Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Palm Sunday: Leave it all on the field

We’ve just heard the story of what we have come to call Palm Sunday. Jesus triumphantly enters Jerusalem, cloaks and coats are spread to ease his journey as the crowds cheer. It’s an exciting, joyful day. We echo this tone of celebration as we wave palms, sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” and shout “Hosanna!” We hear that nothing could hold back this praise—the stones and rocks themselves would cry out if the people could be silenced. All the earth joins together in praise of Jesus.
Yet, even on this day, we have to know what’s coming. This is the beginning of Holy Week, and before the Easter Resurrection, there is much that happens. Jesus’ Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion, Death. It would be great if our reading for the day simply ended with the excitement and praise of the crowds as Jesus entered, but the day doesn’t end there. Jesus knows what’s about to happen, and he laments for Jerusalem.
“If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
There’s a saying—it’s maybe a little cliché, but it captures what’s happening today. Leave it all on the field. Some might say leave it on the court or stage or some other applicable scenario, but let’s stick with the football metaphor. Leave it all on the field.
Jesus knows what’s going to happen, but he doesn’t back down, retreat, or play it safe. He goes all in and leaves it all on the field. Our gospel text describes him teaching and challenging and continuing his ministry after entering Jerusalem.
We’ve been talking about discipleship (following Jesus) for six weeks now—all of Lent. Now, we won’t be walking up a hill to be crucified—that’s Jesus. Saved the world from sin, joined in eternal life. That’s Jesus. We’re not him.
We are called to follow him, his example. To leave it all on the field. To really put ourselves out there to serve God’s world. Realistically speaking, what would it look like for us to lift someone from poverty, to make sure someone entering here knows that he or she is really welcome—already part of the “us.” What would we do to pass on the faith that we’ve inherited to the children  and youth in our church—so that the ones who are waving palms this morning have a faith to claim when they are 25/30 years old?
Are we changed by Jesus’ presence in our lives, or was that all just talk?
When we hold back and make this place a place of convenience and comfort for ourselves, we are just talk. When we’d like to have programs here but do nothing to help implement them, we are just talk.
When we step on to the field, we live it. When we reach out to welcome friends and strangers, we are something more than talk. When we bring ourselves and our children to worship, we are more than just talk. When we go for the endzone rather than the comfort zone, we are living like Jesus has changed our lives and that matters.
In our gospel readings, Jesus weeps over what’s to come, but he doesn’t run to the sidelines of a comfort zone, either. He stays on the field—leading, teaching, serving. This week, we follow his journey to the cross. There won’t be a dismissal today after the Sending Song, because our worship isn’t over—it continues through the rest of Holy Week.
We will meet again here on Thursday to remember the story of the Last Supper, and again we will not hear the dismissal, because our worship isn’t over. It continues out of this building and back into the world of our daily lives this week.
As we live through this week, remembering Jesus’ final days on earth, we are called to think about how his life impacts ours. How Jesus’ presence in this world makes a difference for our lives. How we live as those who follow him.
Leaving it all on the field isn’t a punishment or obligation—it’s an opportunity. To know that however it turns out, every step was taken with a purpose and a hope. Hope that we can affect the world around us for the better and purpose to try to make that hope a reality. To work with our teammates, with that support, as we move forward.  
We wave Palm branches and celebrate. We shout Hosanna and sing All Glory, Laud and Honor. We go all out and rejoice in the moments that we have to rejoice, we grieve in the times that we have to grieve, and we don’t hold back. We ask that here on earth God’s will be done—that we may live for others and serve the world God made.
We leave it all out on the field. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we continue in this Holy Week, following Jesus on this journey we call life.

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