UPHILL or DOWN HILL
Isaiah 50: 4-9a
JOHN 12: 12-19
April 14, 2019 PALM SUNDAY
Life is all about perspective isn’t it?
Sometimes we are able to plan our journey’s; some of us being extremely careful in plotting out each moment and step along the way but the truth my friends … the truth that we all must face is that there is so much left to the accidental and the unexpected because the truth is … you and I we’re not able to control those around us, the weather, or even the reactions from others to our well thought out plans. We can only control our choices and stand by those decisions if the choices truly matter regardless of what the world throws at us.
HOSANNA … HOSANNA in the HIGHEST … HOSANNA … can you shout it? Do you want to shout it? Is it embarrassing to shout it even within the walls of our church? HOSANNA HOSANNA … HALLELUJAH … Jesus the Christ came to deliver me from my sins; Jesus the Christ came to provide the assurance of eternal life in heaven for me just by believing and then living out my faith as my part of the belief process.
Church, do you believe that Jesus came for you too? That God’s love extends to you and to your neighbor … to all of your neighbors … love that exceeds all love … grace that forgives us even in the midst of our sin-filled nature. Do you believe church?
Church … are you full of that HOSANNA joy today? Do you believe … are you assured that you have been delivered from the world’s curse; the downward spin that hate, greed, selfishness, and division brings? Church, are you ready to wave your palms beyond the walls of our church to shout the HOSANNA’s of joy that Jesus Christ brings? Can you jump up and down or perhaps wave your arms around with joy-filled smiles HALLELUJAH!! HALLELUJAH!
Today … oh my … today church … today is a day that starts a Holy Week of emotional struggle if your faith allows you to become wrapped up in Jesus Christ. If you want to be on the faith walk that overcomes the world’s demands … just for a few days; a limited number of hours … the ROAD TRIP … our ROAD TRIP … PALM SUNDAY … MAUNDY THURSDAY … GOOD FRIDAY … EASTER … the days in between … you and your Bible .. you in your prayers … you with your God … being connected, reconnecting … Are you sliding downward or are you going upward … up with Jesus? Are you sensing the potential of faith or is faith just a loosely taught word whose meaning has long since been vanquished into the dust along the highway that the world insists we travel on. Are you looking for ways to serve your King, your Lord and Master … your Jesus?
The rules of the world ask you and I to live differently … they hint that we need to bow down before human leaders; other humans and their words. The world’s enforcers using their mocking glances … their intimidating memes attacking those who speak out for the love of neighbors … so you hold back … voices damning people who insist that the justice of Jesus Christ should rule over the expediency of the politics of division so you don’t shout HOSANNA to your Lord where others can see you.
Are you covered in the world’s dust and are you desperately in need of being filled up with the love of Jesus Christ again so that your journey has the energy to head upward?
Do you need a courage boost before you can stand up with your pastor in this church and wave the palms and shout HOSANNA? Is it that difficult? Difficult because it requires you to go outside the careful shell you have created that bans you from expressing joy in your faith … that makes you so careful because you are fearful of what others might think if you act like your faith brings you joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always” Scriptures teach us but we are resistant and reluctant and afraid …
We cower and make faith seem like an obligation … the mere thought of dancing in the streets with abandon as David did behind the Ark … did you ever consider dancing in the street shouting Jesus lives … well of course not; the neighbors might notice that we don’t fit it … but church; church do we want to fit in with the world or do we want to be heading upward with Jesus Christ?
HOSANNA friends … HOSANNA to Jesus Christ … HOSANNA … Who will be the first or the second or the third … don’t worry about your neighbors or those on Facebook … can you stand? Wave your palms and shout? Are you willing to stand up for Jesus Christ to declare HOSANNA … HALLELUJAH … HOSANNA in the highest!!! Adults … can you let the children of the church see that it is ok to praise our King. … to worship our Lord Jesus to once again on a Palm Sunday allow God’s love for us to flow right through and to look upward rather than look down … HOSANNA HOSANNA HOSANNA Jesus … HALLELUJAH God
Yes, you have noticed your pastor is a bit crazy … but there is a release of joy when you stand. When you stand up for Jesus … when you can showcase that Jesus is Lord … Jesus is your Savior … when you allow that to occur then it is so much easier to sense God’s Holy Spirit … HOSANNA HOSANNA!!! Shout HOSANNA!!!
Along our journey we as a church paused to hold our hands up to create a message of love for all to see … personal and collective … your words and thoughts … faith connected and welcoming …HOSANNA … a rainbow of welcome!!
