Summary: We want everything our way -- but what about having it God’s way instead?
Do you remember the words, "hold the pickle, hold the lettuce?"
What’s the next line?
“Special orders don’t upset us – all we ask is that you let us have it your way.”
About 25 years ago Burger King came out with their "Have it Your Way" campaign where if you wanted fast food you didn’t have to get it anyway they made it, you could have a hamburger made especially for you.
And we liked that.
We wanted that hamburger made especially for us, our way. That’s the kind of people we are, we love customization. We like things being tailor made, fit just for us.
The problem is that we don’t stop with material customization, we also want it in our spiritual lives.
We like our church customized to fit our needs.
We like our worship service customized just to our exact taste.
Unfortunately, we also want a God who is customized to conform to our preferences. We want a God who does it our way and that’s a problem. Because God has a habit of doing things his way.
Two different secular publications have written recently about today’s view of God and the church.
The first comes from Los Angeles Magazine, it is an article called God For Sale. The author says, "It is no surprise that when today’s affluent young professionals return to church they want to do it only on their own terms. But what is amazing is how far the churches are going to oblige them."
And a recent article in Newsweek described today’s Christians with these words: "They’ve developed a pick and choose Christianity in which individuals take what they want and pass over what does not fit their spiritual goals, and what many have left behind is a sense of their own sin."
You see we want spirituality.
We want God.
We just want him on our own terms.
We want a God that does it our way.
But that’s not just true of us, that’s been true of every age. Even on the first Palm Sunday, 2000 years ago, they had that same problem.
In our New Testament lesson for today, we read Mark’s description of the first Palm Sunday, what we often call the Triumphal Entry.
It happened during the time of Passover, actually right before Passover. Passover was the greatest celebration of the Jewish people.
Jews would often make it their goal in life to go to Jerusalem at least once for the Passover. So on this Palm Sunday just a few days before Passover began, the pilgrims were already flooding into Jerusalem. They made their way along the dusty roads to Jerusalem, the capital city, the place where God himself dwelt in his temple. It was also a time of expectation – when the people would get excited about the possibility that someday – someday – maybe today -- the Messiah would come.
The Messiah! The one sent by God to free the people.
The Messiah! The one who would overthrow Rome and give freedom to the Jews.
The Messiah! So expectant were the people that families would gather to celebrate Passover meals in homes and they would leave a place at the table for the Messiah.
It was into that mix of expectation and enthusiasm and emotion that we see Jesus getting a donkey and riding it from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem (which by the way was in fulfillment of a prophecy from our Old Testament lesson from Zechariah: “Behold Jerusalem, your King comes to you riding on a donkey." So here is Jesus, fulfilling this messianic prophecy as he rides into Jerusalem amidst the fanfare of the pilgrims all around him. And the pilgrims, they see this and they think, "could this be the Messiah?" And their hopes get the better of them and they begin to wave their palm branches, and they sing songs, and they shout their praises to Jesus as he enters into Jerusalem.
Remember their words, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Those are quotes from Psalm 118, verses 25 and 26, one of the psalms that the pilgrims would sing as they made their way up to Jerusalem. But they go on to shout, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David."
You see the Messiah was to be the son of David, an ancestor of King David, the greatest of all kings of Israel. And the messiah was to restore his great kingdom. The people give away their thoughts and intentions by the praise they give. Their expectation for Jesus was that he was coming as a conquering general-king to free them from oppression.
But it is only a few pages later in the Gospel of Mark that the people change their tune.