What Palms do you bring? (03/25/18)


Read John 19:16b-22
Have you ever been disappointed by something?
I remember being disappointed by a restaurant once. The place was advertised as the best place ever for seafood. I ordered a fish dinner for $25.00, and I was disappointed. It didn’t taste any better than the $8 fish dinner at the local neighborhood diner.
Let me run this statement past you. Our level of disappointment is directly proportionate to our level of expectation. The higher the expectation we have for something to be good, the higher the potential is for us to be disappointed.
Do you think that is true?
Have you ever been disappointed in a friendship? In a family member? In a church? Have you ever been disappointed in God?
I bring this up today because in our Gospel story we encounter one of the greatest reversals in history, and I’m left scratching my head.
In our reading from John chapter 12, the people shout, “Hosanna to the King!” And in John chapter 19, just before our reading today, Pilate brings out Jesus before the crowd and says, “Here is your King,” and they shout, “Crucify him!”
I think it comes down to one word: Disappointment. They were disappointed in Jesus.
This is Palm Sunday, and we’ve been waving palm branches around because the people waved palm branches as they cheered Jesus when he came into the city of Jerusalem.
My mind got to thinking about waving palm branches, and it struck me. Most of us have two palm branches on us all the time. The center of our hand is called a…palm.
Then I got to thinking. How do we receive Jesus? How do respond to Jesus?
The question is: What Palms do you bring to Jesus?
And so, I want to look at four ways that we can “palm” Jesus.
The first looks like this – hands up in the air.
I can easily imagine those in the crowd, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, holding their palms up in the air and shouting, “woohoo!” This is the ‘Jesus is awesome’ pose.
This is not a critique of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ who raise their hands as an expression of heartfelt worship. I’ve done that. This is not a comment about that.
No, the point I’m making is this – I wonder how many people that day in Jerusalem just got caught up in the parade as Jesus came into town, caught up in the excitement. Maybe they heard some say that Jesus was the Messiah, the one sent by God to deliver Israel from their enemies. And they give a ‘shout out’ to Jesus. It’s the Passover, a big religious celebration. Everyone’s in town, and there’s Jesus, “woohoo!” It’s kind of like seeing a celebrity in a parade. It’s an exciting celebration, and we’re glad we got to be a part of that, but it doesn’t have too much to do with everyday life.
Then there is a second pose. It looks like this.
I call this the stranglehold relationship to Jesus. This is where we see the power that Jesus has, and we try to grab on to Jesus to get what we need from him. This can take on many shapes. Most people that followed Jesus during his ministry were looking for one of three things:
1. They want to be physically healed, of some sickness or disease or disability.
2. They wanted to be physically fed, because they were hungry.
3. They wanted to be physically delivered from oppression because they were under the military rule of the Roman Emperor.
When Jesus rode into town they saw their opportunity to get out of him what they wanted.
I think this still goes on today, all the time. We want Jesus to heal us or help is in some way. We have high expectations of him.
And that brings us to a third pose.
This is the dump him pose. This happens when we are disappointed in Jesus.
Statistics tell us that over 80% of people in most Minnesota counties don’t attend church. Statistics also tell us that over 80% of people have some belief in God.
I think for some people, the reason they are not involved in a local church is because they have been disappointed by it. Something has happened in their lives. God was supposed to heal them. God was supposed to rescue me from a layoff at work. God was supposed to help them in a financial crisis. God was supposed to protect them. The pastor was supposed to be honest and safe.
Our level of disappointment is directly proportionate to our level of expectation, right?
Jesus did not deliver the goods to the people of Jerusalem. He did not deliver them from the military rule of the Romans. Judas was so disappointed in Jesus that he was willing to sell him out. Peter was so disappointed and afraid that he denied knowing Jesus.
Have you ever been disappointed by Jesus?
There is one last pose. It looks like this…. Palms up, open and ready to receive.
This is what we do when we want to show our openness to something or someone – we open our hands, palms up, ready to receive.
What Jesus wants to put into those open palms is two things – his love, and his calling to follow in his way of love.
Sometimes, when we think of love, we think of warm fuzzies and rainbows and unicorns. But, that isn’t the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated or the kind of love that Jesus invites us into.
Our usual expectation for love is that if you will love me, then I’ll love you back. It’s called “conditional love.” But what did Jesus do? He died. He gave himself up. He loved unconditionally, even those who turned against him, even those who nailed him to a cross. He did it, so we would know his love, and so we would know his calling to follow in his love.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The only way that we can truly pray that prayer is when we die to our own Kingdom.
I want us to notice that Pilate posted a sign above Jesus’ head that said, “The King of Jews.”
The religious leaders wanted it to say, “He claimed to be the king of the Jews,” but Pilate didn’t change it.
Here’s what I want us to notice. Pilate wrote this notice in three languages. He wrote it in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. Those three languages were the languages of the known world. He didn’t know it, but this was prophetic.
The expectations that the people had for Jesus was that he would be the King of Israel and would defeat the Latin speaking Romans and the Greek speaking culture. He didn’t. Instead, he came to show the world that God’s arms are open to all the world. Jesus loves the world so much that he was willing to die for it.
Each year, we take this journey to the cross. We take this journey to receive Jesus as our King who gave his life for us – and to follow him in his way of giving of ourselves for others.
That journey leaves us like this: Palms up.

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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