Posts Tagged ‘Conflict’

On The Verg 3-29-15

This morning’s sermon comes from Mark 11:1-11 and features the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem which kicks off the final week of his life. In the sermon I explore the stark lack of conflict and tension that’s present in the story.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/on-the-verge-3-29-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:
Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
I graduated from high school in May of 1997…and one of the highlights for me happened just a week or so after my graduation, when I along with two of my closest friends packed up my parents old pop up camper, and ventured up to a resort in northern Minnesota for a week’s worth of camping…just the guys.
Now…being typical young guys…the notion of roughing it didn’t really sound that appealing to us…and so in addition to having the camper…we also brought along a lot of the comforts of home…we had a small fridge so we could keep things cold…we brought along a stereo because we had to have tunes playing in the background…and we also brought along a tv and vcr…hey it was the 90’s, dvd’s weren’t around yet.
Now we didn’t really use the tv/vcr that much, mainly only after it got dark or during the one day of the week when it was rainy and we had to stay inside the camper…but there was one afternoon when we embraced our science fiction loving nature, and we sat down to watch a long movie…actually it was a mini-series that had aired on tv back in the early 80’s…a mini-series called V.
Now both of my buddies were familiar with this show…as they are both a couple years older than me they were actually old enough to remember it when first aired…but it sounded interesting to me…being about a group of aliens that show up on earth…in what seems to be a peaceful manner, only to reveal that they are lizard people intent on eating us…and so we sat down to watch it.
Going in, I knew that it had aired as a miniseries and so it would last several hours to watch…and it did…but what I didn’t know, was that this mini-series was intended to introduce the following tv series…and so there was no real conclusion. And for three plus hours I sat there, watching a lot of boring exposition…and a little bit of action…but not much…the entire time thinking…Okay, something will happen…there has to be a climax at some point…and as the minutes passed by…nothing happened…until finally in the closing scene, some random guy takes a can of spray paint and puts a big V on the wall…A V that stands for the fact that humanity is going to fight back…and one day we will have victory over the invaders…and then the screen fades to black around that big red V…before the credits rolled.
And I remember being so mad…because nothing happened…there was no climax…nothing…and to this day, if the guys want to get a rise out of me, all they have to do is say “V” and I get a little twitchy. (pause)
Now perhaps you’re wondering just what this all has to do with our gospel lesson for today…and admittedly that’s a fair question…for today is one of those days of celebration…Palm Sunday…the Triumphal Entry…the day that Jesus finally hops on the donkey and rides into Jerusalem…riding in to the joyous shouts of Hosanna in the highest…as the entire city rejoices at the arrival of the King. (pause)
Now granted, Palm Sunday isn’t quite as big of a deal as some of our other “big days.” Easter’s a week away…and Christmas is the other obvious one…but still…Palm Sunday is one that we celebrate…at least on a smaller scale…but the interesting thing about Palm Sunday…joyous though it might be…is that it tends to be just a little more muted because we know what’s coming don’t we? (pause)
Yes, Easter is just a week away…we are almost through this dark season of Lent…we are almost to the amazing moment when the angels roll away the stone and the resurrected Jesus comes walking out of the tomb…but before we get there…we still have some rough stuff to get through…We’ve got opposition…tension…a final meal…anguish in the garden…and a crucifixion to get through before Jesus can rise again. (pause)
And so here’s the thing…knowing what we know…knowing what’s still in store…doesn’t Palm Sunday always seems just a little premature…because we know what’s right around the corner. (pause)
Now here’s something that gives me just a little bit of pause today…I’ve gotten far enough into my years of ministry now that I’ve had the opportunity to preach on Palm Sunday during all three years of the lectionary…I preached out of Luke during my year of Internship…and a year ago for our first Lent and Easter season together, Palm Sunday came out of Matthew…and now this year its Mark.
And even though I often times remind myself that we shouldn’t try to mix up the different gospel accounts of the same story, I’ve found myself doing it all week long with this one…and not only the triumphal entry itself, but really the different accounts of Jesus’ final week of life in and around Jerusalem. (pause)
And there’s a pretty stark difference between Mark and the other Gospels…and that difference is the complete lack of conflict in this story. In Luke, its not even subtle…the Pharisees and Sadducees, you know them…the go-to Biblical Badguys…come right out and argue with Jesus, telling him to instruct everyone waving their palm branches and shouting out joyfully that they need to keep it down…Matthew is a little bit more ambiguous, but the question is raised throughout the entire city of “Who is this man that they cheer for?”
