Sermon, Sunday March 20, 2016, PALM SUNDAY
Showing Promise: Servant Heart
he Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching;
5 he made me willing to listen and not rebel or run away.
6 I let them beat my back and pull out my beard.
I didn’t turn aside when they insulted me and spit in my face.
7 But the Lord God keeps me from being disgraced.
So I refuse to give up, because I know God will never let me down.
8 My protector is nearby; no one can stand here to accuse me of wrong.
9 The Lord God will help me and prove I am innocent.
My accusers will wear out like moth-eaten clothes.
Every year, I have received an email from one of our St Petri kids who learn at Faith. The young people have to do an assignment and as part of that they ask people about the topic.
They ask about “servant leadership”. I really like being asked about that. I considerate a privilege to be asked about servant leadership.
What do you think servant leadership is? How do you know it when you see it? Where do you see it? In whom do you see it? Are you a servant leader at times? Who has modeled it for you?
Here are some ways where I see it modeled….
Parents are servant leaders of their kids. Mums and Dads give a lot of time, energy, heartache and prayer time for their kids with no guarantee that they will get anything like that back from their kids later on.
- A mum taking three kids under 5 to Foodland and navigating the way through aisles of colourful temptations for kids is an act of servant leadership!
- A parent heading off to work before dawn and getting home around dark to keep bread on the table is servant leadership.
- A dad on the boundary line again for another whole Saturday and even a Sunday as well supporting the kids playing their sport is servant leadership.
- A parent having a heart-to-heart with one of the kids about some behaviours that must be challenged so it can be adjusted is servant leadership.
And this is just parents. What about everyone else as well!? Servant leadership can mean, “Taking one for the team”, as we say, or, “giving without any getting”.
On Palm Sunday, here’s Jesus, about to “take it all for the whole team”. He is on the end of three years of giving without much getting (except criticism and threats). Even these will pale into insignificance in a week when he gives it all, when he drinks the cup to the dregs and spills his blood on the wood and the sand to get everything good for us – not for himself. Here’s God giving and giving without any guarantee of getting anything back from us.
Jesus did indeed “let them loose” on Palm Sunday, before the end would come. He let them shout and sing and dance and celebrate him being the Messiah they hoped he would be.
The people knew they needed help. They knew they needed something and someone to change lives and make for new peace in their lives and their world.
So do we. “All the lonely people, where do they all come from?”, asked Paul McCartney in that old Beatle’s tune. Life is tough and if it is not yet it will eventually be for you and I at some stage or other. Life is not fair either. Bad things happen to good people and seemingly good people do bad things.
From priests of God to Bill Cosby to Rolf Harris, our confidence in those we though were above reproach must be at an all- time low; except for teenagers and children. They have never had a “high” time of it for things to be so low! They have not known a time when we did not daily hear of terrible acts of violence and evil by people who should know better. We wonder what is it doing to them.
Are some people so suspicious, so cynical, so angry and comfortable with racism, prejudice and hatred that they will actually allow a man like Donald Trump to lead a whole country? Is this the sort of Messiah we need?
Are some people so resigned to self-hatred that they have used to despair – unknowingly living in the worst of human relationships with all of its abuse, substance addiction, under-employment and manipulation that they think this is ‘normal’?
Are some people living in fear most of the time – fear of rejection by peers or partner; fear of never making it the way they are supposed to, fear of living a meaningless life that does not count for much in their eyes or in the eyes of those whose affirmation they seek?
Who will help? What will help? What would change things for the better?
The people of Jesus day all knew the answer to that question. It would be God’s Messiah/Saviour. When he comes he will break the back of pain and fear and oppression and injustice and we will be champions again! We will be free. We will be at peace within. We will be favoured, blessed. We will have greater opportunity, better employment options, better relationships.
Jesus arrives and lets them sing. He has arrived. He knows it is coming to its determined end. They sense something is up. For a moment it smells like everything they thought it would be! Little do they know that the enemy to be defeated is within the human heart not in the red plumes of the Roman soldier’s helmets, or the tall funny hats and dark judgementalism of the Pharisees, or the lust for power of Pilate and Herod.
