March 20 Sermon

Why Do You Shout?
A Reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For Palm & Passion Sunday, 2016
Scripture are from the Common English Bible

*CALL TO WORSHIP based on Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
1: O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever!
2: Let Everyone say “God’s steadfast love endures forever!”
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
2: May the gates of righteousness open, so we may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
1: This is the Lord’s gateway: those who are righteous may enter through it.
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
2: We thank you for answering us, becoming our salvation.
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
1: The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
2: This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
1: This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
2: Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
1: Blessed are those who come in the name of the LORD.
2: We bless you from the house of the LORD.
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!
2: The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
1: Let the festal procession lift up branches and make way to the altar.
2: We give thanks to our God!
1: O give thanks to the LORD, for God is good!
Many: God’s steadfast love endures forever!

Responsive Scripture reading THE Entry Into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40)
READER 1: Jesus went ahead with the ascent to Jerusalem. Approaching Bethphage and Bethany, near what is called the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of the disciples with these instructions:
READER 2: “Go into the village ahead of you. Upon entering it, you’ll find a tethered colt that no one has yet ridden. Untie it and lead it back. If anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?” say, ‘The Rabbi needs it.’”
READER 3: They departed on their errand and found things just as Jesus had said. As they untied the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you doing that?”
READER 1: They explained that the Rabbi needed it. Then the disciples led the animal to Jesus and, laying their cloaks on it, helped him mount.
READER 2: People spread their cloaks on the roadway as Jesus rode along. As they reached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the entire crowd of disciples joined them and began to rejoice and praise God loudly for the display of power they had seen, saying,
MANY: “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of Our God! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!”
READER 3: Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus,
CHOIR: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
READER 1: Jesus replied,
READER 2: “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!”

Luke 19:45-48; 20:45-47
We move from Jesus entering into Jerusalem as part of a parade to Jesus entering the temple as an act protest. This is almost civil disobedience, except Jesus is not protesting governmental practices but religious practices. These are acts of passionate, deep feeling.

When Jesus entered the temple, he threw out those who were selling things there. He said to them, “It’s written,
My house will be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a hideout for crooks.”
Jesus was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests, the legal experts, and the foremost leaders among the people were seeking to kill him. However, they couldn’t find a way to do it because all the people were enthralled with what they heard. …
In the presence of all the people, Jesus said to his disciples, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They love being greeted with honor in the markets. They long for the places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”
Here ends the reading. Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

There is a lot of shouting in our scriptures this morning. “Hey, why are you taking my donkey?!” “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of Our God! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!” Hosanna! “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “If they were silent, then stones would shout!” Get out! “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a hideout for crooks.””
There’s seems to be a lot of different reasons to shout, a lot of different tones in the shouting. Surprise. Joy. Rebuke. Public debate. Anger. Justice.
The way Luke tells the story, most of this shouting is occurring between Jewish people. The Jewish population of Jerusalem tripled for Passover. Jerusalem is the most holy place to remember the most holy story of God leading the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
The parade of Jesus and the disciples entering Jerusalem was probably more like a traffic jam: so many people entering the city, no organization, no plan other than to find friends and family. Cloaks thrown on the ground were a sign of welcoming; palm fronds were waved because they were a cheap party favor. Hosanna! Here I am! So Good to see you! Blessed be Jerusalem! Praise be to God! Hosanna!
But there is another group in Jerusalem: the Romans. Their governorship of Jerusalem was tenuous at the best. To the Romans, a celebration of national freedom like Passover might lead to unruly public demonstrations. In order to prevent public gatherings bubbling over to riots the Roman governor of the Roman province of Judea, Pontius Pilate, comes into Jerusalem a few days before Passover. This is an organized entry, a deliberate display of Roman centurions marching in to the city to prevent social upheaval. This entry into Jerusalem is announced with the roar of marching cadences. And some of those soldiers would have been commanded to shout: “Get out of the way!” “Disperse and go home!” “You are under arrest!” In contrast to the hymns of praise sung by the disciples waving palm fronds, Pilate and his soldiers process into Jerusalem with flags and horns and soldiers with weapons.
“Peace can be yours, Jerusalem, only if you accept the control of Rome!”
“Peace can be yours, Jerusalem, only if you would follow God’s laws!”
“Peace can be yours, Jerusalem, only if you love your neighbor!”
Palm Sunday is not about the kinds of things we wave in the air. Palm Sunday is not about the titles we use to describe God or Christ. Palm Sunday is not about the separation of the religious and the political. Palm Sunday is asking us how we will conduct ourselves in public as people of faith. Palm Sunday – in fact all the events we remember as part of Holy Week – continue to raise the question “How will you represent your faith when you are surrounded by people who do not share faith with you?”
When you are away from church folk, how will you translate your church experiences so that people outside the church can understand why church is important to you? When you are in the grocery store, when you are at a school gathering, when you are having dinner with friends, when you are at a family reunion: what words will you use to share the love of God that you have experienced by being a member of this congregation?
I think Luke’s gospel gives us one way to begin that mission. Tell the story. Learn it, compare it to other versions of the story, find those details that are meaningful for you make the story your story and tell the story. That is foundation of the vows we have made in our baptisms: We have promised, by the grace of God, to be Christ’s disciple, to follow in the way of our Savior, to resist oppression and evil, to show love and justice, and to witness to the work and word of Jesus Christ as best you are able.
Go and tell the story.

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