Sunday, March 28, 2010
When The Cheering Stops: Palm Sunday @ Tinney Chapel
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When The Cheering Stops
Not many of us expect ever to hear crowds cheer for us. Instead, we expect to live plain vanilla lives of dedication, service and the sometimes elusive pursuit of happiness. Of course, it's the happiness that's sometimes elusive, not the pursuit: The pursuit (of happiness) may itself become the very stuff of life.
There are those, of course, as Pastor Sue Gross reminded us today, who do find themselves the objects, sometimes the subjects, of cheering crowds. She remembered Woodrow Wilson, for whom crowds cheered after World War I when the U.S. President of that era spent much of his time, energy and life force promoting the inclusion of America into the League of Nations--a quest that was to end in bitter disappointment and failed health for Wilson.
More recently, there was Michael Phelps, for whom crowds cheered because this human could apparently out swim most fish or any exotic aquatic life under the sun. In addition, he claimed more Olympic Gold than anyone before or since.
But, for both, as Pastor Sue, recalled, fame was fleeting, and after a year or so, the cheering stopped for both Woodrow Wilson and Michael Phelps, or--for that matter--just about any celebrity-of-the-moment one cares to mention.
Strangely, it was not so different for Jesus, whose early ministry was highlighted by miracles that astounded those who happened to be in the vicinity: Food was multiplied, the blind were made to see, sickness was healed, even the dead were raised. To be sure, such feats--along with the charisma of Jesus--prompted crowds to cheer.
Never more so, perhaps, than at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the anniversary of which we celebrate today. The cheering was so loud at one point that some of those who felt threatened by Jesus asked him to quiet the cheering crowd. Jesus declined, saying instead that if he did that, the very stones on the ground would take up the slack and continue the cheering. Was he serious? Was he being metaphorical?
This for certain: The tone of Jesus' ministry changed noticeably after he came to Jerusalem for the final time of his earthly ministry. Pastor Sue said that Jesus began to de-emphasize the miracles and to emphasize the need for a firm commitment by those who chose to follow Him. Indeed, he also emphasized His own commitment to The Cross. None of this change in tone appeared to promote the cheering of crowds. In fact, just the opposite: That's when the cheering stopped, explained Pastor Sue.
How could crowds go from Hosanna In The Highest for Jesus on Palm Sunday all the way to Crucify Him a few days later?
Pastor Sue said the cheering stopped for Jesus when he began to declare that Everyone Matters, opening the door of Salvation to the whole world. That was not the kind of change that many of that time and place were ready to believe in, and some were even angered by the change in tone.
The message was not a welcome one, and so the Messenger went to the Cross for all of us.