Sermon, Palm Sunday 2018
Sunday March 25, 2018, St Petri
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethanyat the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
What a hero. For Peter Jesus would surely always be a hero and more. He and they were looking for heroes. So do we, I believe.
Heroes are important to have. We seem to need to look up to somebody sometimes. Heroes help us commit to things we need to do and hope for a better future. We need something to help us believe it’s all worth it.
Who are your heroes? What have they taught you? That is one of the questions we ask blokes at Shed Happens. “Who mentored you? What did they teach you about life? Often, it is a bloke’s Dad or mum or their first boss. Sometimes it is none of these.
Over the years I have had a few heroes who have inspired me to learn, to understand, to work at something hard.
I think of Mr McGaw who inspired me to understand economics and Australian political history; Mr Thomas who taught me to play guitar. Mr Petit, my best footy coach. My brother-in-law, Matthew, who taught me about farming and machinery and motor bikes and the value of Pink Floyd music. My sister who taught me about marriage and parenting and faith and church. Dad, who taught me about having a go at anything and the value of being loyal to your wife. There were other people like Jon and Roger and Rick and Bert and Geoff and David and ….. mentors, who taught me, looked out for me, guided me. Then there is my wife who has taught me much and loved me much too.
You might have a few heroes or you might have many. From JFK to Neil Armstrong on the moon, The Don, Lee Matthews, Ned Kelly, ANZACS, Albert Namajira. Cathy Freeman….
We lift up people and call them heroes even if the person we choose does not really want to be a hero.
Who qualifies to be a hero? R.W Emerson said: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person but just brave for five minutes longer”.
Will Rogers, the American writer, got it right when he said, “We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by”. That is quite a relief. Because just as Will Rogers also suggested, “Heroing’ is one of the shortest-lived professions there is”. Will Rogers (1879 – 1935), Newspaper article, Feb. 15, 1925
Now that is true. Just ask a fallen hero – Lance Armstrong, Bernard Tomic, James packer or Ben Cousins! Being a hero is the toughest thing. There is a long way to fall.
Jesus surely knows this. He will be lifted up and he will fall to the ground in a week. The hero parades in to the city. “Hosanna! Hosanna!” they cry as they stand on the curb as he goes by. Cloaks, clothes, leaves are all laid on the ground so that the hero can receive the “red carpet” treatment.
Will Jesus be a hero as Bob Dylan understands a real hero? “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom”, Bob said. Bob Dylan (1941 – )
But will Jesus’ character match the public persona? Has he got the goods to be a hero who really stands tall, because there is nothing worse than a hero that falls?
Will Jesus understand the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom?
Friends, I believe he has and does. He was freer that you and I have ever been and yet voluntarily entered our confinement.
Jesus the Son of God, from the foundation of all creation who flung stars into space surrendered his hands to cruel nails hammered in by unclean hands. The Lion of Judah is locked in a cage. The Lamb allows them to lead him to his slaughter.
Oh yes, Jesus takes responsibility. This is God himself taking on the full weight of doing what no other hero we may choose could do. This our heroic God providing a new way to be human; the way to be truly free, to be truly loved, to be fully forgiven all wrongs, to be re-ordered, re-shaped, re-inspired to live generously and fully on this journey he life he gives.
He will hold nothing back from us. As Peter asked, “When did Jesus ever say no when we searched for him and needed his help?
As he processes into his death he confronts death. He transforms death into a mere beginning of a better living; a better country, a closer relationship; a higher hope to which we who are baptised into his death and raised into his resurrection are headed, now in part, and one day fully.
So the question for you from Peter as he ponders what has happened is, “Is Jesus Christ your hero?”
As we talk of heroes on Palm Sunday, and this heroic holy week when the Son of God gives it all, does it all, suffers it all and loves us all is he your hero? I guess at this point we are all meant to say ‘Yes”!
But, if we say, “Yes, Jesus is my hero”, I am not sure we have him fully. Heroes are good people to have, but heroes come and go and they can fail and fall. And all we can do with heroes is follow their example as best as we can. And we know that we will often fail in following them too.
So, even though heroes are what we aspire to be and set up as people to follow, if Jesus is merely one of them, that is not enough. I find myself thinking that we actually don’t need another hero. We need something more.
I am hearing the theme song to the third Mad Max movie that came out way back in the 1990’s. The theme song to the movie was sung by Tina Turner, She sung, “We don’t need another hero, all we want is life beyond Thunderdome…”.
