Posts Tagged ‘Mixed Emotions’

Maybe Its Both 3-25-18

In this Palm Sunday sermon, based on Mark 11:1-11, I explore Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, but consider the possibility of mixed emotions.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/maybe-its-both-3-25-18

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

I have a tendency…and I hope I’m not the only person who does this…there are certain movies that are SO good…that when I stumble across them while channel surfing…I’ll sit and watch them. It doesn’t matter where the story is at when I find it…I know these movies so well that my brain fills in the backstory…and I just sit and watch it through till the ending.

One of these movies is Forrest Gump…an instant classic from the mid-90s with Tom Hanks playing the hero…simple minded Forrest Gump…who knows “I am not a smart man.”  Somehow, over the course of about 2 hours’ worth of movie…this simple man manages to find himself present and involved in just about EVERY major event that occurs over about 50 years of American History.

His simple and yet utterly amazing life is shaped by the countless people that he encounters…but throughout all of these major events, he is shaped by the words and advice of those closest to him.  The words of his momma…of Jenny, the love of his life…of his friend Bubba, and his commanding officer Lt. Dan.

Now there’s a scene at the end of the movie that encapsulates this quite well. Spoilers for a 24 year old movie…but Forrest is standing at the grave of his beloved Jenny, talking to her while perhaps reflecting back on the life that he has lived and all that he has experienced…and he says this…

I don’t know if Momma was right…or if its Lt Dan…I don’t know if we each, have a…destiny…or if we’re all just floating around accidental, like on a breeze…But I think…maybe its both…maybe both is happening at the same time. (pause)

I can’t help but think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. Often I hear people talking about the idea of free will, and I hear about God’s plan…seemingly 2 sides to the same coin…and I think Forrest might be on to something…because maybe its both…and maybe, this idea of 2 things happening at the same time…2 things that perhaps seem like they are polar opposites of each other…I think that’s often the case in the life, and perhaps in the thoughts of people as individuals as they go through the day to day experience of life. (pause)

Now, in another thought…in my own recent history, I sort of felt like Forrest Gump. In a 2 hour movie he’s present for countless important events in history…and in a 10 day period over the last couple of weeks, I was present in the place where countless BIG events happened, both in the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as some of the much older events in the history of the Bible and the people of Israel…and one of those events…one of those places that I was blessed to see happens in today’s scripture lesson for Palm Sunday…the event that we’ve come to call the Triumphal Entry…as Jesus rides a donkey into the city of Jerusalem, kicking off what we call Holy Week…kicking off the final week of his life before his betrayal and arrest, which of course culminates in his death on the cross before his glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday, one week from today.

For Jesus, its all been coming towards this point. We’ve heard time and time again, stories of his miracles…displays of his divine power here within our reality. We’ve heard stories of his teaching, and the way it continues to open up old ways of thinking into a new way of being in the world. We’ve heard of his interactions with people…often times the outcasts as he continues to show us what it means that the kingdom of Heaven has come near…and we’ve heard, several different times, his prediction of what’s going to happen in Jerusalem.

And now…we hear the story itself…and I can’t help but think that there’s a lot going on here.  Jesus and his merry band of followers come upon the twin villages of Bethpage and Bethany…just outside of Jerusalem…and it seem that perhaps Jesus has been pulling some strings behind the scenes…He knows that there’s the colt of donkey that the disciples will find tied up outside a house in the opposite village…he knows what people will say when they try to take it…he tells them how to respond…and it happens, just as he predicts. Now maybe he was setting things up ahead of time…or maybe this is evidence of his divinity…and how he knows all things…maybe its both.

Regardless, the two disciples bring the colt, throw their cloaks on it…Jesus climbs on and rides into the city…people along the way are crying out…laying their cloaks on the road in front of him, along with waving the leafy branches that they’ve cut.

Now, think about it for a moment…how do you pictured this scene? I’ve long thought about it, that Jesus rode down a little bit of a hillside, pretty much in a straight line, and then came back up just a little ways to the gate of the city…people chanting and celebrating the whole way…I’ve always pictured a very joyful scene…like everyone’s really happy that he’s here…with the possible exception of the religious elite trying to hush everyone that we hear about in Luke’s account.

But…things are little bit different in my mind this time around…because 7 days ago…I was standing on the Mount of Olives…I stood there and looked…just as Jesus must have looked…taking it all in….and I wonder what was going through his mind…had he planned this? Or was it just happening. Was this intended to reveal his divine kingship to the world…or was it all just a coincidence? We don’t know…we don’t know.

