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Summary: Palm Sunday

"Riding the Roller Coaster of Faith"

Palm Sunday 2001

©April 8, 2001 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche

Each year when it comes to Palm Sunday I try to look at the celebration from a little different angle. I do this because I know the way I am. Familiar stories tend to cause me to drift into a mode that says, "Yeah, Yeah, I know that one."

This year rather than zooming in and looking at particular details of the story like the owner of the donkey, or the details of the journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, I’ve taken a step back. Rather than looking more closely at the events I’ve tried to see the bigger picture. I’ve looked at the events leading up to this day as well as the events that follow. What I’ve noticed is several things. Think about what it was like for the disciples

with every miracle Jesus performed there was a building sense of anticipation in the disciples

the cheering crowds as the disciples came into Jerusalem must have made the disciples feel that the moment they had been waiting for had arrived. Jesus would soon take his rightful place as the Messiah.

the celebration of Passover on Thursday must have added to this special time. Passover was a family celebration and the disciples were considered to be "family" by Jesus.

but during the supper there were the troubling words about betrayal

there was the refreshing retreat to the garden

there was the confusing anguished prayer by the Lord

this was followed by the arrest of Jesus

there was the unbelievable mock trial and tortuous death

this would have been followed by grief, numbness and confusion

the resurrection took this group of devastated disciples and filled them with life and enthusiasm

then there was the sadness of his ascension

this was followed by the empowerment of the coming of the Holy Spirit

there was the adrenalin burst of seeing thousands coming to faith

and then there was the devastating persecution of the church

Do you see the same thing I did? One minute things were great, the next minute things were difficult. There were victories and there were defeats, joy and sorrow, times of feeling very close to God and times when they felt God was far away.

The best way to describe it is to liken their experience to a roller coaster. There are times when you seem to gradually be climbing the mountain of intimacy. Then suddenly you are plunged into confusion and you roll and rise and fall again.

That’s the way your life is, isn’t it? Days of victory seem to be quickly followed by days of difficulty. The highs inevitably seem to be followed by struggles. From this simple observation I want to give you three simple truths today. They aren’t profound, but I hope you will find that they are helpful.

ROLLER COASTER FAITH IS NORMAL

Have you ever picked up a brochure of some place only to find that the place advertised is nothing like the brochure? It may be a brochure for a hotel. The pictures show a modern facility that has every amenity. I remember we checked into a hotel once that had been recommended to us and sounded great on paper. We looked forward to the great rooms, the relaxing atmosphere and swimming in the pool. When we arrived, the hotel was in the midst of a remodeling project. There was the noise of workers everywhere, the air was filled with the smell of paint and the pool was empty. It was disappointing.

The brochure that is often presented about Christianity is just as deceptive. When we are told about the Christian life we are told about the victories, the wonderful intimacy that one can experience with God, and that incredible strength that enables us to overcome anything. We sign up and for awhile we do know peace, joy and victory. But then there is a pothole in the roadway of faith. Other difficulties may come along and we start to wonder what happened. We wonder if we are "doing something wrong". We begin to think that our faith must be deficient. Problems in life must mean that we are being punished for our sin.

But that’s not generally the case. The roller coaster is part of the Christian life. It is easy to trust God when everything is going well. But it is also easy to become lazy and superficial. The dips of life and hard experiences help us to develop roots. Plants need some dry times to force the roots down into the ground to look for water. And dry and difficult times come to our lives in order to help us grow strong as well.

Every time I talk with a couple approaching marriage I want them to understand that tough times come to every marriage. There are moments when you wonder how life would have been different if you had married someone else. I want every young couple to realize that when these thoughts come to their mind they are not failures. They have not made some terrible mistake. They are going through the normal process of growing in love. Knowing this ahead of time helps them not to panic when it happens.

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