Hancock Church Sermon  http://youtu.be/DNh_xhYf80k

Pam Cochrane

March 24, 2013

Luke 12:13-31

 

The Road to Jerusalem:  Make way for Jesus!               

 

        So here we are, we have traveled through Lent and find ourselves waving palms and singing Hosanna.  We have arrived, and our entrance was grand.  After all, isn’t Palm Sunday all about the “entrance?” From the Gospel of Luke we hear the story of Jesus’ entrance into the city of Jerusalem.  Bathphage and Bethany are on the east side of Jerusalem. This place where Jesus and his disciples gather is known as the Mount of Olives, a ridge high over the city.  This morning, this first day of Holy week, we pause at this place between the desert and the fertile Jerusalem hills, named for the tiered groves of olive trees that once flourished there.  If you are thinking of traveling to Jerusalem you’ll find that this location is recommended for its exceptional views of the city. From this hillside you can see the gates to the city, and in the middle, the shining gold dome of the temple, and then fanning out on each side, the expanse of commerce, pools and markets and the wall that surrounds the city. Beyond the views there are other important traits to this place, Bethany is the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha and Bethphage is where the Palm Sunday walk begins, it’s where the donkey is procured and the disciples gather.    Many have noted that this place on the Mount of Olives has a particular vantage point, one that Jesus was distinctly aware of and why he chose this place to pause as the day of Passover approached.

    Most religious scholars agree that Jesus knew of the perilous days ahead in the city of Jerusalem.  But from his vantage point on the hill, Jesus was not sure the disciples and those who gathered with him understood what was ahead in the city.  What had been forming in Jerusalem was a clash of two worlds.  This robust center of sacred life was also the imperial center of power.  Tensions build as pilgrims from all over the region stream into the city to celebrate the Holy Day while the Roman reinforcements prepare to keep order in the temple and high courts.

    Theologians, Marcus Borg and John Crossan offer a vivid description of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem in their book, The Last Week. So Imagine if you will; Jesus and his disciples and many others peasants from Galilee, who have gathered on the slope in Bethphage, as several women bring the donkey up the hill to Jesus.  They take off their dusty cloaks and lay them over the donkey and Jesus sits.  On the other side of the city, the west slope, imagine Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor with his guard, upon horses, an imperial cavalry, complete with foot soldiers and armor, and perhaps even beating drums. Possessions were part of city life, especially at the time of the Passover festival. But this day would be different as two processions enter the City.

    As Jesus heads down the hill, more people gather shouting King of the Jews, King of Peace.  Oh, it is inevitable that the days ahead will bring conflict, tension, and pain.  The Jewish people see Jesus riding in on a donkey, and those leading and following are laying down their cloaks and waving palm branches.  This is not the procession of an imperial king rather the procession of a humble peaceful servant of God. The cloaks and the palms make way for Jesus to enter the city, and this is not the entrance the Romans expected.  The cloaks that were thrown down to pave the way for Jesus reveal some truths in the city of Jerusalem and reveal truths in our own cities. If it’s all about the entrance, how do we enter the city?  Are we willing to walk with Jesus, into the city and Holy week?

     During the season of Lent, June Cooper from City Mission Society offered a program here at Hancock that focused on the theme of “the city in scripture.”   She offered us a rich dialogue on the places and spaces we build in our cities, from sacred places to powerful spaces.  As the group reflected on scripture, she posed wondering questions, asking us to reflect on ways that make peace in our cities, ways that bring justice to our cities.  Where is Jesus at work in our city? The discussions that followed really got me thinking… thinking about the voices from our city, voices that tell a story of Jesus’ way in the city.

     I have several memories of going into the city as a child. It was always a special occasion.  My dad worked in what we called “down town,” the financial district, the trip in was usually by train, then subway, then walking, no horses and donkeys, but I remember thinking of the trip as a pilgrimage, simply because the city seemed to heighten all my senses. So many people, sites, smells, and noises. The city loomed large, busy and loud. There was reason my father would always say, “keep moving, look ahead, don’t get distracted, stay with me,” but I do remember wanting to stop, and look and notice what was around me and especially listen for the voices. June helped me recall my memories and hold up the voices we hear from the city today…   Imagine a young mother:

