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What Palms Do You Bring? | A Sermon for Palm Sunday

Narrative Lectionary Text: John 19:16-22

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Have you ever been disappointed by something?

One thing that I often find myself disappointed with is movies. Have you ever been disappointed by a movie. Anyone?

Let’s try something. Take a moment and think of a movie that really disappointed you. Do you have it? Now, think about why it was disappointing. OK?

Now, turn to the person next to you and tell them what movie it was and why it was disappointing to you.

I’m curious to know. How many of you said it was because it was nothing like the book? That’s one of my biggest reasons. How many of you had an answer that was basically this: It wasn’t what I expected.

Let me run this statement past you. Our level of disappointment is directly proportionate to our level of expectation. Let that soak in for a second.

Here’s a picture to help us grasp this. Our level of disappointment is directly proportionate to our level of expectation. The higher the expectation we have for something to be good, the higher the potential is for us to be disappointed.

Do you think that is true?

I heard a story this week that reminded me of this idea.

There were two men in Scotland standing in a farmyard. One man accidentally dropped three one pound notes into the pig pen, and before he could get the money, the pig swallowed them up.

“Oh, no,” he said, “what do I do now?”

The other man told him to make the pig drink some beer, then kick it in the rear, and it will spit up the money.

The first man thought it was worth a shot. He took the pig down to the local pub and got it to drink some beer. He kicked it in the rear. Then, burp, the pig spit out a one pound note. The man made the pig drink some more beer, kicked it again, and, burp, out came the second note. The man did it a third time, and, sure enough, burp, out comes the third bill.

By this time people are watching and are amazed. Another guy comes up to him and says, “I’ll give you One hundred pounds for your pig.” Sold.

The next morning the headline read. “Angry Scotsman kicks drunken pig to death.”

He had an expectation of what that pig could do, and his disappointment led to deadly consequences.

I wonder. Have you ever been disappointed by something?

Have you ever been disappointed in a friendship? in a child? in a marriage? in a church?

Have you ever been disappointed in God?

I bring this up today because in our Gospel story we encounter one of the greatest reversals in history, and I’m left scratching my head.

What can lead a group of people to go from shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna to the King” on Sunday, to shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” five days later?

I think it comes down to one word: Disappointment. They were disappointed in Jesus.

This is Palm Sunday, and we’ve been waving palm branches around because the people waved palm branches as they cheered Jesus on when he came into the city of Jerusalem.

My strange mind got to thinking about waving palm branches, and it struck me. Most of us have two palm branches on us all the time. The center of our hand is called a…palm.

Then I got to thinking. How do we receive Jesus? How do we hold on to Jesus? What is the path from Hosanna, Hosanna, to crucify him?

There are four ways that we can “palm” Jesus. The question is: What Palms do you Bring to Jesus?

The first looks like this.

Hold your hands up and wave them back and forth. This is the hosanna pose. This is the cheerleader, woo-hoo, Jesus is awesome pose.

Many people have warm and fuzzy feelings about Jesus because they know him from a distance, they have certain expectations about him, and they cheer about him from the stands.

This is kind of a lip service relationship to Jesus. We give a shout out to God on the big days, like Christmas and Easter. God is good, and Jesus is over there. woo-hoo. But it doesn’t really have much to do with my everyday life.

Then there is a second pose. It looks like this.

I call this the stranglehold relationship to Jesus. This is where we see the power that Jesus has and we try to grab on to Jesus to get what we need from him. This can take on many shapes. Most people that followed Jesus during his ministry were looking for one of three things:

1. The want to be physically healed, because they were sick or deformed.

2. They wanted to be physically fed, because they were hungry.

3. They wanted to be physically delivered from oppression because they were under the military rule of the Roman Emperor.

When Jesus rode into town they saw their opportunity to get out of him what they wanted.

I think this still goes on today, all the time. Let’s face it, we all want to get something out of Jesus. We have high expectations of him. Jesus will heal my body, my family, my finances, my soul.

Then there is a third pose.

It looks like this. This is the dump him pose. This happens when we are disappointed in Jesus.

Statistics tell us that over 80% of people in Anoka County don’t attend church. Statistics also tell us that over 80% of people have some belief in God.

Do you know why I think most people are not involved in a local church? Because they have been disappointed by it. Something has happened in their lives.

God was supposed to heal my sister. God was supposed to rescue me from foreclosure. God was supposed to protect me from the abuser. The pastor was supposed to be honest and safe.

Our level of disappointment is directly proportionate to our level of expectation, right?

Jesus did not deliver the goods to the people of Jerusalem.

Judas was so disappointed that he was willing to sell him out. Peter was so disappointed and afraid that he betrayed him. The people were so disappointed that they were willing to execute him.

I wonder.

Have you ever been disappointed by God? Do you know anyone who has been so disappointed by God that they have dumped the whole thing and walked away?

There is one last pose. It looks like this.

Palms up.

Last week I ended the sermon by saying that there is a third way that will help us out of being between a rock and a hard place. I said that the third way is love.

I got a lot of positive feedback from that. I’m not going to lie, it is always nice to get positive feedback. But, I wonder. Sometimes when we say things like, “All we need is love,” I wonder what we really mean. When we think of love, we tend to think of warm fuzzies, and rainbows and unicorns.

But, that isn’t the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated or the kind of love that Jesus invites us into.

Sometimes I think our expectation for love is that you will love me, and then we’ll all get along.

But what did Jesus do? He died.

He gave up himself. He gave up his own chance to be the King, so that people will know what God’s Kingdom is really all about.

Jesus did not come to bring himself glory, he came to bring his father glory. He taught us to pray

“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

The only way that we can truly pray that prayer is when we die to our own Kingdom.

The apostle Paul put it this way.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)

I want you to notice something in our text today in John 19:16-22.

Pilate posted a sign above Jesus’ head that said, “The King of Jews.” The religious leaders wanted it to say “He claimed to be the king of the Jews,” but Pilate didn’t care, and didn’t change it.

Here’s what I want you to notice.

Pilate wrote this notice in three languages. He wrote it in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. He didn’t know it, but this was prophetic.

The expectations that the people had for Jesus was that he would be the King of Israel and would defeat the Latin speaking Romans and the Greek speaking culture. He didn’t.

He came to be the one who would show the world that God’s arms are open to all the world. God loves the world so much that God was willing to die for it.

That is why we take this broken journey of lent each year. It is why we need to take this broken journey everyday of our lives. The first step of spiritual formation is to die.

Spiritual formation is like an onion.

It’s got layers. We die to self and find freedom for a while, and then God peels back a new layer and shows us a deeper dying, and a deeper life.

The Broken Journey leaves us like this. Palms up.

May I die, so that your Kingdom will come, and your will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

 

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