Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ain't no Rock

Luke 19:28-40
I have realized something about myself in recent months- something those closest to me have known and have probably tried to tell me for years and years- I am a know-it-all.
I like to have answers. I like to know not only a word, but the right word. And while this can be beneficial when I am writing curriculum, letters, notes of encouragement, even sermons, in conversation it is less than helpful.
When someone else is seeking a word or pausing to gather their thoughts- I feel this compulsive need to feed them their next words, like a stage director in a high school play, knowing that only the correct combination of words will lead the next actor to speak to remember their lines.
“Let me say things for myself!” My brother often told me growing up. It was not out of a desire to control really, or to overtake him, but he just took so LONG and I didn’t want him to be embarrassed by those long awkward pauses. That and my ADHD mind couldn’t comprehend that someone might need a second to digest something before replying.
Perhaps this is why, with this particular triumphal entry story in Luke I have always preferred to focus on the preparations Jesus made before hand. I like the thought that Jesus might have been a bit type A. Prepared for all contingencies, he had arranged for a colt, an unridden donkey, to be ready for his entrance into the city. When his disciples entered they found it just as he had said, and even replied with the prescripted line “The Lord has need of it.” just as Jesus had instructed. No awkward silence there. That’s commitment and follow through!
But as the story goes on, I find things becoming uncomfortable. The disciples pile their coats onto the back of the donkey, and while one could applaud them for their ingenuity, it somehow makes me uncomfortable. Couldn’t they have found a saddle, or a pretty blanket to drape over the young beast? Wasn’t there something more fitting than worn and dirty cloaks?
Then the people start placing their cloaks on the ground in front of the donkey, in front of Jesus, and I get a bit more uncomfortable. Why would Jesus want to come into Jerusalem, the heart of Israel on a pile of dirty laundry? I climb over piles of laundry constantly in my house, there is NOTHING glamorous about the process!
Picture it with me: this rag tag group of followers, people who have left everything to go behind this carpenter’s son, coming into the city in mock parade mode.
Jerusalem, much like our own city of Huntsville, knew the splendor and majesty of a good parade. There are ways to do it right, with flags and bands, with military leaders, with pomp and circumstance. And here, the most important person to ever come to town, arrives with a group of ragga muffins who might as well have been playing kazoos for all its worth.
This display is less than fitting for the God of all creation. This mob scene isn’t good enough for the Savior of the world. Perhaps they will slip by with only mild mocking and gossip. Perhaps it will be no more than a footnote in Christ’s story. But somehow it makes it into all four gospels. Somehow this small time zero production value arrival is important enough to be celebrated every year in the Christian church. Somehow this strange moment becomes a part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in the world.
The people cry out “Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”
And in those words I begin to remember. I begin to remember another entry into the world, some thirty years before this ragtag parade. Where in an unexpected place, with unexpected company, a Savior came into the world. And while angles heralded his birth with the words “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” it was smelly dusty shepherds that spread the news to those in the land. In Luke, there are no kings or wise men from other lands to share the story, only the shepherds, the farm animals and Mary and Joseph know the good news. And they prepare for the world to never be the same.
The Pharisees are a bit of a know it all crowd as well. And so they lean over to Jesus and give words to him, that quite honestly I might have said myself. “Teacher, order them to stop.” They are out of order. They are embarrassing themselves and you. This is not how things are done.
How often have we thought those words, or even given them voice? Especially in the life of the church?
But God did not come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ to keep things the same. God did not become Emmanuel so that things could be done decently and in order. God did not come into the world as a weak and needy infant so that we could demand all things be just as they should be.
When God came it was messy. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, in what we affectionately call the triumphant entry it wasn’t to take over the town. It was an act of triumph of the God who knew he came not to kill, but to die.
The way things had always been done was no longer working. Jesus knew this, that’s why Christ came, to make things right, to make things new, to reiterate God’s love for all, especially the oppressed and downtrodden.
Jesus gives the Pharisees and me a slap in the face answer to our perfectionist preferences. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
If these were silent, the stones would shout. It doesn’t get much more out of the ordinary than that. God’s reign was breaking into the world through a week that would change the course of human and divine history. Jesus knew at this point there was no turning back, God’s plan was in motion, God’s grace was being poured out and the whole world was going to be changed. In this moment God chose not angles, but disciples to share the good news. God chose flawed human beings to bear the gospel message. But the message would not be stopped by their silence. The very rocks would cry out in praise if the people failed their mandate. The line would be given no matter if the people were hesitant to speak. Jesus would be announced as the king by whatever portion of the creation was necessary.
Sometimes, when change is a foot, when God is showing up, when something is happening, we can’t be silent. We have to tell the story. We have to let the world know what we see and what our hearts desperately welcome. And that will challenge and inconvenience some people — particularly those with power and privilege — but it still must be proclaimed. Someone might try to correct us or police our tone, but we still say what we see. If we don’t, someone else will. If we don’t, something else will happen in response.
There is a praise chorus that was popular when I was in college and Seminary it said:
Ain't no rock, gonna cry in my place
as long as I'm alive I'll glorify God’s holy name.
Everybody praise God’s holy name
As long as I'm alive I'll glorify God’s holy name

People of God, let us be silent no more!
Let us not give away the power of our voices to others, to other thoughts, other causes, other beliefs. Let us not give our voices away to the rocks and the trees, leaving them to proclaim the good news we are privileged to share. Let us not turn over our voices to those who seek to maintain the status quo.

Let us praise God’s holy name, let us proclaim God’s mercy for all peoples, God’s love for all nations. Let us cry out with a loud voice “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”