But Mark…well Mark’s got nothing…the only hint of any sort of opposition at all occurs when the two disciples find the colt…and some random person says “Ahh guys…how come you’re taking that colt?” “Well the Lord needs it.” “Umm…okay.” (pause) That’s it…there’s nothing else…there’s no conflict at all…and everyone just seems excited that this guy is riding into the city.
And let’s be honest…as great as the celebration seems to be…isn’t it completely anti-climactic? Think about it…Jesus comes riding into town…and everyone seems to come outside to gawk and to cheer…which is maybe understandable…they didn’t have cable or wifi to keep them occupied, so I guess this would grab some attention…for about 5 minutes anyway…because did you notice that the crowd melted away…almost instantly?
YAY!!! HOSSANA!!!! Ummm…okay let’s go back inside….beacuse we hear that HE…entered the city and went into the temple. Not the crowd following him…just him…seemingly by himself now…crazy…and here’s another thing…both Matthew and Luke tell us that he enters the temple and immediately we hear the story of the cleansing…when Jesus goes off on the merchants and money changers….CONFLICT!!!!
But here in Mark…that doesn’t happen till the next day…Seriously…Jesus rides into town…the crowds cheer and then leave…and he walks in the temple…takes one look and leaves again…NOTHING HAPPENS…It raises the question of just why in the heck Jesus even went into the city in the first place…he started off in Bethany…he rides in and then promptly heads back to Bethany again. WHY?!?!
Now here’s the deal about Mark…out of all of the gospels…Mark, even though it’s the shortest one…is the most thorough about details of the final week that Jesus spends in Jerusalem before his passion…and as the days tick by, two things happen…the tension and opposition steadily increases…while at the same time those coming along for the ride with Jesus steadily decrease. (pause)
Think about this for a moment…we begin here…with the triumphal entry and ZERO tension…no one is squawking…no one is scheming…but then we have the cleansing of the temple the next day…and Jesus butts heads with the religious leaders over things over the next couple of days…and then the last Supper and the garden and the arrest and the trial and the eventual crucifixion…that’s all ahead…building steadily.
And on the flip side today, we have the entire city cheering for Jesus, but they’re gone by the end of the ride into town…and Jesus is left with his large gang of followers…but then by Thursday, we’re down to the 12 disciples sitting in the upper room…and then they head out to the garden where Jesus experiences his anguish…and he’s only got 3 men with him at that point…and then pretty soon he’s arrested and everyone’s tucked tail except Peter who follows at a distance…and then the next thing you know Jesus is alone…hanging on that cross. (pause)
The tension mounts and the people fade away…turning their backs on him…betraying him…abandoning him…(pause) And we all come to expect this don’t we? As we sit here today…Palm Sunday, knowing what’s to come…knowing that one by one everyone will turn their backs on the savior of the world…how can we celebrate today? (pause)
But here in Mark…that’s exactly what happens…and admittedly, I’ve found myself irritated by it this week. I want there to be opposition…I want someone to speak out against Jesus…to squawk at him…to do something…don’t just cheer for him…someone be the bad guy…anyone… (pause)
Because…if there’s a bad guy that we can point at today…even in the midst of the celebration…then maybe, just maybe the eventual betrayal of every single person during the course of this week won’t feel quite so bad…because if there’s someone that we can point our finger at today…then it takes the pressure off of us…it makes the betrayal just a little bit easier to swallow.
But that’s not the case…here in Mark’s gospel…the entire city…filled with Jewish people from all over the known world…a crowd of people that we might as well call the entire world loves Jesus…and I guess that includes us too doesn’t it…for about 5 minutes…
But one by one…as this week marches on…EVERYONE leaves him…and I have to say that includes us too because on Friday, as he hangs there, gasping for breath…he…is…alone. (pause)
And perhaps when we think about that we wonder just how it is that we abandoned the Savior of the World…after all, this happened 2000 years ago…we weren’t there…we didn’t do it…but then we remember the power of sin and death in this world…and we realize that our own sinful nature…the darkness that resides right here…turned away from Jesus whether we were standing in that crowd or not…whether we were holding the nails that pierced his hands or not…we all did it.
But the amazing thing about this…is that if Jesus had it to do all over again…and the world consisted of Jesus…God in Human form…and one other person…you…He would still do it…he would still take it…and he would do it willingly in order to beat back those powers of darkness that hinder our relationship with God.
That’s the glory of the gospel…that God willingly does this…even for a world that turns its back on him…even for individuals who in one moment are cheering for him…and in the next are ignoring him…and this all happens in the next 7 days. (pause)
So today we cheer…knowing the back of our minds that today’s joy does not last long…and that things are about to get a whole lot darker…and that one by one we will turn and walk away…leaving our Lord behind…but praise be to God that he takes it…and in the end, we rejoice in knowing that he took it for us…and that if he needed to…he would do it all again.
Today is Palm Sunday…and we’re almost there…because this week it happens…we’re on the verge…so let’s walk this final road to the cross together. Amen.

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