Summary: An adaptation of the Seder service: Jesus turns upside down all our common values: sorrow for slavery becomes sorrow for sin; common issues become community; and wandering becomes salvation, all through the Cross.
When great crowds gather in city streets, it is either for a celebration or for a revolution. Throngs do not come together without a purpose; they come together either to celebrate a great occasion or to agitate for what they want. They come to see evidence of a world turned upside down.
In January huge crowds came here to Washington. They filled the Mall and they hugged the curbs of Pennsylvania Avenue. They massed on Capitol Hill and some spent dismal hours trapped in the Third Street tunnel. Every police officer who could breathe was with them in case of a disturbance or an accident. This crowd had come to celebrate a change that they could believe in. They had come to witness power turned over to a new administration. They had come to cheer a president whose very appearance signalled a new era, though the celebration came in the midst of insecurities and uncertainties. But the crowd wanted to see the world turned upside down.
By contrast, just this week, as that same president and his counterparts gathered in London for the G-20 summit, there was another crowd. A very different crowd. Angry, boisterous, breaking down bank windows, prepared to tear down the very structures of power. The London crowd was nothing like the Washington crowd. But they too expected change. They too wanted something different from what they had known in the past. They too think that it is time that someone turn the world upside down.
For when great crowds gather in city streets, it is either for a celebration or for a revolution. It is because some occasion is to be affirmed, or it is to agitate for something new. It is to see evidence of a world turned upside down.
Into Jerusalem one day came Jesus, the teacher from Galilee who had made them rethink the Law of Moses, the preacher of commandments new and yet old, the healer from that obscure little place called Nazareth – Jesus came riding into Jerusalem. And while He did not have an army of advance workers to plot out His route, nor could He rely on the Internet to summon His followers, nonetheless He had orchestrated this entrance. He had planned it all out. The word was around. The crowd knew where to go and what to do. Their expectations were high. Jesus was coming, and when He would come, the world would change. Let the world be turned upside down! Jesus is coming!
What a surprise when they saw Him riding into the city on a beast of burden! I wonder what they felt about one whom they hailed as their savior coming in such a strange way. What could it mean, the chosen one, riding on a colt, the foal of an ass? How many of them knew the obscure reference in the prophecy of Zechariah about the Messiah entering the city in such a way? How many of them wondered why there were no chariots, no trumpets blaring, no tramping soldiers? No armoured limousine, no Popemobile! Just Jesus, alone except for His little band of disciples, riding, riding, riding – into the city.
Still, they were a crowd. And they did what crowds do. Great crowds gather in city streets either for a celebration or for a revolution. Whether they come together to celebrate or to agitate, they come to express their hope that things will change. They want their world to be turned upside down. And so the crowd in Jerusalem screamed, “Hosanna” “Save us and help us.” “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” Palm branches waving and robes spread out. Jesus, turn this world upside down.
Little did they know just how much Jesus would turn their world upside down. Little could they have understood that Jesus would change everything. Even though Rome would continue its cruel reign, the world of power was about to be turned upside down. Even though the Temple would continue its tradition-bound pattern of rituals, its collapse was coming. Jesus would undermine it by teaching that God desires not sacrifice but a broken and a contrite heart.
Yes, Jesus would turn the world upside down, politically, spiritually, a new way of life. A way of peace instead of conflict. A way of love instead of prejudice. A way of trust instead of suspicion. They could not have known, as Hosannas sprang from their throats, just how fully their expectations would be met. And the man on the donkey, that beast so incongruous for a king, was now on a collision course with the way things are. He would, in this coming week, turn the world upside down.
For during this week to come, Jesus would climb up to Mount Zion, to the great Temple, and would literally turn upside down the tables of the moneychangers. He would throw out the greedy and the callous who exploited the poor, and would cry out a word of welcome, “My house shall be a house of prayer for all the nations.” The old way of excluding was turned upside down.