Jesus arrives and the donkey is the giveaway sign that all is not what it seems. The Servant King – the power of God for the salvation of planet earth appearing in its opposite – a donkey not a white stallion, cheap homespun garments not tailored royal purple robe, crown of thorns not gold, from the praise of the crowd to their stunning rejection within a week. He is serving; Serving me. Serving you. Why? It has to be love for me, love for you….
Why love like this?
Because serving love creates the possibility of genuine peace between people. By serving you, I can help you enter into making peace, laying aside fighting, moving out of prejudice and racism. Words and actions of serving love can allow someone to move from fighting or taking flight, from avoiding the issue or coming out swinging. Serving love fends off that dreadful disease called ‘revenge”.
19 Dear friends, don’t try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says,
“I am the one to take revenge
and pay them back.” (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19)
20 The Scriptures also say,
“If your enemies are hungry,
give them something to eat.
And if they are thirsty,
give them something
This will be the same
as piling burning coals
on their heads.” (Proverbs 25:22)
21 Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.
By his continued serving of us Jesus brings about the possibility that you and I can both
- stop ignoring God’s love or
- stop fight against his love.
We are called to serve. As a church we are very wise do everything with a servant heart and servant leadership.
Steve Sjogren, founding pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, puts it well when he says , serving others is “doing small things with great kindness to unexpectedly interrupt a person’s day with the love of God.” Even an antagonistic person finds it hard to ignore or dismiss a genuine act of kindness.
Why do we spend our money, energy and time on running a Hand in Hand Family Centre with and for our community? Why do we support our own schools at Faith and Redeemer, run an Independent Learning Centre with the local high School on our church campus, make a contribution to the future civic plans for Nuriootpa, put a float in the next Vintage Festival, celebrate 150 years next year, host learning opportunities for children young people and adults, gather here, give money and time and energy to our work together, paint a wall, fix a sign, volunteer to cater for something….? Surely it is to live in Jesus’ way – the Servant way.
We exists to “do a small thing for someone with great kindness to unexpectedly interrupt a person’s day with the love of God”.
We do not exist as a church to show them how good we are or how much we can do or what they are missing out on by not being part of us or getting them to church? No. Not primarily. We exist as a church to ride that donkey with Jesus as they sing and dance or cry and feel hopeless, and be at the cross and know his pain and people’s pain. We do “small things with great kindness to unexpectedly interrupt a person’s day with the love of God”.
Get on the donkey. Hear the people, sense the moment, go into the coming darkness with him. Watch him suffer. See him bleed. Soak up the shame and the pain and be moved again by the sheer serving love of the Saviour and get to that empty tomb Sunday and sing for real; sing forever. He will win you.
The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.
Read through the account of Palm Sunday carefully noting any questions that come to mind or words and images that fire your imagination as you picture the scene and share your thoughts….
If someone new to the Christian faith was to ask you what Palm Sunday was all about, how would you briefly respond to give the person a sense of what is going on this day as Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem? Share your telling of the story.
- What is in the text that Instructs us about God – who he is, what his character is, who we are…?
- What in the text that causes us to Confess wrongdoing and thinking?
- What in the text that causes us to give Thanks to God?
- What Supplications (prayer petitions) does the text create in us today? Note them down and use them at the end of the discussion as prayer points.
What did you make of that quote, “We exists to do a small thing for someone with great kindness to unexpectedly interrupt a person’s day with the love of God”.
How are we doing this? How could we do more of this?
Share experience of the value of serving you have come across in your own life –
- Where do you find it?
- Who models it for you?
- Are you a servant leader at times?
I suggested that Jesus’ servant leadership enables people to either stop denying that God’s love is real or fighting against God’s love. How might this work in a person’s life?
Just as Jesus’ servant love bring the possibility that a person might stop pretending God does not love or stop fighting against God’s love and let him in, so when we practice servant love we bring the same possibility. Has this ever happened in your experience – You served and new peace was found? Share your stories.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer like a string of headings where you fill in the gaps wit prayers in your own words…
Use the abovementioned petitions to add to “Give us today our daily bread” or “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”.
Our Father in heaven…..
Holy be your name……
Your Kingdom come, your will be done….
Give us today our daily bread……..
Forgive us our sins as we forgive……
Lead us not into temptation or hard testing.
Deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom, power and glory now and always. Amen………