Jennifer DeBisschop
Congregational Church of Brookfield
04-09-2006 -- Palm Sunday

A Different Perspective

Psalm 31:1-8, 14-16
Mark 11:1-11

As I read through the familiar scripture passages that tell us the Palm Sunday story all I could think of was the fact that it is a true task to be diligent in walking the Holy Week journey. It is a true task to walk this journey without wanting to change something about the way things happened…without wanting to figure out another way, a different way. Holy Week has been one of those times of year for me that I have been invited into. I have been invited to final Lenten reflections, to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services, to Easter Sunrise Services as the light comes up once again after we have seen Jesus betrayed and crucified. I have been invited to stop, to pray, to reflect on what is happening in the lives of people who came to begin a faith movement that we now know as Christianity. It is a heavy week, there is no question about it. We begin and end with celebrations but what is in between, the events that came to pass, give us reason to pause. We follow from "Hosannas" to jeers and tears to "Alleluias." We run the gamut of emotions as we prepare to spend time with family and friends on Easter Sunday, and in our faith lives as we try to faithfully walk this journey with Jesus, with his disciples, with the people who watched and participated as this Holy Drama took place some 2000 years ago.

So as I began to think about this morning, about the task of inviting all of us into this holiest of weeks, I couldn't get the phrase "a different perspective" out of my mind. But what different perspective? Whose different perspective? What does that mean anyway? When I look back at the Holy Drama of Palm Sunday I am reminded of how many different characters there were…how many different perspectives. There were the people who perhaps had received the word that Jesus was coming into their city, who on short notice came to see what we would now describe as a parade…a normal occurrence when someone important either politically or religiously was coming into town. There was of course Jesus walking on a journey that he had already predicted would end in resurrection from death, but who knew that he had to face the difficulties and suffering that lay ahead before his joyous reunion with God in heaven. Then there were the disciples walking on the journey with him, realizing that he was someone special, that he was the Messiah, but still not certain what that meant for them, believers who figured that the Messiah would be mighty, powerful, and forceful. There were the two disciples that he sent ahead of him to find the colt, following Jesus' command and finding that almost miraculously again he knew exactly what they would find and where they would find it. And then there was the colt…what about the colt? Imagine with me, if you will the thoughts of a humble animal servant.

If only I had known then what I know now. Looking back I remember that day well. It began as a normal day like any other. I was very young and awaiting the day when I would be given a job, when I would figure out what my purpose was. I was lying down when I heard the sound of two unknown men approaching. Without so much as a glance to my caretakers the men, looking road weary, came over and untied me. I was confused to say the least. I had never seen these men before and here they were to take me away. My caretakers promptly questioned them to see what this was all about. The men mentioned that a very important gentleman, a Master or Lord of some sort needed me in order to ride into Jerusalem. I grew a bit excited. Not only would it be the first time that I carried someone, it was to be someone important. After some bargaining and a promise that I would be returned, the two men led me back to a group of people who seemed to be waiting on something. Then I realized that the something they were waiting on was me! A man stood up when we approached. There was something about this man that I just could not figure out. I knew that this was the important man that I had been led back to carry, but he didn't look very important. He too looked road weary. He was not dressed in the fancy clothes of a person of political importance or of a king, instead he had on a very simple outfit of skins and fir. And he wore sandals upon his feet which looked like they had seen years of hard travel. It was then that I realized it really was a good thing that they came to get me. The men who traveled with him truly cared about this man. They knew that he was special. They took off their own traveling cloaks and put them on my back for him to sit upon. Although he was a slight man, not large by any stretch of the imagination, when he sat upon my back he felt so heavy. I know it was the first time I had carried someone, but this was a different kind of weight. It felt as if the weight of the world was on this man's shoulders.

Despite the seeming burden of carrying this heavy-laden man into the City of Jerusalem I was full of nervous excitement. What awaited us in the city…what awaited him in the City? Immediately upon entering the gates I thought that my question was answered. People lined the streets with palm branches in their hands. They laid their cloaks before me to walk upon, and they laid down their palm branches. They shouted cheers "Hosannas." There were so many of them shouting and praising the man who was on my back. Who was he? I had no idea what all of this meant at the time. After he reached the temple, the man got down off of my back, gave me a good pat and ran his hand along my head and neck. It felt almost as if he had blessed me, and the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders. The other two men brought me back to my home where I spent time thinking about what had just happened.

Thinking back that was an amazing day for me. If only I had known then what I know now. If only I knew how important the man was who I carried that day. If only I knew what was going to happen next. Would I have done anything differently? Would I have changed how quickly I walked? Would I have let him go or would I have held him there next to me patting my back and running his hand down my neck somehow? I don't know that I would have.

It is pretty clear now that he knew what his purpose was. It is pretty clear to me now that it was a true blessing to have helped him fulfill his purpose in some way. Now I know what that extra weight he was carrying around was. Now I know what happened next. There was something about an outrage in the temple, overturned tables and very upset important religious men. There was something about him going into the Temple to teach people lessons through stories and examples, and about his ability to foretell what might come to pass.

And then word came to my caretakers that the man was going to be put on trial. "What man?" my caretakers asked. "Jesus of Nazareth," was the reply. "Jesus of Nazareth", that was the name of the man I carried that day. Sure enough he was asked to plead his case in front of the governor called Pontius Pilate. Many of the people who came to watch me carry him into Jerusalem that day turned out…and yelled awful things about him, about what the authorities should do to him. Then word came through my caretakers that he was found guilty and was crucified. I still am not sure what it was that he did. All I know is that he was miraculous, or someone who he knew very well was. Jesus was crucified alright, but he was also raised from the dead. Now that is amazing. If only I had known then what I know now…would I have done anything differently?

The difficultly of Holy Week for me personally, beginning with today's celebration and procession with palms, is that we know the story. We can imagine it from all different perspectives, but we know it. We know what happens next, and no matter how hard we might want to make the circumstances different we cannot change them. The challenge is what we do with that. Amidst the busyness of our everyday lives and the knowledge of this celebration and the celebration on the other side, how do we stay faithful to this final week in our Lenten journey? How are we able to take a step back and realize the intensity of the journey we are called into, that we have been called into for the past five weeks?

Throughout this Lenten season more than perhaps at any other time during the Church Year we have been called into reflection and spiritual renewal. We have been called to be faithful, to renew our own faith with the stories of an amazing ministry and movement from scripture. We are called to repent and to infuse our lives with faith. We are called to make decisions based on the lessons that we have been taught through the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We are called to bear our crosses with dignity and to celebrate our blessings and gifts with humility.

My friends, today we are called and invited to live into the stories of this week…to share the emotion, to feel the pain, to sense the anxiety, the confusion, the questioning, and finally the hopeful fear and faithful joy of Jesus' resurrection. Like our imagined colt we are called to realize the gift that has been given for us. The weight of the world has been taken off of our shoulders by the only One who is capable of bearing that weight.

Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.