The people in today’s story are being pretty generous. There they are watching Jesus ride into town and , v36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. Jesus comes riding in on his trusty steed and the people are responding with generous hearts and generous cloaks.
So what’s the big deal? Throw your cloak on the ground for Jesus. Pick it up, dust it off, and carry on. Move along, nothing to see here, folks. What’s the big deal, we do a lot of things for Jesus. Don’t we? The big deal is that we miss out on how big the deal is. We tend to visualize everything about Jesus being neat and tidy. We are conditioned by the media we watch that the world is this sanitized place where uncomfortable things are kept out of sight. What we see in videos has gotten more graphic over the past few years but even so don’t generally depict the occasional ugliness of reality. With that thought in mind I suspect most of us visualize the streets that he is riding along as being neat and tidy.
But we know we’ve got some livestock involved here and well, have you ever been to a parade…? Without going into graphic detail (see what I did there – even in sermons we keep it neat and tidy) I’m thinking there is some real sacrifice because they spread their cloaks on the road as Jesus came up. After the livestock traffic in day to day life compounded by the livestock in this procession I’m thinking they likely wouldn’t be able to just dust it off and put their cloaks back on. At best they’d need cleaned and that wouldn’t mean dropping them off at the dry cleaners. It’s time to take your dirty stinking cloak down to the river so you can beat the stink out of it on a rock.
So they gave up their coats for Jesus. We often ask the question what would we give up to follow Jesus and I think most times that gets phrased in a way for us to give up something tangible. Like Lenten disciplines frequently point to giving something up for Lent. Give up chocolate for Christ or some such. Give up soda or alcohol. Give up social media. Or our coat in the street maybe? Or it gets phrased in a way for guilt to play a factor in our decision making. If you’d give up one cheeseburger a week you could give more to the church. And church is clearly better than a cheeseburger, right? Unless it’s the bacon cheeseburger at Louie M’s in South Omaha then that’s much better than church. I’m just sayin’…
All kidding aside, being an authentic follower of Christ comes at a cost. Being an authentic follower of Christ requires that we change. Change always has a price and in spite of our hesitance to embrace that change, we need some change in our life. No one is born perfect, not one. So we need some change in our life. Nothing can change physical state without something else acting on it and we can’t change our spiritual state without Jesus. When something changes physical state there’s usually some energy involved. If you smash an aluminum can you’ve exerted energy to smash the can. If you melt some ice you have used energy to produce the heat to turn the ice into water.
It’s no different when something changes spiritual states. Changing our spiritual state requires some energy as a rule. It is certainly possible that God will work a miracle through the power of the Holy Spirit and transform us, presto changeo, your changed! More likely, we need to get up and be an active participant in our spiritual change.
What would we really give up to be a follower of Christ? Prestige? Time? Our life? Our preconceived notions about pretty much anything and everything? This is the hard part about living a transformed life. We don’t always consciously recognize the things we say and do. We don’t always think about our preconceived notions. They kind of are what they are over years of practice and habit. Even recognizing that something needs changed can be difficult.
Which puts an edge to the story we hear today. We celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with waving palms and shouts of loud hosannas. We are excited about a ride on a donkey into a city that will change Jesus, will transform Jesus, will destroy Jesus, will crucify Jesus.
We celebrate today, and rightly so. We know how this story plays out. We know that next Sunday that stone will be rolled away and the tomb will be empty. We know that everything works out in the end. Meanwhile, It’s everything in between that deserves our thoughts and attention. It is everything in between that creates the space for transformation.
Many of us have lamented a time or twelve that we live in a culture these days where everyone gets a trophy. In some ways the church has been complicit in this, too. We tend to celebrate Palm Sunday, with good reason. We tend to celebrate the resurrection on Easter, and with even more good reason. We celebrate all the good stuff on either end of holy week but we tend to skip over the difficult, but transforming, stories in the middle.
Maundy Thursday has some cool aspects to it. Like communion getting its start. But then there’s that betrayal thing and no one likes betrayal, especially our Lord Jesus being betrayed. What is THAT about? And Good Friday? Well, that way of sorrows and crucifixion thing is horrific if we think about it too much. And a real downer if we just gloss over it. Let’s just skip over the oogie stuff and get to the good parts next Sunday. Easter eggs! Ham! Resurrection!
Our approach to the good parts on either end of Holy Week while skipping over the difficult things in the middle of the week becomes a mirror for our faith life sometimes, doesn’t it? We like the good parts of our faith life. That being saved by grace through our faith is some really good stuff and changed the world. The serving our neighbor and making a difference in our community is really great too and is changing our community.
What about the inside faith stuff? The parts of our faith life that really change us? How is it that we feed our soul?
That’s the hard part but a really critical piece of our lives as people of faith. Attending to the things that change us from the inside out is hard work and in the hustle and bustle of everyday life is far too easy to let slip. Maybe what we need is MyFitnessPal for our faith life? We should look into that. There needs to be an app for that, right?
This week give some thought to how you feed your soul. If you can get to Holy Week worship on Thursday and Friday at noon or 7 please do. That’s good stuff and an even better story. But when your schedule is collapsing down on you and you’re barely keeping your head above the chaos; ESPECIALLY when your schedule is collapsing down on you and you’re barely keeping your head above the chaos, take a minute or 7 to just breathe. Lift up a short prayer. Read a little bit in your Bible, or Bible app. Give some thought to how Maundy Thursday and Good Friday set up the transformation that is Easter.
And experience the change that Christ is working in your life.