Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | March 20, 2016

2016.03.20 “Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection, Session 6: The Day is Coming” – Isaiah 35 – Palm/Passion Sunday

Central United Methodist Church
Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection
Session 6: The Day is Coming
Pastor David L. Haley
Isaiah 35
Palm/Passion Sunday
March 20th, 2016


Note: This sermon series is adapted from the study, “Roll Down, Justice: A Lenten Biblical Reflection,” developed by the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church, written by Faye Wilson and featuring the music and reflections of life-long Methodist and musician Mark A. Miller. While I drew upon the suggestions of the study guide for each session, my reflections are my own. In this session, we watched Mark Miller’s reflection and music following my remarks below. – Pastor Haley

Session 6: The Day is Coming
The lands in longing call out your name
The tongues are different, the prayer the same
With humble [willing] spirits can we believe
That God is bigger than we conceive?
The day is coming, the Lord will move
With the hand of justice and the heart of love
The will of heaven on this earth be done
The day is coming O let it come. – Laurie Zelman

Isaiah 35 (The New Revised Standard Version)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.  The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart,  “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.  He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.  For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,  and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it,  but it shall be for God’s people;  no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there,  nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


jerusalem-3dA few weeks ago, while looking for something to watch, I discovered a National Geographic movie filmed in Imax3D, entitled Jerusalem3D. In no time, it brought tears to my eyes. Here’s why. (Jerusalem3D is available for rental on most of the online movie sites such as Amazon; I highly recommend it.)

First of all, it had spectacular aerial views of the holy city, including such sites as the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. If you remember, even Jesus wept over the city as he descended the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley, with its stunning view of the city.

Secondly, for every religious person, Jerusalem is a city like no other, home to three faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To this day, a religious procession like Jesus’ Palm Sunday procession would not be out of place; one or several take place in Jerusalem every day. In the film, for example, one of the best shots is a procession of monks heading over the crest of one of the hills leading into Jerusalem.

jerusalem_trio-680Best of all, the movie tells the story of Jerusalem through the eyes of three teenage girls and their families (left to right), and there lies the most heartbreak: Revital Zacharie, a Jew; Farah Ammouri, a Muslim; Nadia Tadros, a Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Each girl tells of their her and dreams not only for the Holy City, but for a peaceful coexistence – which, given the situation there today – still seems far away. And yet – even in times when inflammatory rhetoric and manipulated fear deepens rather than bridges the divides between races and religions – we can still dream ancient dreams of peace and mutual understanding. That is what we do today on this Palm Sunday in our final session of Roll Down, Justice, with Mark Miller, entitled, “The Day is Coming.”

As I said, for all who have been to Jerusalem and experienced the religious circus that it is, Jesus triumphal procession into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday fits right in. And yet while the sights and sounds of the story give us plenty to work with, there is even more that can’t be seen. Wasn’t the air heavy with the hopes and dreams of the ancient scriptures, of the triumphal entry of God’s Messiah into Jerusalem? Were those the thoughts that filled the heads and hearts of those people who lined the way, of Jesus’ disciples, even of Jesus himself? Was this the day God would begin to turn things around, to end the brutal occupation of the Romans and herald in the Davidic Kingdom, on whose throne the Son of David would sit? Didn’t they all feel like they were on the edge of the fulfillment of the ancient dream of the Messianic Kingdom described in Isaiah?

During Holy Week, we see how it turns out – how all idealistic visions of peace seem to turn out – nailed to a bloody cross. Even though we know that is not the end of the story, even now it is not the end of the story: 2,000 years, God is still working God’s purposes out, not only to redeem us personally, but to redeem all humanity, including breaking down the barriers that divide all God’s children.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem that day, there were no Muslims; Islam did not begin until the 6th century. I would remind you there were also no Christians, because Jesus was not a Christian but a Jew, from birth to death. If Jesus were to visit Jerusalem today, he would be amazed not only at how Jerusalem has changed, but how the world has changed.

Now the big blue marble on which we sail through space – Planet Earth – is home to 7.5 billion people, and 84% of them belong to five major religions: Christianity (2.2 billion), Islam (1.6 billion), Hinduism (1 billion), Buddhism (500 million), and various folk religions (400 million). There are 13 million Jews. Almost all of us (especially us here in Skokie) know and work with people of other faiths, and our children go to school with them, some of them are best friends. As we come to know them, we abandon our stereotypes and our suspicions and learn they want the same things we want: for our children and grandchildren to grow up and live in safety and peace and prosperity, as far as possible.

As Mark Miller will remind us:

“When people utter the prayer, “please”, or “have mercy”, “thank you,” these transcend our particularities and connect us together in a larger community. When we recognize our common humanity, we begin to see our Jewish and Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist neighbors not as a threat to our way of life, but as people struggling with the same issues as everyone else.”

And so the dreams of the ancient prophets – of a time when all people shall live in joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away – still hang heavily in the air. I would be willing to live and give my life for those dreams, wouldn’t you?

As the current convener of the Niles Center Clergy, a few Wednesday mornings ago I sat in the Log Cabin with a Rabbi, an Imam, (no, this is not the lead-in to a joke), a UCC pastor, and myself. The Rabbi had just returned from a gathering of Rabbis in Jerusalem, during which time they visited the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition in a show of support, given that it was recently vandalized by extremist Israeli youths. Together we discussed Jerusalem – the city we all love – and the situation there between Israelis and the Palestinians, between Jews and Muslims and what few Christians there are left, and all bemoaned the lack of leaders willing to step forward and lead a way towards peace, which unfortunately – as we know – is not confined to Israel, right now.

Even as the young man Jesus was willing to step forward on that Palm Sunday, to put his life on the line. Through the breaking of his own body, not only would he destroy death, but also break down the barriers that divide us, all of us privileged to live together on this big blue marble sailing through space.

“The lands in longing call out your name
The tongues are different, the prayer the same
With humble [willing] spirits can we believe
That God is bigger than we conceive?
The day is coming, the Lord will move
With the hand of justice and the heart of love
The will of heaven on this earth be done
The day is coming O let it come.” – Laurie Zelman

Now please view the final video in the series, “Roll Down, Justice,” entitled, “The Day is Coming,” which you may view here.


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