Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | April 1, 2012

2012.04.01 “The Jesus Parade” – Palm/Passion Sunday 2012

Central United Methodist Church

“The Jesus Parade”

Pastor David L. Haley

Palm/Passion Sunday

April 1st, 2012

 

Welcome to Palm Sunday, the day when we join the longest running parade in history, the Jesus parade. We do so to celebrate that day Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was acclaimed Messiah by his followers.

In the church, the way we celebrate the Jesus parade is to “process” in, the sneaky church name for a parade. Now, as then, there are usually palms branches and children involved, although no donkey, since no one wants to clean up afterwards.

Perhaps you heard about the little boy who had to miss Palm Sunday due to a sore throat. When the rest of the family came home bearing Palm branches, the little boy asked what they were for. His mother explained, “People held them over Jesus head as he walked by.” “Wouldn’t you know it?” the little boy fumed, “the one Sunday I miss, and Jesus shows up.”

The problem with Palm Sunday parades, like Jesus’ parade as it entered Jerusalem, is that they never get out of the parking lot. There is no momentous grand finale; the parade just sort of fizzles out. In Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus arrived at the temple, there was no cleansing of the Temple, as in Matthew and Luke, Jesus just goes in and looks around. Meanwhile, outside, the Jesus parade had evaporated, and only the twelve were left.  As the events of Holy Week transpire, even they would drop out also, and the Jesus Parade would become a parade of one.

This may be the most frustrating and challenging part of the Jesus parade: though the longest running parade in history, those in the Jesus parade are always changing. Congregations come and congregations go. People come and people go. Within our congregation, God be praised, there are always new people. But then, sometimes, for everyone who joins, when you turn around again, one or two have disappeared.

You don’t have to be a pastor very long before you learn that the Jesus Parade – as manifested in any one congregation – is always changing.  In my last congregation, I was there for 17 years.  On my last Sunday, though the worshiping congregation was larger, only about a quarter to a third of the congregation was the same as on my first Sunday.

Why is this?  Well, many things.  Primarily, the high mobility in our society means many people move every few years. Given the higher median age of some of our congregations, some people die. There are always those who are unhappy, who decide they don’t like where this particular parade is heading. And it’s also true that sometimes even though people have been active, faithful churchgoers for years, something changes, and they drop out; it happens more often than we think.

So the question arises, no one excepted: How can we remain faithful participants in the Jesus Parade? What’s the difference between those who throng him for a time, and those who enthrone him for a lifetime?

The first difference is that those who enthrone Jesus continue to serve him after the public parade is over; privately if not publicly, but just as faithfully.

In my previous church, there was a group of conservative Christians in town who used to organize a “March for Jesus” parade (I guess they didn’t know about Palm Sunday.) I used to get an invitation for the “March,” which actually began in our church parking lot and went down the street a few blocks past the high school, as a witness for Jesus. But – shy person that I am – I always declined, primarily because I think it more important for those who want to witness for Jesus, to do so in ways that actually benefit others, as Jesus’ himself did. Such as:

 

Be a peacemaker for Jesus.

Teach a Bible Study for Jesus.

Sing in the choir for Jesus.

Visit the sick for Jesus.

Wash toilets for Jesus.

Feed the hungry for Jesus.

Fight injustice for Jesus.

 

Witnessing to Jesus in this way, our testimony for Jesus actually fulfills people’s real needs, and has an impact on the community in which we live. In this way the Jesus parade marches on through the centuries, relevantly and importantly, even if invisibly. After this service ends, how will we continue to march in the Jesus’ parade by our private, personal witness to Jesus?

The second difference between those who throng Jesus for a time and those who enthrone Jesus for a lifetime is that those who enthrone him wave palms and sing his praises in good times as well as bad, in the midst of sorrows as well as celebrations, on Good Friday as well as Easter Sunday.

It’s easy to join the Jesus parade when the sun is shining, the banners are waving, and everyone is cheering us on. It’s not so easy on Good Friday, when as the song goes, “the sky turns black and it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.”  In the Jesus parade, there are always crosses to be shouldered, conflicts to be mediated, decisions to be made, jobs to be done, and times when deep pockets are called for.

That’s why, even in the space of this service, Palm Sunday devolves to Passion Sunday. The truth is many here today won’t be here again until next Sunday, Easter Sunday.  To go from the lesser joy of Palm Sunday to the greater joy of Easter, without experiencing in some way what happens in between, is to impoverish our experience of the Gospel. Unless you experience the disillusionment and despair of Jesus’ death on Good Friday, it’s doubtful you can appreciate the awe and joy of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday. As the old saying goes, “There is no Crown without the Cross.” I encourage you, if possible, to attend Holy Thursday and Good Friday services, where we experience what happens on those days in Jesus’ life in more experiential ways, to prepare us for when those dark days come in our own lives, and we too are tempted to drop out of the Jesus parade.

As we participate in the Jesus Parade on this Palm/Passion Sunday morning, these are just some of the questions we have to ask. Will we stick with the Jesus parade through the years, through all the ages and stages of our lives? Will we march in the Jesus parade privately, when no one is looking, and publicly, when everyone is looking? Will marching in the Jesus parade make us more attuned to the needs and suffering of others, or less, more absorbed in ourselves? Will we stick with the Jesus parade through bad times and good times, through the jeers as well as through the cheers? Will we enthrone Christ as Lord of our life not only on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday, but Good Friday as well, on in fact every day of our lives.

It is such people Jesus calls to be in his parade, the longest running parade in history.  Can we count on you?

 

 

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