      I am struggling to keep my apartment and homelessness is looming. Each day is a challenge, and I am afraid I’ll lose my home.  Street life in this city is dark and dangerous.    I have a two year old daughter and we are just getting by, day today.  After losing my job, I just can’t see where to turn next.  But, then my neighbor upstairs slips me a note in the stairwell as I’m heading up with groceries.  There’s a number written down and the words “Lift Up, a City Mission Project.”  I’d never heard of the ‘lift up’ program in the city, and I didn’t know anything about City Mission Society but that day there was a woman on the other end of the phone telling me that I can keep my home.  I listened to the caring voice on the other end of the line.  Now, I take the bus each day from Boston to Waltham to attend a high school class.  It’s been a year and I’ll finish soon and have my diploma.   My daughter is getting so big.  City mission is helping me with some new clothes, now that she’s outgrown most.  I stop by the City Mission office each week to check in; they have helped me find a new way in the city.  I head home with some food they’ve packed up for me.  On the street I pass a homeless woman sitting on a doorstep, she looks a lot like me.  I stop, open my bag, lift up my hands to offer some food and she is grateful.

  Hear the voice of a young man in the city:

      I was just a kid when I got in a fight on my street. Things ended badly and I found myself in jail.  I tried to tell my story then, no one listened.  Being physical and fighting on the street was all I knew.  My life had only been about conflict and it was time I did something about it.  When I was released, I found myself back in the city, standing on the same street. What would be different now? I wanted to find a new way.  I wanted a chance to tell my story, again.   A group in the city called the public voice circle reached out to me.   Instead of shouting and fighting over issues, this group teaches a way of storytelling to resolve conflict.  I found a place to tell my story, a place where I learned to use my voice. That’s when I decided to use my voice, not my fists, to fight violence.  Now I think there are other kids like me who want to find a new way. Telling my story led me to work in the community where I live, and now I travel through the city helping other young people find their voice.

 

 Hear a voice from outside the city…

     I don’t think I ever considered living in the city. Why should I?  I live out here away from all the noisy stuff, the issues I just don’t need to be bothered with day to day.  The air, the space out here is great. I can just relax and enjoy life up here on the hill.  From here I can get to the city when I want.  I can cherry pick the best of the best; hit Fenway to cheer on the Red Sox, catch a concert at Symphony Hall, or make a special trip in for the fireworks on the Fourth of July and the restaurants are great. I love going out to dinner.   I hear a lot of stories from the city, but not from people who live in the city, just what I catch in the news. Sounds like they have a lot of problems, too bad really.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I know many folks who live in the city.  That was until I was asked to go into the city to volunteer at Rosie’s place.  The place was packed  and as I was helping serve dinner a woman looked me in the eye and asked me,  “what would you do if you had no place to go, not enough money to cover the rent, you were evicted and even your cousin, who’s offered her couch for months said get out?  She caught me off guard. I hesitated, then looking into her eyes, I lent a smile and replied, “I guess I’d come here!”

Jesus told his disciples that it would be hard to follow.  He had told them that on many occasions.  At the edge of the city, the obvious became even clearer. Once they started down the hill on their pilgrimage into the city of Jerusalem, the crowds started yelling, pushing, and the noise and voices grew louder:

‘Blessed is the King

 Who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven,

 And glory in the highest heaven!’

    When Jesus headed down the slope his followers were faced with a decision; would they walk with him, would they lead in his name?

The stories we share today give us hope that the prince of peace is still at work in our city and in our lives? City Mission Society and Rosies Place and countless organizations help us enter the city in Jesus’ way, bringing hope, peace and justice.   These are some of the same voices that cried out when Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.  As Jesus made his way down the hill on Palm Sunday, his followers laid down their cloaks and waved their palm branches. Others rushed upon him and you could hear them yelling,

‘Blessed is the King

  Who comes in the name of the Lord!

Peace in heaven,

  And glory in the highest heaven!’

    Jesus and all who walked with him were the most vulnerable this day, offering a new way to walk into the city with their voices ringing loudly. Even as the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher order your disciples to stop” Jesus answered “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out!”

    As we worship here this morning, and as we gather for fellowship following worship and return to hear the passion story later today, let us reveal the truth that together, as a congregation, we can voice the peace and truth that Jesus demanded in Jerusalem and demands of us today. Let us lay down our cloaks, be vulnerable and make way for Jesus, make way for the King of Peace.

Amen