Title: Weird Sunday
Text: Matthew 21:1-11
Thesis: As followers of Christ we honor him by submitting to his absolute authority and bow to his sovereign rule in all things.
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I am with the guy whose response to the irony of this scenario was to think, “This is weird!” Then, in trying to find some kind of normalcy in the weirdness, stammered, “Not weird!”
When I think of something being weird I am thinking unnatural or strange or odd or interesting in a quirky kind of way.
Did you know that the Jedi Church, a Star Wars spin-off religion) is the most popular alternative religion in England and Wales? There are more Jedi Knights there than there are Pagans, Atheists, Agnostics, Heathens and Scientologists. The Jedi Church believes that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together. The Jedi religion believes there is something innate inside every one of us and that our sense of morality is innate. So quiet your mind and listen to the force within you! The Jedi Church web site states: All Welcome. The Jedi Church recognizes that there is one all powerful force that binds all things in the universe together, and accepts all races and species from all over the universe as potential members of the religion. Join the Jedi Church today!
While the Jedi Church seems off the wall to us… a closer look at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday has its own kind of weirdness… Palm Sunday poses a weirdness or out of the ordinariness that compels us to rethink our relationship to Christ.
If Jesus Christ be King then… then what? What does that mean to us some 2,000 years removed from that event? Is this simply an historical event or is this happening fraught with implications for all those who would follow Christ even today?
The primary implication for all who follow Christ is that we submit to his authority.
I. We submit to his authority
“Tell the people, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey… riding a donkey’s colt.’” Matthew 21:5
This Gospel account cites the Old Testament prophecy from Zechariah 9:9-10, “Tell the people of Jerusalem, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey – riding on a donkey’s colt.”
The whole idea of anyone riding on a donkey is weird… and even more so when it is the King.
In the old Clint Eastwood and Shirley McClain western, Two Mules for Sister Sue, Sister Sue is a cigar smoking, whiskey drinking nun who rides a donkey. While Clint Eastwood leads the way on his big sturdy, manly mans mount, Sister Sue trails along behind gently switching the rump of the donkey with a stick to keep it moving.
Here in Colorado the Cripple Creek community maintains a herd of donkeys, some who are purportedly direct descendants of the donkeys who worked the Cripple Creek Gold Mine back in the day. Today the donkeys roam freely throughout the hills, streets, neighborhoods and even downtown Cripple Creek. They are quite the amusement.
A few years ago the city fathers seized upon the idea of having an Annual Donkey Derby the last week in June as a tourist attraction. They even have a Donkey Derby Track south of town. Donkey riding races did not pan out so now they just lead the donkeys through a series of obstacles.
Donkeys are not exactly the ideal conveyance… Donkeys are cute and amusing and but mostly a novelty to us. So the idea of a King riding a donkey is somewhat like a Head of State riding in a Yugo
Time Magazine named the 1985 Yugo one the 50 worst cars built in the last 50 years. It is said that the Yugo cars back windows were heated so you could keep your hands warm while you pushed them
According to Wiki people, the motorcade for the President of the United States comprises twenty to thirty vehicles; in addition to the president, the motorcade may carry his spouse, members of the press, security, White House officials, and VIP guests. The major members travel in armored vehicles, typically specially configured limousines. The motorcade contains several armored vehicles, a USSS Electronic Countermeasures Suburban, a counter-assault team, and Secret Service agents. When called for, a hazardous materials team precedes the motorcade on alert for potential hazards. A police presence precedes the beginning of the presidential motorcade to clear traffic.
Some may get a kick out of seeing our President riding on a donkey but it is hardly presidential.
Yet in that day a King who came in peace rode a donkey… not a war horse but a donkey. And the people honored the King who rode a donkey by throwing their garments on the roadway so the hooves of the King’s donkey did not touch the dirt.
On Wednesday when President and Mrs. Obama landed in Houston, former President George H. Bush was there to meet them when they got off the plane. President Bush, always a class act, was quoted as having said, “When the President comes to your hometown you show up to greet him.”
Here in the United States we hopefully still respect the office of the President. The Presidential Office is the Executive Branch of our government. The President’s power is considerable but limited by the Legislative and Judicial Branches of Government. All three Branches of Government are guided by the Constitution of the United States.
Though many would love for the United States to be a democracy, in practice it would be very cumbersome if every citizen had his or her wish to vote on every decision in our country. We are a democratic republic which simply means the people elect representatives to govern. It is a system of government that ideally represents the people it serves though it seems it is a government increasingly influenced and guided by special interests. Non-the-less, we the people have it within our power to elect and/or remove from office our representatives.
The United Kingdom has a Constitutional Monarchy form of Government which empowers elected representatives to govern and makes the Monarchy largely symbolic. The Monarchy is publically funded but is essentially a figurehead government.
In a true monarchy the King holds absolute sway, so to speak. The King is the ultimate power over the kingdom and the people of that kingdom. If the King is a benevolent King all is well in a monarchy but if the King be a self-serving monarch the people suffer.
