Series: Wings of Transformation
Sermon: Triumphant Struggle
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
April 9, 2017
Scriptures: Matthew 21:1-11 and Psalm 31:9-16
Jesusí day probably started out like all his other days, rising very early and going out to pray. He sent two of his followers out to fetch the donkey and, no doubt, some others had gone ahead into Jerusalem to secure the room and prepare the Passover meal; Jesusí last supper he would share with them before being arrested. One canít help but marvel at his state of mind going into this day, a day he knew wasnít going to end well.
Armed with prayer, Jesus began the triumphal entry. He rode the donkey and the crowds came out to greet the one that had healed them, restored their sight, raised the dead and taught them the very nature of God. They welcomed him with a kingís welcome.
This made the religious and civil authorities very nervous. Neither they nor Jesusí followers knew exactly what was coming next. Would he suddenly use his power to overtake the Temple and displace those he had opposed, as some of his followers hoped? Would he call in the masses to wrestle power from Herod? But wait. He wasnít riding in on a big white horse as a king would. He was riding a humble donkey. Even this was a sign.
This was the way of King David, the youngest brother with ruddy cheeks and beautiful eyes, chosen by God, who had ruled this city, the Temple and its people some 1000 years earlier. No wonder the religious authorities were worried!
All the while, as Jesus greeted the crowds, he knew what was coming. He had been dropping lead hints to his disciples, telling them that he would die and be raised on the third day. He knew what was coming and he went anyways. God had made it clear to him and Jesus was obedient even unto death. He risked everything so that we could be saved by our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The Psalmist had depicted that day, prophetically lamenting the pain and dread and still, ending with trust in God. Throughout all of time, God has displayed steadfast love. Jesus trusted this and knew that God would not change.
We have all experienced the smile that hides a tear. Inside we are feeling sadness but on the outside, we keep smiling so as to not surrender to emotion as we soldier on. I imagine this was Jesus that day. He knew the torture and death on the cross that was to come, but he trusted that God would see him through it. A bigger picture was at work and he had to keep that in mind.
Charles H. Spurgeon, renowned preacher and author once said, ďTo trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark Ė that is faith.Ē Jesus trusted God, knowing that dark times were beginning that very night. Jesus had faith in Godís goodness, Godís love for creation and desire to redeem it, drawing all people to Godself. Jesusí faith in his heavenly Father gave him the courage to risk it all for the sake of Godís work.
Now you might say, sure he did, because he was Godís Son. He had knowledge of his father that we rarely, if ever, have access to. And besides, ďif Jesusí trust was not rewarded with a long life of security and comfort, why should we, who must rank lower than he in Godís reckoning, risk so much by placing our trust in God?Ē
Risk demands trust. Jesus showed us that God is trustworthy. He also modeled for us a different set of values, most especially that a long life of security and comfort is not always the highest good. This leads us to consider our priorities and what it would look like to truly trust God in those times when we feel God tugging at our heart, nudging us to something new for the sake of Godís bigger picture.
How often are our decisions based more on our fear of the unknown than our trust in God? Are we more like Peter than we want to admit, one minute pledging our allegiance and devotion to Jesus and the next denying our association to him, either through our actions or inaction? Are we sleepy disciples who fail to stand watch and pray with Jesus?
I wonder what it would look like, today, for us to risk placing our trust in God? What are we willing to risk for the sake of the gospel Ė Jesusí good news for the world?
Sure, for Peter, his denial meant he lived to lead another day. I fear our denial means we simply turn our backs on Jesus and live for our own comfort and ease. Itís time that we wake up and stand up for those who are powerless, taking a stand against evil and injustice and go where God calls us to go. That usually means departing our comfort zones of the known and entering the place where all we have to hang on to is our trust that God is present, guiding us to create a new space, a new zone, where we risk seeing the face of Christ in the stranger, the poor, the hungry, the immigrant, the foreigner, the addicted, those with whom we disagree or have difficulty relating to. You name it. Are we willing to risk our current way of life for the sake of the health of this planet, using less of its resources by reusing, recycling and finding greener ways of living? As God appointed us to be stewards of the earth, he also calls us to love our neighbor. The birds of the air, flowers of the field, bees and all creatures great and small are also our neighbors.
Jesus died that all might live and have a chance at eternal life. We are called to trust that he leads us on the path that leads to life Ė not just the comfort of life as we know it today, but to a life that speaks to the needs of the whole.
Jesus trusted that God would be faithful to his promise of new life and we can, too. Despair, even to the point of tears in the garden as he waited for what was to come, was met with courage as the answer to his prayers. Getting through the difficult times is the hardest part.
As we remember how God led Abraham from the comfort of his home, out into a new land, totally unknown to Abraham, it reminds us that God has always led the faithful into and through the wilderness times. God was trustworthy, feeding and providing for Moses and the Israelites through their 40 years in the desert, even when they were unfaithful, stubborn, self-centered, and turned their backs on worshiping God. Had they been less so, they would not have had such a long time to wait. But even so, God never left them, never abandoned the faithful. God could be and can be trusted.
Holy week always feels like a wilderness time to me, waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. Living in todayís world often feels like a wilderness time too, watching as one catastrophe after another sweeps across the globe.
There is no better time to come together and pray than now. I canít help but think ďLord help us through this time between the timesĒ, when evil seems to be winning. Bring us the hope of new life and help us to feel the power of your Spirit. Heal us and give us the courage to trust that you are still there, even in the darkness. Amen.
 Martin E. Marty, Theological Perspective, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Vol. 2, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2010) 164.