“Thunderdome” was fictional place; a brutal, corrupt, unforgiving, harsh place of death in the wasteland of post atomic bomb earth.
The characters were trying to deal with the despair and the violence. But they longed for a way out.
Thunderdome was a picture of how the world is and how it can feel for all of us at times. In the tragedy and grief, the wrong and the dark, the competitive and the unforgiving goings on of our lives, the song said what is true. We don’t need more heroes. We need something more than that.
Enter Jesus on the donkey – the most unlikely human hero that is the divine hero of all heroes plus more.
We don’t need more heroes or Marvel comics superheroes as much as weed THE hero because only THE hero is not just a hero but a Saviour. This Saviour can give us a life beyond the dog-eat-dog, highly competitive, brutal, unforgiving place in which we have to live.
As this hero strides into the city on a donkey, without a sword or crown of gold or purple robes of his own, he is telling you that he is much more than just a hero.
By what he will do this holy week leading up the via delorosa to the Place of the Skull, and then from that dark tomb into light, he shows us that he is not only a hero but the Saviour. And that is what we all really need.
Jesus is the hero that does what no other hero can do – save dead humans from remaining so. Save blind humans from scratching around in the dark. Save me from my own self-deception and darkness. Give me light with which to face living, dying, suffering, failure and doubt with some hope and even joy.
Yes, Jesus’ character matched his words and he succeeded in dealing with things no-one else could tackle. That is the reason for holy week. It is called Holy Week, not Hero Week! It is why we bother with it and Easter.
It is why we don’t just follow his example (as if we could!), we bow down at his name which the name above all names because of sheer undeserved love.
You copy a hero. You worship a Saviour because the Saviour is more than a hero.
We don’t need another hero.
We do need life beyond this Thunderdome and here he is entering the city to save the city.
Cast off all other heroes for this week.
Call his name, not theirs. Know THE hero. Know him as your Saviour for your life now.
Look at THE hero who is the one and only Saviour of your very life.
Look at his cross, look at his suffering.
Know the love of the man, the grace of God, the courage of the man, the cost paid by your Father to get you beyond this Thunderdome; to get you even beyond needing to make more heroes.
We don’t need another hero, we just need this one SAVIOUR.
What were your favourite hero characters on TV or Radio or elsewhere when you were little?
Who are your all time top three make believe heroes?
Who are your top three all time real-life heroes and why?
What kind of things do your heroes make you want sot be and do?
In many ways, Jesus reveals himself to be an anti-hero – the hero that does not want to be one. He was forever telling his friends not to tell people about what they saw and heard him do. He never seemed to be interested in heroes, full stop. He did refer to the Old Testament prophets and raise them up as worthy to emulate- if you dare ! The prophets did not get rich or acquire great fame for their troubles. They all lost their freedom and their lives for their trouble!
As he enters the city we should take note of this “hero” and conclude that he not just a hero but so much more…… Jesus has no white stallion. Jesus has not won a battle with blood on his sword. Jesus has not even got a sword as he enters the city. He has no visible army, just a small group of pretty average followers. And yet, the people see in him hero status. Why do you think this is the case?
Why do you think we need heroes? it is quite amazing that we pay a young man hundreds of thousands of dollars in a year to be a full-time sports person. Why do we do this do you think?
I said that you copy a hero but you bow down in worship to a Saviour. What’s the difference between a hero and a Saviour, do you think?
Jesus has not won a battle with blood on his sword but he will let them pierce his body and get blood on their sword. he has not won a military battle but he has and will win the battle between good and evil. he has not got a military army but now has a timeless, global community of priests who serve the world. he never wrote a book but he is a living word of God.
I suggested that we don’t need more heroes as much as we need a Saviour. This is because we live in this dark brutal “Thunderdome” of a place called human society. How can we help others find this Saviour above all the heroes they have?
Read Philippians 2:1-11 carefully. What prompts your thoughts as you hear Paul’s summary of who Jesus is and why he is so important and unique, especially when you consider holy week and the events of Easter just around the corner.
“This is our God, the Servant King.
he calls us now to follow him.
To give our lives as a daily offering
of worship to, the Servant King”
Jesus, I ponder ow your holy passion
With your Spirit endow me for such great meditation
Grant that I in love and faith may the image cherish
of your suffering pain and death
that I may not perish
Hymn 59 Lutheran hymnal