Summary: Teaching us about the kind of people we need to be.

Palm Sunday John 12: 12- 23

Poor old granny was getting on in age and she decided that she had enough of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping but she still want ed to do something for her family. So, rather than buy her kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews a bunch of presents, she came to the conclusion that the best way to handle all this hassle was just to send them all a check for fifty dollars and a card.

So, she addressed all the envelopes, signed all the cards and put them all in the mailbox and then she felt quite satisfied that all her obligations were completed. The problem was, granny was also getting a little bit forgetful and not only did she forget to put the checks in the envelopes but she had also written the cards, “Go get your own presents.” (And I’m sure we can imagine the joy of all those happy relatives as they had the opportunity to realize afresh that Christmas is all about the gift and not the gifts.)

I read a book a few years ago that was written by Robert Fulgrum who been a pastor and then became a writer. In one of his books he describes a wedding that took place at his church and he says:

“When the happy couple came home to announce their engagement the mother of the bride became completely unhinged with joy and then proceeded to drive everybody nuts. Her daughter was getting married and it would be done so that no one would ever forget it. Since she was paying all the bills, everyone was content to let her do her own thing. And it took seven months to plan. (Now remember, this is a true story.) There were teas, showers and dinners and she met weekly with both the minister and the caterer. She hired an eighteen piece orchestra and then she registered the bride’s gift lists in six different states. The bridesmaids dresses were made to order and the tuxes for the groom and his men were all bought they weren’t rented. Even the engagement ring that the groom had picked out was returned to the store and exchanged for one with a larger stone. (And of course, this was subsidized by her.) There was absolutely nothing left to chance and I mean nothing.

And as the big day came, the packed church watched as the mother of the bride coasted down the aisle and took her seat with absolute satisfaction. Then the orchestra played as the nine bridesmaids glided down the aisle to join the men at the front. Then came the little girls throwing rose petals and they were followed by two little ring bearers, one for each ring.

And then the moment everyone waited for, as the sound of, “Here comes the bride” began. Now, needless to say, the bride had been dressed for hours and during the long wait in the reception hall of the church she was hungry, so she snacked on a few mints, some mixed nuts, a bit of sausage, a couple of shrimp and some liver pate on a cracker. And as she walked down the aisle as beautiful as she looked everyone noticed how white her face was, but what they didn’t know was how she felt. And as soon as she got to the front of the church, they all found out. She threw up, all over the front of the church, hitting the groom, two bridesmaids, a ring bearer and the minister. Then the bride fainted, her mother fainted and pandemonium broke out, all of which was recorded on the video cameras. And there was only two people smiling and they were the mother of the groom and the father of the bride.

After everyone was revived and cleaned up and they all went to the reception hall where the vows were exchanged in a simple way, because that was what they came to do in the first place.”

You see, the event itself was almost crushed by the details that accompanied it. And I’m afraid that so often we can complicate the message of the gospel by the traditions and the amount of organization that have grown up around it to the point that people see all the extras and miss the message. And that’s why we always hear, “Oh, you Baptists don’t do this and this and this.” Rather than, “Oh, you Baptists believe and live the word of God.”

Listen, we have to make our message clear. Christianity is not church buildings, committees and promotions, it’s not Sunday school, choirs or music and it’s not singing, preaching or going to meetings. Christianity is each one of us individually experiencing and knowing the love of God personally as we have understood that the blood of Jesus Christ was spilled on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And we can benefit from all this other stuff but only if we’ve come to know the Lord.

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