Palm Sunday - April 5th, 2020

And The Winner Is

PALM SUNDAY – APRIL 5TH, 2020
Text: Luke 19:28-48
Title: “And the Winner Is…….” (The Triumphal Entry)
To state the obvious, I’ve never experienced times like these. My life routine is all out of sorts. No corporate worship for Palm Sunday and Easter week? No March Madness? No Masters? Quite frankly, I’m totally out of sorts (just ask Mary Nell!).

Fortunately, there is wisdom available to guide us. I came across this quote in my sermon file on this text (yes, like all preachers, I have my own “barrel” that I constantly refer too and add too!). The quote below is from President Chase (he was President from 1919 to 1930) of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (sorry Duke grads – aka Mike Roberson; and thumbs up to fellow grad, Kathy Ambrose!) I have no idea why it’s in my file on the text from Luke – maybe it found its way there just for today. As you will see, it has nothing to do with Palm Sunday. But think of his time in this leadership position – from the Spanish Flu through the beginning of the Great Depression. President Chase could have spoken of the hardships, and I’m sure he did along the way, but here he speaks of our calling as human beings. Please note that at the time, there were no women in the student body. I believe we can forgive his language, given the time frame. His words inform our discipleship, a fitting end to the season of Lent.

Here’s what he said to those students under his charge: “Look at your world. Look at human life. Here is what science says about it, and literature, and history and philosophy. You are free to explore what men have said and written and lived and thought and proved and guessed. Try to understand something about these things. We will help you to the best of our ability to try to understand them. You cannot be an educated man unless you do sincerely and honestly try to see what is true, and we are not doing our duty as teachers if we hold back your minds from ranging freely. But it is not enough just to understand this and that fact, to possess this bit of knowledge and that fragment of truth. Out of it all there must come a constructive philosophy of life, and outlook, an attitude, a spiritual, a religious insight that makes of you a whole man ready to throw yourself with broad sympathy and a deep passion for righteousness into the world’s work.”

Wow! I’m humbled to see my fellow human beings “throw themselves into the world’s work” – the health care workers and first responders, those helping the homeless, stocking food pantries and making sure meals on wheels keep being delivered. The list is endless. All the while Mary Nell and I are “sheltering in place” – but with a stocked pantry and plenty of soap, etc. (some good news, Food City did have a bit of toilet paper today! Ha!) But seriously, what can I do to help? For one, I can make sacrificial financial gifts to those who are in the greatest need and encourage others to do the same. As all of you know, I’m a financial planner by trade. Without exception, I counsel all of my clients to maintain financial reserves for the emergencies of life. I have followed my own advice. However, I must challenge myself – am I willing to put my money where my mouth is? Easy to say, hard to do!

Now back to the text. When Jesus entered Jerusalem some 2000 years ago, and looked out over the cheering crowd, he did not throw up his arms with a victory sign, like President Nixon used to do; nor did he go around and hug and kiss all those who were nearby, as we see folks do when they win an award; rather Jesus did something that does happen occasionally these days in moments of triumph……he cried. But these were not tears of joy. He wept openly because his heart was broken. For he could tell that those cheers were not for him as Messiah,
but only hoping that he would do for the people what they wanted. You see, their desires weren’t evil. They had been trained as little children to expect and hope and pray for the Messiah; this was a godly dream that they had, that the King would come and restore Israel to all its prominence and power, and yet, Jesus did not do what they expected nor what they wanted. When that happens, it is so hard for us to understand that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. It is so difficult to recall that the obvious is not always true, and that what we want most and are even convinced would be the best, may not be the will of God. Unless we are willing to have it otherwise, we might as well be our own god and pray to ourselves; for unless we are willing to have a Master who is the one to whom we entrust all of our lives, we have no God at all.

You see, God doesn’t need fault finders, he doesn’t need critics to set Him nor His Church straight, nor does He need people who tag along simply because everybody else is doing it these days. And certainly, God does not need people who offer Him praise only as a prelude to use his power to their own selfish advantage. No, as a matter of fact, God doesn’t need anybody, does He? But all of us need God. The question you must ask is this: “Are you willing to believe in a God who is able to do anything you might ask, but may choose not to do it?” Before you wave your palms and cheer your cheers and hail Jesus as your King, you must answer that question.