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Sunday Message for 14 April 2019 (Palm Sunday): “Divine Entrance”

Welcome to Palm Sunday, a time of faith-filled joy. Today’s celebration begins with Jesus’ trek through Jerusalem’s gate. Ultimately, what you’re encouraged to celebrate is God’s grand entrance into your spiritual life.

Jesus’ odd donkey ride into ancient Jerusalem encouraged his supporters, who recognized him as a man of promise and possibility. The crowds adoring Jesus might have known him as the populist prophet from Nazareth in Galilee. Perhaps these admirers even considered Jesus to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman-occupation. Whatever those onlookers perceived was based on their opinion of that controversial, donkey-riding man. Who is Jesus for you?

Amid the parade-like atmosphere of Jesus arrival, all was not well. The Jewish and Roman leaders were aware of a fervent crowd which was easily perceived as a threat. From the perspective of the authorities, the Jerusalem populace might get out of control and this could lead to a riot, possibly sparking a revolt against the Roman occupiers (which eventually happened a few decades after Jesus’ death). The biblical text does not suggest that Jesus’ actions were deliberately intended to cause political instability. Yet, it’s all about perception. With the Romans watching even a parade led by a peculiar man on a donkey aroused suspicion.

What if Jesus had leveraged his popularity to initiate insurrection against the Jewish priestly oligarchy and the Romans? Jesus didn’t accomplish such a scenario because he was emphasizing spiritual issues rather than political power. It’s not surprising then that Jesus chose to present himself as the spiritual King of the Jews. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but God’s eternal presence doesn’t depend on who holds the privileged reigns of power. Jesus did not seem to want to exploit opportunities for changing the political map of ancient Palestine.

Some of those people cheering Jesus’ entrance likely felt betrayed because Jesus didn’t instigate the anticipated revolution. Perhaps this explains why many abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Initially buoyed by high-hopes, people who shouted praises during Jesus’ triumphal entry would soon be appalled by his arrest and execution and even more so by Jesus’ apparent capitulation to the Roman government. It’s unfortunate that public opinion was so fickle and focused on worldly things. Once evident that Jesus would not fulfill nationalist aspirations, his base of cheerleading supporters abandoned him. Such is how peoples’ expectations about political messiahs leaves them profoundly unfulfilled.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years and Jesus continues to make entrances into peoples’ hearts and minds. As in the past, peoples’ views about Jesus vary wildly. So many different view of Jesus are possible that some have suggested that it’s like a spiritual cafeteria or religious smorgasbord, where you can pick and choose the Jesus you want based on your personal prejudices. As always, those who think about Jesus can be casual observers, hardened skeptics, true-believers, people who want to manipulate sentiment, and just about every shade of opinion in-between. Our task is to cut through the noise and embrace the Jesus of love and truth, thereby welcoming the God who brings life renewal and wellbeing.

Today, it’s not about a literal, triumphal entry through a city gate as much as it is a spiritual entry of God into your life. Are you on this type of journey? Is God the guiding force in your life and are you enthusiastic about your spirituality? The point is to get you to the place where you can follow God authentically, not out of habit, fear, social pressure or anything less than a transforming embrace of love and truth.

As you prepare for Easter, hunger and thirst for God’s Spirit. Allow yourself to be filled with meaning and hope. Don’t let Lent end in vain. Move forward courageously and leverage the strength you’ve gained. Continue the positive momentum through the rest of the year. The tendency is for people to drop off and drop out after Easter. Don’t let that happen to you or those you love. Avoid the slow death of apathy and remain energized as you share your faith. We need you to be that person whom God is entering with divine promise and possibility.       –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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