Summary: Often our faith becomes stale. We can get so accustomed to things as they are and we become comfortable with our faith and in doing se we get stuck. This message challenges us to look at faith issues through fresh eyes.
“The Danger of the Familiar”
In the Episcopal church and also in the Catholic church they use phrases in the service that become very familiar to the congregation because they use these phrases over and over. In addition they also chant or sing the words. As a young teenager I attended the catholic church sometimes with one of my friends. One Sunday the priest said “Let us pray!” and my friend said “okay!” It was pretty funny until he got home.
An Episcopal priest was preaching one Sunday and as he stood in the pulpit to begin the service he tapped the microphone to make sure it was on. Sound guys hate that by the way. He didn’t hear anything as he tapped on it but it was actually working fine so he leaned closer to the microphone and he whispered to himself “there’s something wrong with this thing.” The congregation heard him and they responded “and with you also.”
There is a danger in the familiar. We can be so steeped in tradition that we stop paying attention to the things that really matter. We drive the same road each day and we stop paying attention like we should. For two years in college I drove 100 miles a day, every day to get to class. I remember saying I could drive this road with my eyes closed. And sometimes I did. A husband and wife can take one another for granted. Problems develop. Parents think their children will be young forever. They take them for granted. Suddenly their children are moving out, going to school. Getting married.
This is also the danger we face as we come to this Easter season. It is the danger of the familiar. The message is so familiar that we can go through the motions without really allowing the message to speak to us in a fresh way. As you listen today try to see the story with fresh eyes.
If someone were to come riding down Ridge Road today on a horse or a donkey announcing that they are God we would likely think they are a bit unbalanced. Yet in the scripture that is exactly what we see Jesus doing. Jesus announces that He is God and He rides a donkey, not down Ridge Road but down the main street of Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. This was a very familiar road. The disciples were there and they had walked down this road many times before. Jesus was very acquainted with this street. Mary and Joseph brought him to Jerusalem for the Passover each year. Bethany was nearby and as an adult when Jesus traveled he would stay in that area in the home of his friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus. But this time it was different. The road was the same but the end result of this trip would be different than any other trip He had ever made to that area. The crowd would be huge. The population of Jerusalem at that time was about 50,000. During Passover the crowd would have easily tripled. This is not some crowd of 2-3 dozen people for this event.
Jesus knew what was about to happen. He told tem when you get to the village you will find a donkey with her colt tied there beside her. Untie it and bring them here. Tell them the Lord needs it and will bring it back soon. Have you ever ridden a donkey? Most people haven’t. We may have ridden a horse but not a donkey. Mark tells us an important thing here...this was a young colt and it had never been ridden before.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
The disciples went and found things just exactly as Jesus said. The answered the owner just as Jesus told them and they brought the donkey to Jesus. Then they put their cloaks on the donkey and Jesus got on. Now this sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. The only time I was ever kicked by a horse was the first time I rode one. I was a young adult and Denise and I had taken the youth on an outing to ride horses. The fellow who managed the ranch said hey I got just the horse for you. I’m thinking good... I hope it’s a pony. But it wasn’t. He said this horse is a little wild...we call him preacher. Go figure. When I finally got him to stop I got off and not thinking walked behind him and he kicked me. This is especially a problem if the animal has never been ridden, never been broken in. Now Jesus is going to ride an animal that has never been ridden. He is going to ride it with all this crowd “shouting” HOSANNA, HOSANNA... which means save now! So thousands of people shouting, an unbroken colt and now Jesus is going to ride this thing.