For those on the hillside of the Mount of Olives that day their understanding of the word hosanna was that it was a word of joy that was more of a verb meaning DELIVER ME or SAVE US. The Hebrew word howosiah-na can be found in Psalm 118 so if you brought your Bibles today to church … you did bring your Bibles? In Psalm 118 verse 25 we read “Lord, please save us! Lord please let us succeed!” HOSANNA
The crowds were shouting with joy because they saw their Messiah. They knew it … they could sense it … and at that moment in time they could lift their eyes uphill at Jesus … they connected the dots and revealed that they held in the moment that the reality of God’s Kingdom come on earth was right there before them!! It was easy to shout … it was easy to be in the crowd because everyone was shouting … the palms were cut down … robes tossed with joy over the dusting hill of Olivet … no one fully grasping that at the bottom of the hill … downward more … would be the place where He would be arrested … the Garden at the bottom … on the right hand side before the valley …the valley that would lead to the crucifixion … “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil” .. I have often wondered if Jesus was thinking the 23rd Psalm when Judas pointed Him out in the Garden at the downward finish of the Mount of Olives where only 4 days earlier the crowds shouted HOSANNA …
You see, some in the crowd on that day fell in with the excitement but they were truly just wanting to be on the world’s right side; later in the week after going downward through the Kidron Valley and into the city they would be joining in the chants of CRUCIFY HIM CRUCIFY HIM because on that day they sensed the power was in those words … some people who attend churches with Jesus as the featured attraction today are much like those people because they want to sense the world’s power and are not really about Jesus … it’s a downward or upward choice church. Perspective … what’s in our control and what isn’t … do we embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior or do we jump onto the bandwagon that allows us to like those who reflect ourselves but more importantly gives us the earthly power to condemn those we don’t like?
Do we have the courage to live with JESUS guiding us … and if JESUS is in our life and matters … does Holy Week become a priority and an opportunity to showcase Jesus and our faith to those we know or would that be an admission that would cause so much embarrassment that we never ever talk about what we believe and we would never consider shouting HOSANNA to Jesus so that the world … even our small personal segment of it … might discover we are aligned with the Savior of the world with the Son of God …with the Messiah … with Jesus who is so much more than a babe in a manger … Jesus who came to teach us clearly how God expects us to live … Jesus who fulfilled the prophecy and on the day that Pontius Pilate and his Roman legions were entering Jerusalem through a northern gate … Jesus was leaving the crest of the Mount of Olives where in less than 2 months He would ascend into heaven with His final words being GO INTO THE WORLD and SHARE YOUR FAITH … Jesus was headed downward because He was going to be lifted up … He got up on that donkey … the crowds gathered on both sides of the hill and shouted …. HOSANNA … HOSANNA …
Close your eyes church … can you see Jesus church … would you have rushed to be along that hillside because you believe in your heart ,,, in your soul … in your mind that Jesus is your Savior … that Jesus is the Son of God … do you love God church … do you love your neighbors church … HOSANNA CHURCH … HOSANNA CHURCH … HOSANNNA in the HIGHEST!!!
We heard again from the prophet this morning … Isaiah offered to us the reality of faith. The challenge of believing … he even talked about the beard pluckers, which thankfully I have not yet come up against … but Isaiah offered us a challenge, “God opened up my ear” Isaiah states and continues, “I didn’t rebel; I didn’t turn back. The Lord will help me … therefore I haven’t been insulted.” He talked about being insulted, being spat on, having his beard plucked but because of God those are not even insults.
Isaiah reminds us that God will find people of faith innocent … no one can bring judgment against people of faith … he declares that people of faith should stand together … “The Lord God will help me … who can condemn me!”
On that hillside … I can only imagine a sunny day … Jesus was coming to town and the people heard. They knew He was going to be on top of that hillside called the Mount of Olives so they crowded in and looked upward towards Jesus. They grabbed palm branches to wave …
Look there He is. … HOSANNA … HOSANNA in the HIGHEST … HOSANNA …
Some in the crowd had been with Him when He raised Lazarus from the dead … others had seen Him heal; some were fed by Him; and most knew His message of justice that countered the message of the leaders with their rigid laws … HOSANNA HOSANNA they shouted …
On that day He was the king of all but the Pharisee’s; the leaders who loved to be in power … they were worried because they thought “The whole world is following Him.” So they plotted and the week’s journey continued and on Friday they thought they had brought Him down … they thought hate had been rewarded … it is a journey we need to revisit in the coming days … darkness; sadness; a reminder of humanity’s hateful nature but …
Friends the tomb could not hold Him … He was upward bound and so are we … if we believe … if we follow … if we turn away from the world and join the chorus. … walk the walk … travel the road upward with Jesus … salvation is ours Jesus is ours …
HOSANNA HOSANNA HOSANNA HOSANNA in the HIGHEST … HALLEUJAH … BLESSED is HE who came … who came for you and me from the Highest, which is where He is today after having made a trip downward He went upward offering us the opportunity to join Him … HOSANNA in the HIGHEST!