Lenten Series: Giving It Up
Sermon: Giving Up: Popularity
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
March 25, 2018
Scriptures: Mark 11:1-11 NRSV and Philippians 2:5-11 NRSV
††††††††††† Every time we read the Palm Sunday story of Jesus riding into town on a donkey, greeted by cheering crowds who are laying palm branches and cloaks on the ground we wonder where were all those people who lauded him when he was being arrested? Where were they when Pilate was giving the crowd a say as to which prisoner he should release, Jesus or Barabbas? Where were they? And then we remember that it wasnít supposed to be that way.
††††††††† We suppose that Jesus enjoyed the cheers and smiles showered upon him that day, but he knew what was coming. He had been telling his disciples for weeks what was coming. When Peter tried to say no, that they would never let it happen, Jesus accused him of being the devil and said, ďget behind me.Ē In other words, donít think you can block what is to come. Donít imagine that you have the power to stop this. Let God do what needs doing. It will be horrible for me, yes, but it is a gift for the world.
††††††††† Jesus gave up his popularity for us. He didnít play up the crowd, calling them to surround him that night in the garden. He surrendered his power in obedience to Godís will. He trusted God. He trusted the one he called Daddy because he knew he could.
††††††††† There is something special in that relationship. We glimpse it in Jesusí use of the name Abba for God the Father. Abba is the Aramaic equivalent of our term Daddy.
††††††††† I always called my father Daddy. He was the one that would come when I was scared in the darkness and the neighborís randy cat was yowling that frightening sound outside my window.† He was the one that built me the playhouse in the back yard, giving me a space all my own to play, pretend and have friends over. He was the one that gave me a Hope Chest for collecting items I would need for a real home of my own, because that was the world that he knew. He was my daddy and he loved me dearly. Heís been gone five years now and I still miss him every day.
††††††††† I know my daddy was not a perfect man, but because of our relationship, father and child, I can begin to understand what it means that Jesus called God, Daddy.† God the Father, creator of the earth and all that is in it, sent his Son, Jesus, to do a job here on earth. Jesus wanted nothing more than to do that job and accomplish the task that God had in mind because Jesus trusted Godís intent. Jesus trusted that in the end, God knew best, even when to those around him the details were a little fuzzy. Pleasing all the people of earth, making everybody happy all the time, was not part of what was to happen. Being the most popular kid in the class was not in the cards.
††††††††† Being popular comes at a cost, especially if you are not an extrovert, rich, athletically gifted, etc. I was never popular. I am an introvert who preferred spending time in the practice room over hanging with friends in the lunchroom. I didnít grow up rich, but my mom wanted to dress me well, so I didnít really fit in with the country club kids or the regular kids either. I was a loner with a few good friends.
††††††††† I really appreciate the trend of todayís younger generations. They donít feel the need to hide who they are or what they think in order to blend into the crowd and be deemed acceptable by people they donít even know. Many find standing out from the crowd the very place they are called to be, and I applaud their bravery. They have a courage that I never had.
††††††††† Jesus demonstrated that kind of courage, showing us what it looks like to be obedient to God and refuse to capitulate oneís beliefs and values in order to go along with the crowd. There is a perverted movement in Christianity today that has attached a whole lot of other stuff to what they believe it looks like to be a ďgood Christian.Ē It makes it difficult for those of us who call ourselves Christians, but donít agree with all that other stuff. I donít want to be labeled a ďgood ChristianĒ if it means I have to go along with that agenda. I donít want to be part of the implied understanding of what that means. I believe that Jesus wouldnít either.
††††††††† There is only one agenda that we need to be on board with and that is Jesusí. He came to show us what the love of God looks like. He came to show us what trusting God looks like, even when it means going through the valley of the shadow of death in order to get to the other side. Jesus came to show us the way to the Father, back into Daddyís loving arms, and he knew that there would be, and still are, forces at work in this world that would try to distract and destroy who God calls us to be. Faithful. Loving. Compassionate. Generous. Fearless.
††††††††† In the Holy Week story, today is Palm Sunday. It is a pivotal day containing both joy and sadness. We are deprived of the magnitude of what happened this week if we leave out the reality of the sacrifice made for us. When we are tempted to go from happy crowds welcoming Jesus as a triumphant champion, as king, and go directly to the Easter morning resurrection we diminish the power of God at work that week. We lose the remembrance of the horror of his death, which is what gives the greater glory when we see him alive again.
††††††††† Jesus stood up for those on the margins, the broken, the helpless, those whose lives were not privileged with power. He came to earth and loved people, even when they didnít deserve it. He died for us, even when we didnít deserve it. He came back and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to teach us the way to the Father.
To listen to the worldís amended version of the rules of what that way is, will not lead us to where we want to be. Listening to the truth that Christ speaks into the world is the only way. Love one another as I have loved you. Judge not, lest you be so judged. Well done, good and faithful servants who have fed, watered, clothed, welcomed, visited, prayed, worshipped, and given yourselves to Godís kingdom work.
Give honor to Christ Jesus this week by taking time to remember all that happened. In a quiet moment, get out your bible and read the Gospel of John, starting with chapter 12. John 3:16 may be the story in a nutshell, but there is so much more there to be absorbed. Read Jesusí last messages to his disciples. Read chapter 17, Jesusí prayer for his disciples, and let it be as if you are there with him, hearing his words for the first time. Read clear through to the end of chapter 19 and have your box of tissues handy. Let the reality of what actually happened sink in. He did this for us, for you and me. He did this for the world, that we might know the love of God.
In this world we are surrounded by fantasies; in movies, books, games, and television shows. This is real. That he is coming back, is real. Letís get our hearts ready. Amen.