But what I do think is this…Jesus was there on top of the Mount of Olives…and he looked to the west…and there was the temple mount…not far away…maybe 5-600 yards as the crow flies…but before he could get there…he had to go down through the Kidron Valley…now this is no simple low spot between hills…it’s a deep…deep ravine…with utterly steep sides…today, each side of the valley is utterly filled with graves…its literally a grave yard, its literally a place of death…Jesus would have looked across this valley…and it was nearly evening…the sun likely going down on behind the city, the valley growing darker with every passing moment.

Perhaps Jesus looked to his left, and out there to the south of the city was the valley of Gehenna…the valley that served as a trash heap for the city…a place where a fire was perpetually burning to consume the waste and the garbage and even the bodies of those condemned by the Romans…he would have seen the smoke rising from that fire.

This is no simple little walk that Jesus was about to experience…and I wonder what was in his head as he looked and saw all this. Was he determined…was he happy and joyful…was he concerned? He knew what was coming, just as we know now. Is he afraid yet? In 5 more days he’ll sweat blood in his agony…is that in his mind?

How easy would it have been to just shake his head, slip down off the back of that donkey’s colt and walk away? He could have done it…but he didn’t. He rode down into that deep dark valley…into that place which is now a place of death…and then he came back up from it into the city…with just enough time to look around the temple, and then to walk right back out the same way he came. He literally walked right back through that dark valley a second time, so he could spend the night in the village of Bethany.

Now there’s another aspect to consider here as well…because we don’t know what was in Jesus’ mind and heart in this instant, other than the conviction to do what he must do regardless of the inevitable consequences…and that other factor is found in the hearts and minds of the people that were following along behind and walking along in front, crying out Hosanna in the highest heaven…Blessed in is the one who comes in the name of the Lord…blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David.

I wonder just what they were thinking that day as they cried out Hosanna…because this word is important. 2000 years later, its certainly become a word of praise…of exultation and excitement…one that we perhaps hear in our minds along with children parading around the sanctuary waving palms.

But the word Hosanna…it literally means “Save us now.” (pause) Save us now, you in the highest heaven.  And I wonder, if that perhaps sounds a little familiar.

These would be Jewish people lining the road as Jesus passes by…people coming into the city to celebrate the Passover festival…a festival that literally serves a remembrance to the action that God had taken so long before in Egypt…the action that God took in response to 400 years of crying out in agony for God’s mercy and deliverance.

And now, so many generations later…this same people, who have experienced domination and enslavement from empire after empire…these same people are crying out “Save us now.” Perhaps they hoped to be saved from Roman control…perhaps they saw this man entering David’s city triumphantly and thought here we go…God’s chosen one…God’s anointed leader is finally here…the messiah…the one who will save us.

Were they joyful in this moment…was it the big parade and party that we tend to think in our minds? Or were these cries of Hosanna full of pain and sorrow…were they beseeching God for deliverance, perhaps through this man who could walk on water.  (pause) Maybe its both.

Maybe both is happening at the same time. (pause)

Now as we consider this, I can’t help but think that this dual nature…this tendency towards two different responses…this is truly what it means to be human…because nothing is black and white is it? Within a crowd, there will be some who are feeling joy and happiness…while at the same time there will be some who are experiencing pain and sorrow because of their circumstances…and maybe…just maybe, there are some who are feeling the swirl of both all at the same time.

As we look around this room today, I’m guessing that this is the case. As we kick off Holy Week today, some feel joy…some feel sorrow…some are excited, some feel pain…and you know what…that’s to be expected…because to feel this whirlwind of emotions and thoughts and feelings is simple evidence that you are alive and that you…are…human.

We know that Jesus laughed…and we know that he cried…we know that he felt joy and we know that he felt agony…and we know this because while Jesus was fully divine, he was also human…and what he accomplished…what we will remember this week as we move through it…is that Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven near to us…a kingdom which begins from a place of love and delight…the love and delight that God feels for all of creation…for all of life, because to God all life is precious, even when that life is full of brokenness and pain.

Through Jesus, God was showing the world the way of perfect love…but the world said no…and on Friday we’ll remember that in the literal face of the love of God, the world killed him…and we’ll sit with that…but then on Sunday…God says “Oh you thought I was done?” (pause)

Now its not quite Easter yet, though we do celebrate our Risen Lord each and every day…and so today, allow yourself to be human…allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you need to feel…that you need to think…that you need to experience…even if its joy…even its if pain…Or maybe its both.  And remember that we have a God who can and does continue to willingly enter into places of pain and death and darkness in order to bring us into the light of new life. Amen.

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