I believe that in order to affect change, you must be active. You must be willing to take a stand. To sacrifice. And I try to get that across from time to time in my sermons. Just so happens that this sermon was preached in November of 1994, right after Chicago held it's last mayoral elections, which was filled with Chicago style politics. Chicago -- a great place to live!! If memory serves, I did a bit of ad-libbing at the end of this one, so it may not end in a tidy manner.
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
As we consider the scripture, let us meditate on the following subject:
Let us pray
Dear most heavenly and gracious Father. As we approach the monumentous occasion of the sacrifice of the savior that you sent down to absolve us of our sins, we take this time to thank you and praise you for the deed which you have done. We acknowledge that we, of and by ourselves, are not worthy of such a gift, but through the grace of Jesus Christ, and the fact that we are your children, you have seen fit for us to qualify to walk into your kingdom by way of this sacrifice. We know that this was something that you did not have to do for us Lord, for often, we prove ourselves unworthy of such a gift. But this morning, we thank you. Not only for ourselves, but on behalf of those lost souls who have not yet seen the light. We thank you on behalf of those who have not seen nor heard the truth of your coming. We thank you for those who act out of spite, jealously, arrogance and ignorance, while still claiming to be working in you name. Lord, I ask this morning that you let yours words come through my mouth. Let you take over and be the guide of us all on this faith filled journey that we all embark upon. The journey to know you and your son, Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen and Amen.
Once again, we are approaching the end of the Lenten season and are preparing ourselves to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have come once again to Palm Sunday. It is a time to contemplate and meditate on ourselves and the effect that the death of Jesus, and the process therein, has had on our lives. This is the time when we should lift all of our hearts in praise for this gift.
In this set of scriptures, we have Jesus with two of his disciples, and he instructs them to go and find a colt, untie it and bring it to him so that he can ride it. He further tells the disciples that if they are challenged as to what they are doing, that they are to tell whoever challenges them that they are bring this colt to the Lord and that it will be returned. When they encounter the resistance that Jesus predicts, they say exactly what Jesus tells them to say. As Jesus leaves the temple riding the colt, the townspeople began to lay their cloaks on the ground in deference and respect to Jesus. Others laid down branches if they did not have any cloaks, and yet others, who probably could not make it up to the edge of the road that Jesus was riding down, waved their palms in the air, a show of support for this man who claimed to not only be the Son of Man, but the Son of God as well.
Now, we must understand that this was a dangerous move for some of the townspeople. Active, fervent, public support of Jesus was something that was frowned upon by the local government. The Pharisee's were still not convinced that he was who he said he was. The government officials were always nervous around Jesus. While he was a humble man who spoke of peace and greater things, and while the government was not 100% convinced of the true identity of Jesus, nevertheless they feared him. This fact is not really borne out in the scriptures, however, that is the only conclusion that one can draw from their actions. For they would not have killed Jesus if they did not have either something to fear or something to hide.
So when the people began waving the palms in the air, and laying down the palms and the cloaks, this had to make the government nervous. This had to make them wonder what or who they were up against to cause people to openly defy the sitting government at that time. I can imagine those officials sitting by the side of the road, asking themselves what was going on. A little later in this scripture, the Pharisee's instruct Jesus to order the people to stop their adulation of him, and Jesus tells them that even of the people would be silence, and even if no one said anything, the stones would cry out. So no matter who did or didn't support him, his support would still be there because Jesus was on a mission from God.
But let us go back to the townspeople for a moment. We do not know the identity of these people. We do not know their skin color, we do not know their economic status, we do not know if it was majority men or women, we do not know if it was a majority of Jews or Gentiles in the crowd. We don't even know how many of them were actually in that crowd. All we do know is what is written in the scripture, and that is there were a group of people who were showing open support for this man who was about to be condemned to death.
These people took a chance. They had to know that like most repressive and oppressive governments, that someone was probably in the crowd taking down notes and names of those who were showing support of Jesus. These people had to know that they could face reprisals from the government in the form of harassment and intimidation. These people had to know that even smiling as Jesus rode meekly by on the donkey that some of them could loose their houses or their families or their businesses. But yet in still, they still showed their support for him.
There had to be a tremendous energy surging through that crowd. A large group of people who were waving and yelling, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And there were even people in that crowd who did not know who Jesus was. And when someone asked who was this person, the response was "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
We do not know what the reaction was to the person who asked this question. It is evident that just by the person asking the question that this was an impressive showing for the Savior of Man. But it seems that this open, public support came a little to late.
We here in Chicago just finished an election. We had a mayoral candidate who looked like us, talked like us, and tried to speak for us. A lot of us sit around in our homes and complain about how things are not right, and how things should be changed, but yet when it comes time to show open support, we stay at home and don't vote, having the fallacious view that somehow either our votes don t count or there will be enough people to elect the candidate that we support. We also have leaders in the community who go door to door and ask for individual support. They have the right platform, they have the right motivation and the right level of sincerity, but when it comes to attending a meeting, or going to a function, we always have something else to do.
Then we look at the status of the children, homeless and victimized in our communities. Despite the fact that we are the most technologically advanced country in the world, we are first in rates of teenage pregnancy, we are second in the percentage of our population that is imprisoned, we are 25th in the world when it comes to basic reading and math skills, we are second in infant mortality, third in evidence of domestic violence against women, and we are in the top five when it comes to our murder rate. And in the black community, black women between the ages of 18 and 35 are the fastest growing segment of the population that contracts AIDS. Our unemployment rate is going up, our income is going down, our children are dropping out , our church attendance is falling off, we are not saving as many souls as we should, and voter turnout is at a 40 year low. But when it comes to doing something, or anything about any of these problems, we always seem to find an excuse.
