Sermon: Cost and Joy

28 March 2010


The Rev. Jennifer Whipple
Congregational Church of Brookfield (UCC)

Palm Sunday
March 28, 2010

“Cost and Joy”

Luke 19:28-40

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our minds and hearts gathered here this day be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

             What role would you want?  If today’s gospel reading – or the entirety of the Holy Week drama were having a casting call, who would you want the opportunity to play?  That was the question posed by a pastor in her on-line blog this week – inciting pastors the world over to challenge congregations to really get into the Holy Week drama by picking a role and practicing for an audition.  Reading and re-reading the gospel story that begins today with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and continues throughout this week as he overturns the tables in the Temple, teaches and heals for the final time, tries to leave parting words of wisdom with his disciples, eats his last meal with them, and then finally is betrayed and deserted – walking ever so obediently to his death carrying his cross. 

             As I read just today’s part of the gospel story once again I decided that I would want to grow closer to the disciples – especially those whom Jesus sends to procure his mode of transportation for his entry into Jerusalem – going off to a random person’s house to take an unridden colt, with only the words, “The Lord needs it” to protect them.  Can you imagine that to-do list...walk to Jerusalem, steal a donkey, don't get in trouble, etc.  I chose this role, not because I am particularly brave or risk-taking, but rather because it is about the last thing that I would do.  I have a hard time asking the grocery store clerk for correct change when they don’t give me enough back.  I was the kid who always sent someone else to the door to get the scavenger hunt items – waiting in the car to check off the list and help the group stay organized instead. 

             So why choose to look at the life of the disciples as the ones I would want to audition for?  I think it is because of the challenge, because I know it is something that moves me out of my comfort zone…and this week, of all weeks, is one of those times when being moved out of our comfort zones is not only difficult not to do – if we really engage the words of the gospel story – but also is something that we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ.  Certainly we could go through the motions, as we perhaps have done in the past – especially if you are like me and started hearing these stories at a very young age.  The struggle becomes finding something new, something that challenges our faith and makes us grow in the days ahead.  Considering we know the end of the story, and it is a happy one, especially for us – the promise of forgiveness, the imparting of the Holy Spirit, the rising again complete with Alleluias – it is hard to sit in the tough stuff that leads up to next week’s celebration.  But once again, as followers of Christ, as disciples ourselves, that is just what we are called to do.

             There are a few things about this account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that are a bit different than the ones we read in the other gospels.  First, there are no hosannas, no random crowd of people joining in the celebration, and no palms.  Instead there are a multitude of disciples – people who actually believed what Jesus was telling them because they had seen his deeds with their own eyes and experienced them with their own lives.  There were a multitude of them, instead of just the usual suspects – the regular twelve, because chapters earlier in Luke’s account Jesus commissions and sends out over seventy followers to help spread the message, perhaps in an act of desperation as he began to realize where his journey was headed and the small amount of time he had left.  He sent these folks out in order that they would share with whoever had ears to hear his message about God’s kingdom and the call to work together and serve all people.  These are the people who would stick by Jesus, not the crowds we are used to in the Palm Sunday accounts who would turn by the end of the week to jeers and curses, shouts to Crucify him.  These people had accepted part of Jesus’ challenge, to go out and help spread the good news.  And instead of palms waving about, they laid their cloaks down on the ground as a sign of respect for their king.  We might not think too much of this beyond an act of group chivalry perhaps, but the truth is that cloaks were the most expensive item of clothing that people had at that time.  So, in allowing Jesus to ride the donkey across them, in preparing a path with them, these followers were saying that they were willing to give up a lot to be disciples.  They were willing to take a life-altering risk in order to be his people.

             During this Lenten Season, Bryn and I have been preaching about our United Church of Christ Statement of Faith, and this week’s focus is on three words.  The beginning of the statement from which they come is this: “You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship.”  We are reminded in this very statement that being people of faith is not always easy, in fact it can be challenging and downright hard at times.  After all, when God calls we are supposed to answer no matter whether we feel well qualified or prepared or have the desire to do so.  But that there also can be much joy that comes from saying “yes” to our God.

             I was reminded of this very thing during a conversation with a good friend of mine the other night.  He is a medical examiner in one of the toughest counties in New Jersey.  I was explaining to him that I have no idea how he does what he does – how he can handle seeing the things he sees and working with families in the ways he has to.  He was on his way to a homicide investigation when we were talking, and he had to let me go.  An hour later he sent me a text message that said, “It is easy for me to believe in evil because I’ve seen it.  You’ve got the hard part: believing in good.”  One of the challenges of being a disciple is that as disciples, as people of faith, we are perhaps more attuned to the ways that God is working in this world – a joy for certain.  However, we are also more attuned to the places where God perhaps seems absent – or where God is weeping – a cost for sure. 

             If you have watched the news just in the last few months then you have seen images of the aftermath of natural disasters, heard details of the lack of peace in our own government, watched reports of homicides and three-year-olds whose parents have them on video smoking pot.  It is heart-breaking some of the things we see in our world.  At the same time, just in the last few months I have had the opportunity to watch as a few thousand dollars of relief and One Great Hour of Sharing money has gone out from this congregation, as our church had the opportunity to showcase its many talents in support of our SYF Mission Team, as men’s fellowship and others in our community have rallied around one of our own members who is in the hospital, as our confirmands struggled with real-life teenage issues on their Healthy Choices retreat and did so with faith and grace, and as countless volunteers have reached out to welcome Thomas and Bassma Janabi into this community and to a new life away from the violence of the Middle East.  Yes, as disciples we are called at times to do things that take us out of our comfort zones, to weep with God at the things we see that are painful and seem impossible to bear, and to risk giving of ourselves to prove that there is still hope and joy in this world that seems so very broken.

             If we think back to Jesus’ first disciples on that day so long ago as they walked into Jerusalem surrounding Jesus, we come to realize that part of the drama is that they had no idea or at least no recollection in that moment of what was to come, even though they had heard Jesus talk about it time and time again.  They were caught up in their moment of joyful expectation of what could happen if Jesus actually could turn the tide on the oppressive government they were living under.  The Pharisees, on the other hand, realized the danger the disciples and Jesus, himself, were getting into shouting about a new peace at the hands of this man riding a donkey.  They knew that on the other side of town a different kind of homage was being paid to Pontius Pilate, as he rode into Jerusalem in his full glory to be sure that his kind of peace was kept during the Passover celebration.  That is why the Pharisees challenged Jesus to silence his followers – to make a little less of a scene.  And yet, Jesus response is to appreciate the enthusiasm of the people who followed him, who were part of the revolution he was starting, and also to say that the stones would shout out if the people were silent.  Jesus basically told the Pharisees that all of creation was ready for what he had to offer – a new peace, a new freedom.  Not one that came without a price but one that had and still has the potential to bring new life to people and to the world. 

             So the question for us remains, who would we want to be in the drama of this week?  We certainly have a lot of parts to choose from – ones that will each teach us something new about God, about our salvation history, about the cost and joy of following our God who loves and values each of us along with all of creation.  Whatever part we choose may we turn our faces and our lives that much closer to God during this Holy Week, praying and hoping for the peace that passes all understanding, standing firm in our faith and strong with Jesus as the tide turns against him.  And may we walk with courage, willing to take risks and alter our lives for our God, who risks everything for each one of us, His Beloved.  Amen.



This page was last updated on 02/08/2014 09:04 AM.
Please send any feedback, updates, corrections, or new content to .