Luke wants us to see that this moment in time is not just about humanity. It is about all of God’s creation recognizing, celebrating the presence of God’s Kingdom coming to fruition.
April 10, 2022
“Lengthening the Light For Real Change”
Blessing to the Nations
Pastor Heather McColl
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “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. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.
As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As 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, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Blessing to the Nations Luke 19:28-40
This past Thursday afternoon, when I sat down to write this sermon, I wondered why the Spirit of God was so quiet. Unlike my usual times of prayer and sermon writing, there was no connection. There was no urgency from the Spirit to bring forth the Word of God. There was only silence. There were only a lot of words crossed out on the pages set before me, but there was no sermon coming forward. So I decided to step away and try again later. I decided to wait upon the Lord to bring the message we needed to hear rather than rush through to complete a task.
I share this with everyone because sharing the Word is not something I take lightly. So for me to be authentic to my calling, I need to tell where I am on my faith journey. Over the last few days, more like over the last few weeks, I have been struggling. I have been struggling to find the Light of God in the midst of the darkness, a darkness which is closing in on us more and more every day, a darkness which is threatening to overtake us. Like many of you, as I watched, as I continue to watch the ever increasing images of brokenness and hurt becoming our present reality, I have wondered, I continue to wonder what Word I am supposed to bring this morning, especially in the midst of a darkness which goes against the very shouts of joy we raise in our Palm Sunday celebrations. How am I supposed to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God when in reality, I was wondering where God was in the midst of all this?
You see, normally our tradition is to begin Holy Week strictly with a Palm Sunday celebration. Unlike other churches who do Palm to Passion, we are strictly a Palm Sunday kind of church. No starting with shouts of joy only to end the service with shouts of sorrow. No starting the service by waving of the palm branches only to end by waving away Jesus as we deny him as our Savior. No, it is our tradition to do strictly Palm Sunday celebration, to wave the palms, to shout Hosanna, to celebrate the coming of the Lord.
Yet this year, to me, it feels like our shouts of joy are empty. Unlike in years past, they are not reminding me that our God is still at work in our world, that our God is answering our pleas. They are not reminding me that our God is working to bring healing and wholeness to all of God’s children.
Instead, these shouts of joy are ringing falsely in my ears. They are too bright. They are too noisy. They mask the shouts of lament my heart is making this morning for all of God’s people. And as a preacher, as a person of faith, I’m not sure how I, how we proclaim that the Kingdom of God is coming when I’m not, when we are not even sure where God is in the midst of all this brokenness and hurt that is filling our world right now.
I know I am not the only one asking these questions right now. On Friday, that seemed to be the running theme on all the preaching blogs I follow. All of us preacher types were hoping that people way smarter than us would give us the words to say this morning, words which would make everything better, words which would make everything not so real. Or if they couldn’t do that, then at least give us permission to pull out an old sermon and preach it instead, but nothing like that came forward.
Which brings us to now. All I can say is that as a minister charged to bring the Good News to the people of God, I cannot and I will stand before you with any easy answers. I will not stand before you with empty platitudes or quick fixes to any of this. Because that really doesn’t help anything. Pretending that bad stuff is not happening in our world right now only allows us to mask our pain, to mask our fear. It only allows uncertainty to continue guide us in all that we say and do.
I had thought about changing our text this morning to something more relevant to the situation happening in our world right now. Only to be reminded by the Spirit that in the time of King Herod, in a time of uncertainty and fear, a time in which the governing systems were ruled by power and might, Jesus was born. And the Spirit didn’t stop there. It also reminded me that in the time of Pontius Pilate, who was an agent of the Roman Empire, in the time of Pontius Pilate, the Prince of Peace came riding into Jerusalem on a colt as an agent of the Kingdom of God.
I realized that was why I needed the shouts of joy this morning. I needed to hear again this week, we needed to hear again this week, that this world does not have the last world. We needed and still need to know that God is still at work in our world. We need to hear that for times such as these, as people of faith, we are called to preach the good news always, using words when necessary. We need to know that just when it seems hopeless, just when it seems like the darkness has won, just when it feels like it is all too much, the Kingdom of God will always find us.
It will break into our world. It will break into the darkness. It will meet us where we are, centering us in the presence of our God. Today, the Kingdom of God finds us in our uncertainty, finds us in our fear, finds us in need of hope, by riding in on a colt, ushering in the light and love of God for all of God’s people. Today, the Kingdom of God is inviting us to shout for joy once more. Just like it did all those years ago for the people of God.
The promise of Palm Sunday is that The Kingdom of God finds us in the darkness. It will always transform our shouts of lament into shouts of joy. It will always find us in our fear. It will always transform our sorrow into acts of hope and love. If we take nothing else from today, know this: The whole purpose and point of Palm Sunday is to remember…to remind ourselves that God has worked in the past to save God’s people and God will do so again. God has never ever left God’s people in the darkness and God is not about to start now. God will always bring us back to life.
On this day, what we hold onto is this image of Jesus, surrounded by a ragtag bunch of people, throwing their dirty, dusty cloaks on the ground as they welcome him as their King. He does not come in power and might. No, he comes in peace. He comes in hope.
Sure, the powers that be will try to stop Jesus from doing just that. They will tell him to quiet down his disciples. They will tell Jesus to make his disciples behave. The powers that be will want Jesus to make his disciples stop causing problems. To which Jesus will respond… “Even if they are quiet, the very stones will cry out. The stones will cry out in joy. They will cry out, asking God to save us from ourselves. Even if the disciples are quiet, the very stones will cry out, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near.”
Today, in spite of the world trying to rob us of our joy, as people of faith we will celebrate. We will celebrate the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We find this strength, we find this courage, not because of who we are but because of whose we are. We are children of the most powerful and loving God who came down to earth, who became one of us, and who comes to us again today, riding into Jerusalem to save us from ourselves.
For times such as this, as people of faith, in spite of the darkness, we will celebrate. We know that now and forever more this world will not and does not have the last word. Only God does and right now, our God is riding into Jerusalem on a colt, saving us from the ugliness of this world, bringing healing and wholeness for all of God’s children. In the time Pontius Pilate, in the time of missiles and fear, Jesus comes.
People of God: Hear the Good News! The Kingdom of God is near! Shout Hosanna! Offer shouts of joy! For even if we were silent, the very stones would cry out and proclaim …peace in heaven and glory in the highest for all of God’s creation. Thanks be to God!
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, April 10, 2022 – Blessing to the Nations Luke 19:28-40.