In the time of Jesus, it was much more dangerous to show support of an unpopular opinion than it is now. But, there are still those who wish to tell us who to worship, when to worship, and in what manner to worship. I sometimes get the feeling that if we were all to run out of this church right now, and start waving our hands up in the air in praise and glory to the Lord, somebody would take offense and tell us to stop. And some of those people might be in our own church.
But still, with all of the cultural and socio-economic freedoms that we enjoy that the people in Jerusalem did not and still do not enjoy, we are still often entirely too silent. We don't want to rock the boat or make people nervous, or make people upset. We want everything and everybody to be happy. We don't want to make anyone uncomfortable in the process of saving their soul.
The people along the road while Jesus was riding took a chance. They did not consider the repercussions of their acts. They did not care about the government official who was hanging over their shoulder, spying on them. They just felt the need to praise the Lord and praise the Son of Man and they, at the time, did not care who was watching.
Now, some of us may say, that with all that we have, we are not being watched. The media makes constant reference to the book 1984 by George Orwell when he talked about the computer age being the beginning of rampant government spying and government intervention. We think it can't happen to us, but let me tell you what did happen to one of us, who got involved.
During the mayoral primaries when Joe Gardner was running for Mayor, 33 black ministers came out in support for him because they believed that he was the best candidate for the job. However, the day after the Chicago Sun-Times reported who these ministers were something happened. Most of us know where Martin Temple AME Zion Church is, a church that was built about 3 years ago on Cottage Grove. Well, after Rev. Nathaniel Jarrett's name was mentioned as one of the ministers who supported Joe Gardner, every city inspector came out to inspect that brand new church. Rev. Jarrett took a stand, made a statement and a choice, and while I am sure he was warned not to do so, stood by his decision. However, someone in this city government did like that. So instead of respecting the sanctity of the Lord house, they treated it as political revenge. So, was it worth it for Rev. Jarrett to get involved? Yes. Even though he and his members were insulted and suffered at the hands of a paranoid political campaign, he stood on his principles, he stood for something, took a chance and got involved. And while it may not seem like it at the moment, his reward will come.
We do not know how many people suffered reprisals from the act of public support of Jesus. Maybe nothing at all happened. Maybe some people were jailed, others harassed, maybe some were just left alone. But those people took that chance. They followed the spirit of the Lord in showing their support. They decided that it was important to praise this man, even though they probably did not have a clear idea of what this man had come to do. Sure, they knew he could make the blind see, make the deaf hear and the dumb speak, that he could make the dead live, turn water into wine, but I'm sure most people did not have the clear view of the actual purpose of Jesus.
It would have been very easy for any, or all of those people to stand silently by and say nothing. It would been even easier for some of them just to walk away and go home, and sit in their homes and talk about what a wonderful man Jesus was in private. But they didn't take the easy road. Just as Jesus did not take the easy road when he came the earth. It would have been a simple matter for Jesus to have come to earth as a king, as someone who would have been instantly accepted and loved. It would have been easy for Jesus to have eliminated his detractors with the swipe of his hand. Or, maybe yet in still, it would have be a whole lot easier for God to never have sent him in the first place. But neither God, nor Jesus, nor the people on the road, opted for the easy road. God took a chance on us being a people worth saving. Jesus took a chance by walking among us a talking to us and showing us the way to the kingdom of God. And the people on the road decided that they had to take a chance, that they had to make a statement, that they had to show us that life is a gift not only worth loving, but worth making a sacrifice for on your principles. Those people got involved.
These people have shown us by example what can happen by getting involved. Even though it was a simple act, it was still an act of involvement. We cannot be involved in stopping the spread of AIDS or teenage pregnancy, or erasing illiteracy, or ending homelessness, or curbing ignorance, or halting domestic violence or eradicating racism, if we do not get involved. We cannot properly motivate our young men and women if we ourselves don't get involved. We cannot save souls if we do not get involved. We can do nothing if we do not get involved.
Dr. King once said that a person who stands for nothing will fall for anything. If you're not standing, you're not involved. You cannot be involved by sitting at home talking to your television set. You cannot be involved by not standing firm on your principles. You cannot be involved if you just follow the way of the crowd. You cannot be involved, if you do not involve yourself.
The first step for all of us a Christians to getting involved in accepting the gift that Jesus has given us. Don't not be worried about the government official who is standing by the road taking down your name. God will handle him. Do not be worried about the Pilates of the world. God will hand them. Do not be worried about the Caesar's and the Pharisees of the world. God will handle them as well. Worry about not taking a stand for your God. Worry about not saving souls. Worry about what it would be like if Jesus has not come to save you and me. Worry about not being involved in the body of Christ. For in the body of Christ, there is a freedom that is not affected by the world of politics, or subversion, or racism, or oppression, or any of the ills that we currently possess. In the body of Christ, freedom is not just a concept, it is a constant state, a state that can only be found through Christ.
For once we are involved in the body of Christ, then all things are possible and anything can be done. Once we are involved and standing on the principles that Jesus taught us, then anything can be done. Once we are totally involved in saving souls, then everything will be done.
Let us remember those people on the side of the road who got involved. Let us remember the chance that they took. Let us remember that Jesus got involved, and gave us a chance for a better life. As we prepare for the waving of the palms, let us view it as an act of involvement. An act of supporting our Lord and Savior, who rides by meekly on an donkey, on his way to be crucified for our sins. Let us get involved by showing our support, and God will forever be on your side. It s time to get involved.
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