Sermon 4-5-20

April 5, 2020

Passion (Palm) Sunday


I wish I could hand you a Palm branch today, for you to wave. I love Palm Sunday! It’s a day to celebrate the coming of King Jesus, as He rides the little donkey on the Main Street of our town. He was celebrated in Jerusalem on that Sunday, some 2,000 years ago. By Friday, He was condemned to die on the cross by Pilate, the Roman-appointed Governor. You and I know ‘the rest of the story’. He was laid in a tomb, to rise again on the third day! I have a ‘creative’ sermon ready for you for Easter! Stay tuned!


- Rev. Jim

Please read: Matthew 26:31-35

"FROM FLASH TO FUNKY"


IF WE WERE TO READ THE NUMBERS OF THE ‘FINAL SOLUTION’ BY THE NAZIS FOR CURING THE TROUBLES OF THE THIRD REICH, WE WOULD NOT FIND IT UNIQUE. STALIN KILLED MORE PEOPLE THAN HITLER, SO DID MAO. THE HUTUS SLAUGHTERED A LARGER PORTION OF THEIR OWN IN A SHORTER PERIOD OF TIME. THE BRITISH TOOK OUT THE WHOLE TASMA-NIAN RACE. NOT ONE IS LEFT. WHERE ARE THE APACHES TODAY?


YET THE NAZIS WERE SPECIAL, IF FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT THEY WERE SO ORDINARY. THEY WERE NO FRENZIED, SPONTANEOUS MOB. THEY WERE NOT PEASANTS. THEY AROSE FROM ONE OF THE MOST CIVILIZED, MODERN NATIONS! THEY WERE GREETED WARMLY BY THE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES IN OUR COUNTRY. THE NAZIS KILLED SIX MILLION JEWS. THE LAST CENTURIES’ WARS AND UTOPIAN GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS HAVE MURDERED 150 MILLION!


THIS IS WHY WE LOVE SIMON PETER. HE IS LIKE US. HE’S THE ‘A’ STUDENT IN CHRISTOLOGY 101. THAT DAY AT CEASAREA PHILIPPI, HIS WAS THE FIRST HAND UP IN RESPONSE TO JESUS’ “POP QUIZ”, “WHO DO PEOPLE SAY THAT I AM?” PETER RESPONDED, “YOU ARE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!” JESUS TOLD THE REST OF THE DISCIPLES HE WISHED THEY COULD BE AS PERCEPTIVE AS PETER. JESUS ANSWERED PETER, “YOU ARE PETER, AND ON THIS ROCK, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!” WE DON’T LOVE PETER FOR THAT. WHO DOESN’T DESPISE THE ‘TEACHER’S PET?’ BUT THIS WEEK’S PETER BLOWS THE FINAL EXAM. HE FLUNKS IT BIG TIME!


“WEREN’T YOU WITH THE GALILEAN?” THE MAID IN THE COURTYARD ASKS.


“I DON’T EVEN KNOW THE MAN,” PETER INSISTS. SOME DENIAL FROM THE GUY JESUS CALLED THE ‘ROCK’! SURELY, JESUS MEANT IT TO BE A NICKNAME! SURELY HE MEANT IT AS A JOKE! WE LOVE PETER FOR THAT, BECAUSE MANY TIMES OUR BRASH DECLARATIONS OF FAITH ARE ALSO A JOKE. “I BELIEVE!” WE SAY IN CHURCH. BACK ON THE STREET, AT WORK OR AT SCHOOL, WHEN THERE’S A PRICE TO PAY, “NO, I’VE HEARD OF JESUS, BUT I CAN’T SAY THAT I REALLY KNOW HIM.”


SOME OF US ARE ANCIENT ENOUGH TO REMEMBER LLOYD DOUGLAS’ NOVEL, “THE ROBE.’ ON FRIDAY NIGHT, AFTER THE CRUCIFIXION, PETER AND THE CENTURIAN, ARE REFLECTING ON WHAT THEY’VE DONE THIS PAST WEEK. THE CENTURIAN CONFESSES, “I CRUCIFIED HIM.” PETER SAYS, “BUT I BETRAYED HIM.” WE LOVE PETER FOR THAT. OUR SIN AGAINST JESUS SELDOM RISES TO THE LEVEL OF A CROSS, BUT WE WILL STOOP TO BETRAYAL TOO, IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT.


I LOVE THE WAY AA TEACHES IT’S MEMBERS TO INTRODUCE THEMSELVES AT THEIR MEETINGS: “I’M JANE. I’M AN ALCOHOLIC, BUT BY HELP OF A HIGHER POWER, A RECOVERING ONE.” WE LOVE PETER FOR EMBODYING THAT. FOR WE ARE, MOST OF US, QUITE ORDINARY IN OUR SIN, AND NO REDEMPTION WOULD DO PEOPLE LIKE US ANY GOOD THAT REQUIRED US TO BE HEROIC.


MAYBE THE FIRST STEP TOWARD OUR REDEMPTION, THE FIRST, OF MANY FUMBLING STEPS, IS SIMPLE HONESTY.


