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Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 21:1-11
Bigfork Community United Methodist Church
April 5, 2019 –Palm Sunday
We come to the beginning of Holy Week in a very different way this year. It is a new day and a new reality that we step out of to be together in worship this morning.
Our friends, Bob and Bonnie Chrysler are back from the sunny south, and Bonnie sent me a story about a hiker who saw God walking along the rivers and plains and mountains of Montana and asked him what he was doing.
God replied, “working from home.” They are glad to be back but we won’t see them for a little bit because they are modeling good behavior for us. They have crossed the western United States to get here and they are keeping to themselves for 14 days after their arrival here.
Welcome home to all our friends, and thank you for taking such good care of yourselves…and us…as we go through a new thing together.
Maybe we approach it, in a way, for the first time…just as Jesus approached it when he rode into Jerusalem. The uncertainty…the danger…not knowing how it will all come out…but know we are doing the best we can and trusting in God’s will for us to make that effort…all of these elements in our daily lives today resonate in the old, old story we ride into town with…again…today.
What must have been going on in his mind. All the glory he is receiving…risking it all, but knowing this is what he was called to risk it for…hoping and praying that all things would be well for those he loved enough to give his own life…the life of God on earth…and all the glory…that would pass in a flash.
It was not an official procession. No parade permit was issued. The authorities couldn’t stop it and came in late to criticize it.
In the account from Luke, they tell him to have his followers quiet down but Jesus replies that if they did, the stones themselves would start to sing.
This is a man who knows what he is doing, in a spontaneous unannounced way, is an earth-shaking…and world-changing… event.
Never mind that he holds no office. Never mind that his followers are from the rank and file of society and bring no alms or social status with them. Never mind that no one has heard of him before.
This is great work that he has been given to do…God’s own message wrapped in his cloak…the promise of ages hanging on his courage and faithfulness.
He, too, must have thought…if he didn’t say it…that “We will get through this…bad as it may sometimes appear…we will get through this together…and things will be better on the other side.”
My hope and my admiration increased again this past week for the people who are rising up to face the pandemic. Once again, it is not the people you might think who are doing the heavy lifting.
I see once again the genius of the American Experiment in all of this, because when all is said and done, there is no one figure who has to do what needs to be done. We, the People, need to do what needs to be done.
We face a faceless foe, just as Jesus did. There was no way you could know how it would all come out, anymore than the people in Jesus’ day did.
We are feeling our way through this week, much the way Jesus’ followers did. But we are all doing the best we can, and we are doing pretty well.
John Stewart has a great song about an old woman who told him what it was like during the depression. “They was just a bunch of people, doing what they could, and they did it pretty up and walking good.”
We are in the Bigfork Eagle this week, along with the other churches in our parish, and we are one of three churches offering online worship…and I see all of them… all of us…reaching out intentionally to keep in touch with people when they feel the need to be together.
In our case, it isn’t just the staff at the church reaching out. I am hearing story after story about you keeping in touch with each other… you reaching out to each other…to be sure that someone is calling every phone number that needs a call…or a meal…or a ride.
Abraham Lincoln continued the work to complete the United States Capitol dome when he was in office and at war. Franklin Roosevelt recalled that act when he dedicated the National Gallery of Art in March of 1941.
He recalled Lincoln defending his decision by saying, “If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.”
Roosevelt accepted the National Gallery as a gift from Paul Mellon, “To accept this work today is to assert the purpose of the people of America--that the freedom of the human spirit and human mind which has produced the world's great art . . . shall not be utterly destroyed.” March 17, 1941.
Today we find ourselves besieged in a new way…sheltering in place… social distancing…to stop a novel and invisible virus from spreading. It is a hardship to each of us and it is a hard blow to all our social structures. It is a very small ‘d’ democratic in its impact.
Like Satan himself, this virus does not distinguish between one class of people or another…it does not care who you are or what you are. It can be carried by people who look healthy. Unlike any other health crisis in human history, it is all around the globe. All the nations of the world have a common foe, a common problem, that we all need to solve. Not just some of us, but all of us.
We do not know how it travels or where it is. It is a time of reckoning, just like Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem that morning.
We only know to wash our hands, get our exercise, keep in touch with people who are important to us, and let others know that we are with them…even when we are not with them.
Jesus did not come to save only the people of his time. He came to save people from this day forward. He came as a heavenly king into a worldly world.
Here we are, in the worldly world, with a problem that only all of us together can hope to keep from becoming a tragedy. In our private actions we all get to decide whether 100,000 or 1,000,000 or more will die. We are accepting that responsibility.
Like Isaiah this morning, we have turned our faces like a flint and we know we will not be put to shame. It is the Sovereign Lord who helps us. Who, then, will condemn us?
We need to do what we need to do and I have seen people doing it. No leader is going to talk us out of it, but I am seeing our public health officials preempting the political dialogue now, trying to lead us out of it.
Our skepticism and our conspiracy theories are not going to settle anything. If anything, they will make matters worse.
Our hope and our reason and our good will are the things that get us through any tight spot…and they are what we have to lean on now.
John Adams was famous for saying ‘Facts are stubborn things.” Viruses are stubborn things, too, and we can only hope to help each other through this season with reason and goodwill…no villains…no heroes… just friends everywhere…being a friend wherever we are to whoever we can help.
We can’t breathe theories, but we can fill our minds with good information and our hearts with good will…and we can ride into Jerusalem this morning with Jesus.
What he did shaped all the ages since. What we do now can have the same kind of impact thousands of years from now.
Our learning curve at this moment of human history is vertical. Our sharing curve is horizontal. And there is an all-powerful yet humble man who rides through our lives this day to take away our sins… and our fears…and to give us life abundant…even now.
Let us have the same mindset, in this novel Lenten season, as Jesus Christ.
Lord, what is it that you want to do in the world through us…through me…this day? Amen.