I Love A Parade

    Mar 20, 2016

    Passage: Luke 19:28-40

    Preacher: William (Tex) Culton


    Luke 19: 28-40, Psalm 118, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Phil.2:5-11.

    Every Memorial Day I put on my Blue blazer, my white shirt and red tie and with a poppy in my lapel, I march with other clergy in the parade organized by the American legion and VFW.  I usually pray at some monument or on the steps of the town hall, and I always thank God for the sacrifice of our fallen sons and daughters and pray that out of our gratitude and humility we would all become peacemakers.

    The parades are wonderful!  School bands, scout troops, public officials, local organization floats, pipers, historic past war reenactors, and beloved veterans.  A happy parade for a sad occasion.  Madison is the only town where I have seen a casket, representing the fallen, in a very powerful way as a central focus for the day.

    At the end of the parade is the reminder that it was possible only because many gave their lives. 

    When I was a boy of 8 sitting on the curb in Woodbridge watching the parade march by, I overheard a solider in full combat gear say to the man marching next to him, “Did you hear?  We ship out next week!”  That was to Korea to fight in that horrible conflict.  And every night the 12 inch television screen would scroll the names of those killed in action.  It would occur just after the evening news and before the entertainment programs would be aired.  It was sobering, to say the least.

    We sent them off with parades and a pocket New Testament in their breast pocket over their hearts, and lots of prayers!

    I love a parade!

    Jesus had a parade.  There was no band, and no remembrance of any past sacrifices.  It was a provocative act planned by Jesus.  Two Biblical historian claim that Pontius Pilate was entering Jerusalem from the West with a show of Roman force and so Jesus entered Jerusalem from the East, coming down off the Mount of Olives fulfilling Zechariah’s ancient prophecy: “Look, your king is coming to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9 & Mt. 21:5.  Pilate showcased Rome’s military might, power and glory.  Jesus’s triumphal entry, by stark contrast, was and anti-imperial “counter procession” of peasants that proclaimed an alternate social vision, “the kingdom of God” which was then considered SUBVERSIVE!

    What began on Sunday with a religious procession ended Friday morning with a public display of state terror. It was not like Jesus didn’t know the impact his ministry was having on the tiny nation of Israel; this Theocracy that was constantly looking for a Messiah to lead it to freedom and glory. Jesus knew that Herod wanted his head as did the Pharisees and chief priests of the Temple.  He had spent three years of itinerant  preaching, teaching, and healing, focused on the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and all who were oppressed (Luke 4:18ff).  The authorities had enough, and even his family declared him insane!

    All his disciples and children spread their cloaks on the ground and shouted, “Save us (Hosanna!) Blessed it the KING who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Palms were being waved and thrown in front of Jesus and some Pharisees, recognizing how this would be taken as sedition, warned: “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

    Christ’s answer, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Means to me that prophecy will be fulfilled.  Oppression seeks to silence the truth, but the truth exists no matter how much it is twisted or denied.  It is the very WORD of God.

    Jesus is the way (to live and to reflect God), the truth (we are all children of God and are loved tenaciously by God), and the life (we are all meant to live in relation to one another as Christ lived).

    He continued with a challenge: “No one comes to the Father, except through me!”  One must follow in His footsteps to enter the Kingdom of God, otherwise it eludes us.

    The kingdom of which Jesus is king is not a political kingdom; though many would like it to be so.  Power is something we all seem to desire, and we’ll use any means to attain it, and once we have it, we’ll use all our intellectual prowess to keep it.  We will even use religion, if it suits our purposes.  But know this: God will not be used, nor will God’s truth remain silent.  The very stones will cry out!

    The kingdom of which Christ is king is one that inhabits the heart and the mind and is home for the soul.  It is a kingdom of loving our neighbors as ourselves and turning the other cheek and giving our lives for the salvation of others.

    When we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, our way of living will make those who are in power uneasy and will accuse us of subverting the government.  We will spend all our resources on the poor (whether they deserve it or not) and we will spend all our resources on combating disease, and hunger and we will spend all of our time visiting the sick and the imprisoned! We will recognize our own sin and confess it.  We will live in harmony with the world (the environment).  We will teach our children the way of Christ and we will live as Christ lived, no matter how privileged our hard work and intelligence have made us.  “Who being in very nature, God, did not consider equality with god something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:5-11

    So this Palm Sunday, I invite you along with Jesus to join his subversive counter-procession into all the world.  I’m not calling for political subversion, but rather Christian subversion that takes as it model Jesus.

    Dying to self and the many demons of egoism, and living to serve others will prove itself to be sufficiently and radically subversive. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus!”