Monday, March 25, 2013

Palm Sunday Sermon: No Need for the Stones to Shout

Will there come a day when the stones will need to shout?

There is much talk in the church these days about the "nones." This is a growing group of people who, although they generally believe in God, do not affiliate themselves with any form of religious thought or function. They do not join churches or synagogues or mosques or temples. They are content to believe what they believe and refrain from trying to impose their beliefs upon anyone else.

Much banter has taken place as to why these folks will not join the church. It has created no small amount of angst among some church leaders. As many denominational leaders here in the U.S. see shrinking numbers of worshipers, congregations closing their doors, and membership dropping, they wring their hands. "What should we do? We have to change? We must do things differently or this will continue. We are going to die!"

The idea of a day when all are silent and only the stones will be able to shout is a distant reality for some who get caught up in this scenario.

But I personally am not worried about such a thing.

I personally am not concerned about the growing number of nones.

I personally am not concerned about fewer people worshiping in mainline denominations.

I personally am not concerned about congregations closing their doors.

This might seem callous. This might seem blasphemous. I mean, if one part of the body suffers, all suffers,

Yes. That is true, but it doesn’t change my concern. I still sleep well at night. I do not fret. For such things are out of my control. I have no ability to stem the tide. I have no ability to suddenly make these trends reverse. None of us have that ability or that power. So, in my opinion, such things are not worth focusing on. Such things should not take up our time.

But that then begs the question: what should? What should we be focusing on? What should consume our thoughts and our time as Christians?

Jesus came riding into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Long before the prophet Zecheriah had penned these words:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The people remembered that prophecy. The people remembered what Zecheriah had said. The people knew that Jesus had performed great acts of power. They knew he had fed thousands with just five loaves of bread and two fish. He could end hunger. They knew that Jesus had healed the sick. He could cure disease. They knew Jesus had calmed the storm. He could stop natural disasters. They knew Jesus had raised people from the dead. He could defeat death. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on the back of that donkey, there was little doubt that the King was coming to them; triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

This was cause for celebration!

This was cause for elation!

This was cause for a giant welcome!

And they came. They prepared Jesus’ way. They waved palm branches and put their cloaks in Jesus’ path. And they shouted. They raised their voices saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" This is how you honor the King! You are not silent! You proclaim it with reckless abandon–even if it makes people uncomfortable.

And it did make some people uncomfortable to hear what was being said. It made people uncomfortable to hear Jesus being proclaimed as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. "Jesus, make your disciples shut up! Make them stop! We don’t want to offend anyone! We don’t want the Romans to think you are starting an insurrection! We don’t want anyone angry! Make them be quiet!"

"If they were quiet, even the stones would cry out."

But the stones didn’t cry out then. They didn’t need to. They shouldn’t ever have to.

For as celebretory as this procession of palms was, it pales in comparison. It pales in comparison to what is coming in just a little while. For when Jesus wouldn’t silence the crowds, others took the initiative to do just that.

They plotted and schemed. We will hear about that plot and their schemes later this week on Maundy Thursday. They had Jesus arrested. They trumped up charges against Him. They tried Him. They beat Him. The crowd who saw this turned on Jesus. "Crucify Him!" they yelled. We will hear about how they carried out this death sentence on Good Friday. We will hear about the cross.

For three days, silence indeed reigned.

And then, first one stone cried out as it was moved. More stones cried when the earth shook. And the unthinkable happened.

We will celebrate this on Easter Sunday. We will move through the cross to the ultimate day of our faith. We will celebrate the defeat of death, the promise of the destruction of evil, and the gift of eternal life. We will remember how God acted; how He acts; and His promised action in the future. We will hear the good news that is meant for you and for me.

Ah, and when we hear that news, it will touch a chord down deep within us. It will resonate so deeply that our voices will begin to stir. No matter what we try, we will not be able to stop it. The Spirit will move and our voices will shout, "Jesus is Lord!" And the world will know who it’s Savior is.

Our witness will go out. The proclamation will come out of us. And there will never be a need for the stones to shout. Amen.

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