Sermon Passion Sunday April 9, 2017
Matthew 21:1-11 Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 Matthew 27:11-54
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
Do you have welcoming rituals when a guest comes ? We do. At the sound of the door bell we all rush to greet our guests. There is much handshaking and hugging. We offer slippers, take coats, serve drinks from tea to something more substantial. We sit and listen to their news and then we all filter into the kitchen or onto the deck and prepare the meal together. It’s nice.
A few years ago during the children’s time in a Service I was at the children were asked what they did when guests were coming. One bright little five year old piped up “We make the beds”! His mother in one of the front pews nearly died of embarrassment, but what are you going to do ?
Today we read that the Jews were welcoming a respected prophet and miracle worker, perhaps even a Messiah, so their welcoming ritual, an ancient one, was to lay palms and coats beside the road as a sign of great respect. That traditional ritual also had a symbolic meaning celebrating fruition, harvest and a new beginning. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was all of those !
We read and know what this entry in just a few days will tragically lead to. However this day is significant because it was decreed centuries before. This was the day that the Paschal Lamb was chosen and set aside: it had to be a Lamb without blemish and it was kept for four days until it was slaughtered. That is exactly the timing of this week from Passion Sunday, until the Last Supper and Jesus’ betrayal and His execution on the following day, Good Friday. It helps us understand that we are not participating in a random series of events but rather in a defined and refined plan set down centuries before by God. This week is no accident this is God’s plan for our Redemption.
But our task today is to greet Christ the King into the city, into the city of our lives. I use that term because our lives have walls around them, mainly to keep things out but often to keep things in too. Jesus has little hope of riding into some lives even when He comes in humility. This is the time for us to let things out and let things in. Today is rightly a joyous time for us too.
If we were welcoming a King today as well as all the things I described at the beginning of this we would make the beds too. Receiving a King is something we don’t do every day, so like every special occasion we need to plan and prepare for it. Yes we need the bunting and the bands, we need the special menu and a warm atmosphere but we need to clean the streets get rid of the garbage cans, green bins and even the recycling boxes first.
Our minds are filled with many streets and pathways that lead to some difficult places and are often littered with stuff we tried to get rid of but which nobody will take away even though it’s in a garbage bin, we didn’t put it out at the right time. The angers and resentments of past encounters and fears for the future often litter our minds. I know how consuming anger can be especially when repressed and left by the wayside of our thoughts. It’s always there ready to spill over at the slightest upset. You cannot have that mess when the King comes.
And then there is stuff which is rotten, made up of putrid decaying things that form a sludge in the bottom of the green bins of our minds. This stuff needs to be buried for good, never again to see the light of day. It’s all the things that you wouldn’t want other people to see or know you know about, let alone a special guest. It’s those really bad thoughts and vices that we hang on to even when we know we shouldn’t because they stink.
Then there is the mind’s recycling bin. It’s filled with stuff that we no longer want or can no longer use, we are far better to leave it to others. It’s stuff that is no longer our business or perhaps it never was. Interfering in the lives of others is a pastime for some. We think we know what’s best for others but really we don’t, we are just a nuisance. Leave all that for others to work with and utilise they can probably put it to good use without our involvement.
Then comes the street sweeping; sometimes carelessly sometimes with intent we leave a lot of dust and dirt behind us, as we’ve gone through life, that we should have cleaned up long ago. It often includes apologies we never made, forgiveness we never gave, a kindness not done and perhaps now too late to mean anything good. Gather them up and dispose of them properly.
Once all that stuff is out of the way we can do the work of positive preparation. We can seriously discover for ourselves why the King is coming; why He is coming to us; why He is coming in humility; and who is He.
The King is coming to help us start with a clean sheet now that we have got rid of all the junk I just described. From now on we can live in happiness free from all the extraneous things that interfere with leading a happy life. He brings with Him, forgiveness, salvation, eradication of our sins, a code to live by which will keep us on the straight and narrow, and Eternal Life. All of those things are worth jumping for joy over, for waving flags and marching bands.
This King is special. There will be a time when He will sacrifice everything for us, indeed He has already done that, and we must never forget it. The gratitude we owe should surely brighten our happiness today. So now before we get into the difficult things of this week, the terrible things of Holy Week, open the gates of your city and welcome the King. He is ready to come in, are you ready for Him ? Amen.