13 April, 2014

Palm Sunday Expectation: a sermon

A sermon based on Luke 22.

Carly Simon sings a song about anticipation. The song starts like this:

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway
And I wonder if I’m really with you now
Or just chasing after some finer day.

and it ends like this:

And tomorrow we might not be together
I’m no prophet, I don’t know natures way
So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.

This is where we find our disciples today. Chasing after some finer day. Heading into Jerusalem with Jesus, their Rabbi and teacher, a prophet and king. They’re chasing after the idea that he is about to ascend to the throne of Israel. They welcome the pageantry. They see the donkey as a sign. They hear his words of warning about the future, and they think he’s talking about the future of his reign as king of Israel. They talk about being seated at his right hand, and they think they’re talking about in the palace in Jerusalem. 

Expectation makes us blind. In fact, it makes us deaf and dumb, too.

What the disciples were experiencing was hope. And Hope has an angry sister, Fear. Hope and Fear are two sides of the same coin. It’s a coin that will be spent in the future. It’s all about what is coming, the future, not in the moment.

Pema Chödrön writes:

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what is going on, but that there is something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

It makes us blind to all the good stuff around us. It makes us think about what’s coming instead of enjoying what’s right in front of us. It makes us think that the time we’re in is not important, but is, instead, just a warm up, just preparation.

But let me tell you something folks… this is not a warm up. This is not preparation. This is your life. Whatever is coming around the bend (and let me assure you that it will not be what you expect) is not your real life. Your real life is right now.

I mean, look at the disciples! They have the love of their lives with them. They have a friend, teacher, buddy, guide, and example walking with them day in and day out. And yet, they’re not thinking about that. They’re thinking about what’s next…

The last line of Carly Simon’s song is “And stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.”

Little did the disciples know that these were the good old days. They were too busy looking to the future with hope to see all the love, care, and tenderness that was present in their present.

What’s next for this congregation is a lot about hope and fear here. I have heard it many times here, it’s a common refrain, “When we get our new pastor.” And it’s followed with whatever hope or fear each of you feel. It’s as if you’re waiting to be a church until the pastor gets here.

But here’s the thing… You’re already a church. You’re already a body of people worshiping God. Pastor or no pastor, you’re already the church. And you’re already having the successes and failures that mark you as a congregation.

So abandon hope. Quit looking for the next pastor to be the king. Quit looking for the next big thing that’s going to make you an amazing church. Quit looking to the future, and look to the present. Because you are already an amazing church… I see it in the love you share with one another. I see it in the love you share with your families. I see it in the love you share with the folks in the prisons. I see it in the love each of you take into your professions. So many of you take this love into classrooms and factories and restaurants and spas. You are church, and you are, right now, sharing Jesus love.

When we look at the present we see two things. First, that God is present, right here and right now. Second, that we are present—look around you. There are people who love you sitting next to you, and sitting two rows down, and sitting across the aisle from you. We’re all here…

But we also see that the present in the present. It’s a present. A gift. This moment, right here, this second, and the one that follows it: it’s a gift. It’s a gift to be able to love one another right now. It’s a gift to be able to hug one another, to tell each other our burdens, to be with one another in this moment.

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