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Palm Sunday 07

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Fools For Christ            Luke 22:14-23:56

Today is Palm/Passion Sunday.  The theme of today is the foolishness and difficulty of following Jesus.  As Jesus comes into Jerusalem, his followers welcome him into the city and walked behind him.  We do the same this Sunday.  As we welcomed Jesus, or walked behind him, are we prepared for his narrow way?

Today's gospel is the longest of the year.  It is a magnificent, dramatic story.  This is the culmination of Jesus’ Ministry, of all that he has taught and all that he has said.  Let's today reflect upon this dramatic, saving story from the angle of its foolishness, noting the irony, the deep irony that lies behind all that we do or say this fateful day, the irony of a crucified Savior, of a God who reigns from a cross.

What does Jesus look like you on this day, this fateful day when he comes into Jerusalem with the disciples?  Jesus arrives in the capital city, not on a powerful war-worse, not in a royal entourage, but bouncing on the back of a donkey.

His followers break Palm branches, and wave them as signs of welcome, hail him as King, but you wonder if they did so in comical irony. King?  Some King, bouncing in on the back of a donkey.  He looks, well, foolish.

There was a pulpit search committee that had spent months searching for a new pastor of a large, prestigious Presbyterian Church.  Dozens of candidates had been considered and eliminated.  No one was to be found who was smart enough, good enough, good looking enough, or competent enough, to be their new pastoral leader.

One night, when the committee had gathered for its usual meeting, one of the members said, "We have been sent an interesting letter of inquiry and resume, and I would like you to consider this person."  Then he began to read from the letter.  The letter said:

I would like to be considered as your new pastor.  I've only been in the Ministry for a few years, and I must admit that my years of Ministry have been rather tumultuous.  I did not grow up in the charge but was drawn into the church as an adult through a rather dramatic religious experience, so dramatic that I was incapacitated for a number of days after I met Christ.  Then I quit what I was doing and began to roam about preaching the gospel.  Some people liked my sermons, but a lot did not.  I have been arrested on at least four occasions and had served time in three different jails.  On one occasion, after one of my sermons, the congregation was so angry that they dragged me out of the pulpit, beat me, and escorted me out to the edge of town before dumping me.  In the churches that I have served, I think that I have been a loving pastor, but also a strict one.  I've had to chase more than one member out of the church for immoral actions.  I certainly don't mind calling an ace an ace or a spade a spade when it comes to disciplining church members.  I write this letter to you while I am in jail.  I hope to be released from jail sometime soon, but I have found that when it comes to jail time, one never knows.  However, I hope you will consider me as your new pastor.  As soon as I get out of prison, I would certainly like to have gainful employment.

Well, the committee was furious.  “How dare someone write a church of our caliber, with a presumption that we would be desperate enough to hire somebody like that,” one of the members wanted to know.

“Is this some kind of joke” another asked.

“A jailbird as our new pastor!  I would love to see this Session get hold of that!”

“Who is this guy that wrote this” one demanded.

The person holding the letter said simply, “It's signed, St. Paul.”

The great missionary to the Gentiles, the one who founded so many churches, created Christian theology, and spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean world, was also the one who boasted that he was a fool for Christ's sake (1 Corinthians 4:10).  He was the one who boasted that the wisdom of the world is pure foolishness from a Christian point of view, whereas the foolishness of the cross is true wisdom.

The way of the cross is the way of foolishness.  As Bonheoffer said, "it is no small thing, that God allowed himself to be pushed out of the world on a cross."

And yet, with all this talk about foolishness, fools, and cross bearing, there ought to be a warning.  When you look at our church, this building, its beauty, its order, and stability, you are apt to be confused by such talk.

When we gather on Sunday morning, everything looks so stable, so pure and solid, and this form can be an illusion, it can obscure how foolish this particular way is in the world.

Despite the cross, despite Paul's clear, outrageous labeling of the Way of the Cross as a way of foolishness, there does seem to be built right into the church this relentless tendency for the church to deteriorate from the body of Christ into the Rotary.  There is that tendency to take the gospel foolishness and repackage it as just another brand worldly wisdom, common sense, something on which all thinking Americans ought to be able to agree. 

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying anything bad about the Rotary.  It's a great organization, and they do great work.  In fact, in one respect the church should be more like the Rotary.  If you don't pay your dues and attended meetings, rotary will kick you out. What I am saying is that our churches have become more like a social club that on occasion breaks out into worship.

Paul's words remind us that we are called, as Christians, to be more than a button-down social club.

This day, Jesus goes to do something, something final, decisive, world shaking, and life changing on our behalf.  For us and our salvation, He is going to do something foolish.  Bounding on the back of a donkey, hanging in scorned agony on a cross, he looks like a fool rather than the Savior of the world.  Will you welcome him-follow him, his foolish way, this day?

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