Going Deeper 4-15-19

Our focus this morning will be on the story of Palm Sunday which we heard from Luke’s Gospel.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
I have come to believe that for God’s word to truly have an impact on our hearts, our minds, and our lives, it is very helpful for us to learn to “enter” the stories.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can use our God-given gift of imagination to experience a story by seeing ourselves as part of the story, perhaps as an eye-witness or one or more participants in what is going on.
The Palm Sunday story is an excellent story to enter, and in order to set the stage and get our imaginations flowing I am going to share a 2-minute clip of the Palm Sunday scene from the 1973 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.  The various parts we might consider entering include the Jewish leaders up on the scaffold, one of the palm-waving participants, a disciple, or even Jesus Himself.  Let’s take a look…

We could devote a whole sermon to any one of those characters.  We could place ourselves in the position of the religious leaders, calling for “the rabble to be quiet, we anticipate a riot…”  These men have developed both an intense hatred for-- and very real fear of-- Jesus and His movement.  They know that who He claims to be and what He continues to teach pose a serious threat to their whole religious structure, including the sin-management cult that had developed in and around the Jerusalem temple.  And they understood and if this were to be undermined, it would also have devastating impact on the Jerusalem economy… including their own.
So they hated Jesus and plotted to have Him destroyed, and they would continue to attack His movement and followers for many years.  Some have speculated (including me!) that if Jesus were to physically come onto the modern scene with His radical teachings many church leaders and members today would want to do away with Him.  That’s food for thought.
Perhaps we might want to see ourselves as one among the crowd greeting Jesus, filled with hope that the rumors were true and that He might very well be the long-awaited and much-anticipated Messiah Christ.  “Hosanna!  Hey-sanna!  Sanna, sanna, hosanna!”  Hosanna means “save us!”  And we are longing to be saved… not so much from sin and the devil, but more so from the hated Roman empire, and perhaps from some of the corrupt religious leaders.  “Hey JC, JC, won’t you fight for me?!”
Imagine the hope and anticipation they felt… as well as the terrible disappointment you would feel when you see Him crushed by the very people you had hoped to be saved from.  It is even possible that just a handful of days later you find yourself caught up in a near-riot scene, maybe even joining the crowd in shouting “Crucify Him!”  More food for thought.
Another role we might assume is that of one of His disciples.  You have responded to the call of this itinerant preacher, following Him for three years and have witnessed, experienced, and heard many incredible things.  “Surely this is the Messiah!” you have concluded, and you have found yourself filled with Messianic expectations similar to—and perhaps even more intense than—the people crying “Hosanna!”  
In the midst of all of the revolutionary passion you recall some rather unexpected thigs Jesus has taught you and the others, things like loving and praying for your enemies and those who persecute you.  And recently Jesus has on three occasions told you that He was about to be arrested, tried, beaten, mocked, spat upon and crucified.  And He even said something about rising from the dead three days later.  You have no grasp of such things.
But now things are happening…  You find yourself caught up in the adrenalin of the moment as you escort Jesus through the palm-waving and shouting crowds.  You begin to wonder if this might finally be the time when Jesus is going to assert Himself and get things rolling.  You think to yourself, “Jesus might be a different kind of King than most would’ve been expecting, but He certainly has the power to pull it off.  And I could very well end up being His right-hand man.”  You’re excited by the possibilities.  Yes even more food for thought.
Now, back to our present reality.  We know how the story ends.  This Friday, during what I consider to be the most important worship service of the year, we will walk with Jesus during the final hours of the story.  We know it will end in a shocking death, followed by an even more shocking resurrection.  
The story of our journey with Jesus ends in victory.  Yet in truth the story has not ended.  In approaching the Scriptures as the inspired script of the Divine Drama, we are led to see that we are in truth part of the story.  Right now, we are on the stage, and each and every one of us have been equipped for a special role in the story, a part to play in the most important unfolding drama of all of history… of His story.  
As a matter of fact, we are called to carry on the story, to carry on the redemptive, restoring work of strengthening and extending the Kingdom of God.  The more we enter the story, the more meaningful both the story and our lives become.  May we be inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to understand the part we play in the Divine Drama, and participate more and more fully in the salvation and restoration of the world.  It’s an awesome thing to be a part of the story of the coming of the Kingdom of God!!

   May 2019   
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