it all off, the buzz around town was not about the war in Afghanisan, dangerous levels of government debt, increased prices for gasoline, or that half of the population is not working… it was all about Oprah, Charlie Sheen, and the Royal Wedding!
Oh sorry, wrong notes… the buzz around town wasn’t about the Roman occupation, the political corruption of Caiaphas and Pilate, increased prices for matzo and temple sacrifices, or the crowds expected for the Passover… it was all about the growing reputation of this Jesus, who some were referring to as a Messiah. How the day before Jesus upped the wow factor on miracles, raising Lazarus from the dead. How after that on the way into town, two more were healed.
Hey sanna, ho sanna. Sanna. Sanna. Hey sanna, ho sanna,
Jesus Christ if you’re divine, turn my water into wine.
Prove to me that you’re not fool, walk across my swimming pool.
Jesus Christ, if you’re divine, throw out the bloody Roman swine.
Hey sanna ho sanna, sanna sanna, hey…
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There is a selfish emptiness for those who just eat the appetizer and dessert. Oh they may be your favorite parts, but you will be hungry quicker and Holy Week will be as empty as a hollow chocolate bunny come next Sunday. Holy Week is all about you, what Jesus the Christ did for you, His walk toward the cross for you, His painful surrender and death for you. It is all about you, your forgiveness, the pursuit of you and the love of God for you. All of this is represented in a week spent walking to the cross, holy happenings for you holy people.
I invite you to get to know Jesus a little better by intentionally spending time with Him this week. He is there by your side, walking with you, and if you pause this week to talk with Him about the holy happenings, join us as we gather in worship on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to be a part of His story, to allow ourselves to be healed and washed, forgiven and fed. Come holy people…
- So you can know the rest of the story,
- So you can chew on the main entrée of God’s meal of love,
- So you can adore and grieve the meaning of the cross, as we walk together and with Jesus.