DURING THESE SUNDAYS, LEADING US TO GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER, HAVE TOLD US THAT WE ARE SINNERS; THE WHOLE LOT OF US. LENT IS THE TIME, FOR MANY OF US TO SAY, “I’M JIM, AND I’M A SINNER, BUT BY THE HELP OF A HIGHER POWER, A RECOVERING ONE.”


THE CHURCH HAS ALWAYS TAUGHT US THAT PETER WAS THE FOUNDATION STONE OF THE CHURCH. THE POPE IN ROME SAYS THAT HE SITS IN DIRECT DESCENDANCY FROM PETER (OR ‘SHE’. WE NOW KNOW THAT A WOMAN POPE SERVED A BRIEF TIME IN THE NINTH CENTURY.) I DON’T KNOW IF I BELIEVE THAT, BUT I KNOW THAT WE ARE ORDINARY, UNSPECTACULAR BETRAYERS. 2.


IF I WERE WRITING THE GOSPELS, I WOULD HAVE BEEN TEMPTED TO TRY TO CLEAN UP THE ‘ROCK’ OF THE CHURCH. I DON’T KNOW IF I WOULD HAVE BEEN SO HONEST IN PORTRAYING THE ‘GREAT-GRANDADY OF THE FAITH’.


OFTEN THE CHURCH IS GUILTY OF NOT SEEING OUR ANCESTORS IN THE FAITH AS THE SINNERS THEY WERE. GOVERNOR BARNETT OF MISSISSIPPI SAID THAT SOUTHERN-BORN CRITICS OF THE SOUTH WERE THIEVES. ‘THEY WERE STEALING THE DIGNITY AND HONOR OF THEIR ANCESTORS’. THE GOVERNOR WAS RIGHT. HONEST CHRISTIANS LOOK BACK ON THE PAST AND DARE TO TELL THEIR HISTORY IN WAYS THAT DEPRIVE THEIR ANCESTORS OF THEIR INNOCENCE.


THERE IS NO GREATER SIN FOR US AS A PEOPLE THAN THE SIN OF PROCLAIMING OUR INNOCENCE. IT IS A GREAT SPIRITUAL FEAT TO TELL OUR STORY, AND TELL IT STRAIGHT. IN THE PAST FEW DECADES, SOME HISTORIANS AND OTHERS HAVE BEEN ATTEMPTING TO HELP US AMERI-CANS TO BE HONEST ABOUT OUR PAST: OUR TREATMENT OF NATIVE AMERICANS, OUR WAYS WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, OUR PECULIAR BRAND OF HUMAN SLAVERY AGAINST AFRICANS.


PETER SCURRIES INTO THE NIGHT CURSING JESUS. ALL OF US BETRAYERS LOVE HIM AND THANK GOD THAT THE CHURCH HAD THE GUTS TO LEAVE HIS STORY IN THE CHURCH’S HISTORY. DIETRICH BONHOEFFER WHOSE BRAVERY IS WELL-KNOWN IN CHURCH HISTORY, WROTE THIS POEM IN HIS CELL IN 1944: We saw the lie raise it’s head, and we did not honor the truth. We saw the brethren in direst need and feared only our own death. We cone before Thee as men, as confessors of our sin.


THAT’S HOW WE COME BEFORE GOD ON THIS PASSION SUNDAY; ALL OF US, AS ORDINARY PEOPLE WHOSE GREATEST RIGHTEOUSNESS, IF WE HAVE ANY, IS THAT WE ARE CONFESSORS OF OUR SINS.


ORDINARY GERMANS PARTICIPATED IN HITLER’S FINAL SOLUTION. IT TOOK EVERYONE, WORKING IN CONCERT TO KEEP QUIET IN THE FACE OF INJUSTICE; TO WORK THE TRAINS, TO ROUND UP THE JEWS, AND ASK NO QUESTIONS. THE FINAL SOLUTION WAS NOT JUST THE WORK OF A FEW CRAZY LEADERS. IT TOOK EVERYONE, WORKING TOGETHER, ORDINARY 3.


PEOPLE, DOING ORDINARY SIN, THAT WORKED SO VAST AN EVIL!


IT WOULD BE WONDERFUL IF WE COULD RELIGATE THE HOLOCAUST TO THE REALM OF ‘SPECIAL CASES’. THE EVIL WOULD BE DEEPLY REGRETTABLE BUT NOT BE OURS. THE HORROR WAS THAT THE GERMANS WERE NORMAL PEOPLE AND SO WAS THE EVIL. SO IS OURS. FEW OF US WILL RISE TO THE LEVEL OF JUDAS’ BETRAYAL OF JESUS (OR PETER’S DENIAL). WE WON’T CONSPIRE WITH THE GOVERN-MENT AND WE WON’T DO IT FOR MONEY.


OURS WILL BE MORE ORDINARY; STAYING SILENT WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE SPOKEN UP, KEEPING OUR HEAD DOWN WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE STOOD TO BE COUNTED, GOING ALONG TO GET ALONG. AND TO US, OUR ORDINARY SIN, GOD COMES TO US AND FORGIVES US AND LOVES US IN A WAY SO EXTRAORDINARY, IN THIS THE HOLIEST OF WEEKS!


AMEN


Enjoy Palm Sunday worship music by church organist David Rasmussen on the piano.



© 2020 Immanuel UCC
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