In either case, the subjects of an Absolute Monarchy submit to the authority of their King.
This Absolute Monarchy bit is what makes what Jesus did and who Jesus is a bit weird for us. This is an odd way of doing things. This is totally contrary to our experience.
We are protesters and we march and wave placards when we aren’t happy. We call for the impeachment of elected officials. We force recall elections when we aren’t happy with our elected officials. We can fill our email boxes with all manner of anti-Obama tripe we wish without thought of recrimination. We send signed petitions to our elected representatives in attempts to exercise the will of the constituency. We march on Washington when we are displeased with things like the “sequesteration.” We do not particularly dislike the fact that there is a sequesteration; we just don’t want to be the ones affected by it.
But in a Monarchy we do not get a vote. What we get is the privilege of living under the rule of Christ in our lives.
Along this line of thought Richard Foster wrote in his book, Money, Sex and Power, “If money [for example] determines what we do or do not do, then money is our boss. If God determines what we do or do not do, then God is our boss. My money [or whatever] may say to me, “You have enough to buy that [or do that],” but my god might say to me, “I don’t want you to have that [or do that].” Now who am I to obey?”
Christ is either on the throne of our lives or He is not! (And that’s weird for people with an independent and self-determining, “I am the Captain of my ship” mindset.
One of the most effective visuals I have ever seen is the Campus Crusade for Christ booklet on being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Every person’s life is represented by a large circle.
The first circle represents the life of a person who does not have Christ in his or her life. Within that circle is a chair representing a throne, an S representing that person’s Self and lots of dots representing the things in our lives that we deem important. Outside the circle is a T. The cross represents Christ.
The second circle is represents the life of a person who has Christ in his or her life. In this scenario, within that circle is a chair representing a throne, an S representing that person’s Self and lots of dots representing the things in our lives that we deem important. Also inside the circle is a T which represents Christ and the T, i.e., is seated on the throne. Christ is the Sovereign ruler in this person’s life.
The third circle represents the life of a person who has Christ in his or her life but in this scenario Christ is no longer seated on the throne. The S now occupies the throne indicating that Christ is no longer the Sovereign of that person’s life. The T, i.e., Christ is just another interest in that person’s life along with all the other interests.
The challenge even today is to place Christ in the place of highest honor on the throne of our lives. That challenge is especially challenging because that is not our life experience and that is not how we think as Americans living in a democratic republic.
On Palm Sunday the people spread their garments on the road ahead of Jesus… and were shouting, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 21:8-9
Here in the United States we have a weird way of celebrating. Recently when the UCONN Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in the final March Madness NCAA game, the students in Storr, Connecticut went all raucous setting fires and generally smashing up stuff. And when the team arrived home they were greeted by fans lining both sides of the street celebrating their national championship. (Had the Broncos defeated the Seahawks earlier this year a similar celebration would have happened here in Denver).
It seems most public gatherings are either celebrations or protests. I think George H. Bush is the exception when he says, “When the President comes to your hometown you go out to greet him.” We are not big on pomp and circumstance. We are not big on lining the streets to get a glimpse of William and Kate and little George as they pass by. In fact, the idea of lining both sides of the roadway, removing our coats and placing them on the road so whatever the honoree was riding in or on did not even have to touch the dirt is totally foreign to us. It’s just weird.
Roberto Benigni is an Italian guy who won an "Oscar" in 1998 for best actor in the film "Life Is Beautiful."
I read that upon hearing his name called, Roberto Benigni leaped to his feet ... threw his arms in the air ... skipped across the tops of the seats ... bounded to the stage ... squeezed Sophia Loren so tightly that he nearly crushed her... and then rambled (in half-English, half-Italian) about "this being a moment of colossal joy," and wanting to "kiss everybody and die in this ocean of generosity."
This being the same man who once bear-hugged the Pope, kissing him over and over, while calling him "Babbo" ... or "Daddy." Leading the Pope to say: "You are very Italian."
Roberto Beningi would have fit right in on Palm Sunday. He’d have no problem throwing down his coat and waving a palm branch.
Interestingly,there was another guy who came up to get his Oscar that same year ... one of the lesser Oscars ... shortly after Benigni received his. And, in expressing his gratitude, this very reserved gentlemen, whose name I do not know, began by saying: "Inside, I feel like Roberto Benigni." And the audience chuckled. They chuckled because that kind of unrestrained enthusiasm is unusual… we may like it when we see it but we aren’t likely to be or even capable of being that demonstrative. (Matthew Rogers in "Mission: Hosanna!" on www.sermoncentral.com)
We are all wired differently and to suggest that the uninhibited person is more devout than the more restrained is unfair.
The thing for Christians living in a democratic culture is to rethink our relationship to Christ as our King. As followers of Christ we honor him by submitting to his absolute authority and bow to his sovereign rule in all things.
It may feel weird and unlike the culture in which we live but it is the way we live in the Kingdom of Christ.