28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!
“The peace of Christ be with you all”
(and also with you)
It’s one of my favorite moments in the liturgy when someone offers us a blessing of peace and we lob it right back at them. The 40 teenagers who visited us a couple weeks back mentioned how moved they were by the fact that we all mull around hugging and greeting everyone during the passing of the peace. For all you non-Lutherans out there – the reason they commented on this is because in the majority of Lutheran churches it looks more like left-right-front-back…sit. It really doesn’t take long. But the youth groups from Iowa kinda liked how long it takes us to pass the peace.
In our text today we hear of a passing of the peace…but it took even longer than it usually does here at House. It took over 30 years.
37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Peace in heaven.
I wonder if this multitude of disciples knew they were basically the second half of a cosmic call and response?
Because listen to this reading from Luke Chapter 2
the angel said to them, 12This will be a sign for you: you will find
a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying,
14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth!’*
Decades before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, The angel describes Jesus’ first triumphal entry – his entry into the wolrd….. the Christ child wrapped inelegantly in bands of cloth and laying without dignity in the feed box of a barn animal. This is a sign for you says the angel. Here’s the Glory of God. Here is God come to redeem the world as a tiny vulnerable newborn. And then a multitude of the heavenly hosts say “peace be with you” to us in Earth.
Then in response over 30 years later the multitude of disciples say back to the multitude of the Heavenly hosts “and also with you” As this Lord rides triumphal on a donkey into the sacred city of Jerusalem Here again is the Glory of God.
Here is finally a king to bring peace. When the multitude of the disciples pass the peace with the multitude of the heavenly hosts they praise God with loud voices, Luke tells us, “for all the great deeds of power they had seen” Power. Power to heal the sick, power to raise the dead, power to finally fix some things up in here. Here is the king they have been waiting for. The disciples are so over the top with the laying down the cloaks and the praising God and giving glory for their new king that it all makes me wonder… did they notice he was on a donkey? …the one who will bring us Glory….the one who will “fix it” is riding in on a joke on an animal. Yet we wave our branches singing Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Our triumphant conquorer, unlike us, is not limited by such things as human weakness and physics and the Roman empire. With such power good things…wonderful things can happen. Maybe even peace.
They blessed heaven and sang Hosanna assuming that Jesus’ power would bring peace.
The shouts of adulation and hope are barely gone from the air when this King who rides a donkey looks over the sacred city and weeps saying “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!” It is said that in the cultural imagination of the Jewish people, that Jerusalem is the place where heaven and Earth touch. And as this cosmic drama unfolds it is more like heaven and earth collide. Our need for a celebrity savior collides with God’s need to interrupt our plans to bring salvation…even if that means being killed at our hands. So on this Palm Sunday we stand in the presence of a King who accepts the Hosannas of his friends knowing they will betray him and then he turns his face to Jerusalem and weeps.
Stuart told me recently that there are plays and musicals you can attend where the audience itself chooses the ending. The cast must be rehearsed in a number of possible outcomes any of which might occur depending on the will of the crowd. And the will of the crowd is not to be underestimated. as it so quickly, so easily turns from “Hosanna” to “crucify him”.
I suspect this is because, as Jesus said when he cried over Jerusalem, we do not recognize the things that make for peace. Especially when our equation is that Peace is to be had through deeds of power. We can only make peace if we are more powerful than our enemies. After all, we are the country who came up with such things as the Peacekeeper missile.
So maybe it’s not such a stretch to see how disappointing their king will be to them and ultimately us. This king, this Lord, this Messiah who refuses to meet hate with hate – who refuses to meet violence with violence. He simply won’t use our equation of conquering force with force. Instead he voluntarily submits to treachery and abuse not even lifting a finger to condemn, much less over power, those who crucify him.
The beautiful Christ Hymn from Phillipans we heard today puts it like this:
though he was in the form of God, Christ Jesus did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
My friend Debbie Blue says “Listen, Glory doesn’t shine….it bleeds”
The glory of God is found on the cross. It’s as offensive to us today as it was 2,000 years ago. A vulnerable God, a weeping King, a Helpless Lord. When people ask if I really believe this stuff in the Gospels is true I’m like, Yeah. Who’d make THIS up? Nobody would choose this ending. nobody. because it simply offends us. But the truth is that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is his entry into our own dying…our own vulnerability and it’s hard to have a God who instead of smiting my enemies and glorifying me chooses to empty god’s self out and take the form of a slave.
You know, the great poet W.H. Auden was asked once why he was a Christian, instead of a Buddhist or a Confucian, since all these religions share similar ethical values. And Auden said, “Because nothing in the figure of Buddha or Confucius fills me with the overwhelming desire to scream, “crucify him.”