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Matthew 21:1-11 Encountering Jesus - Jesus the King Sermon preached April 13, 2014 Opening The town of Chambersburg knows

how to throw a parade. Like the Christmas parade a few months ago. When we got the idea for Central to participate in the parade, I figured it would be like the small-town Christmas parade in my previous community in South Carolina. Some fire trucks, a couple of marching bands, boy and girl scout troops, some politicians and a couple of church floats. Fifteen minutes of Christmas-time pageantry. The first clue that this wasn’t going to be your typical small-town parade was when chairs started appearing on the sidewalk of Main Street two days before the event. People staking out spots. That’s adorable, I thought. Second clue was when I drove down the afternoon of the parade and had to fight my way through traffic and pedestrians to park my car. And then I walked back to our assigned spot - passed all kinds of groups and floats lining up for the parade. I was stunned. It was like every marching band from within 200 miles had descended on Chambersburg. And floats - that look like they took six months to create and cost as much as a new Lexus to build. The parade starts and our church group creeps towards Main Street while dozens of bands and floats that have lined up go by...after 45 minutes we finally get the nod and we start off down Main Street and it’s jammed with parade watchers and we start singing Christmas carols and people join in, and then it starts snowing. Snowing! What a thoughtful touch to arrange for that, I thought. Chambersburg knows how to throw a parade. So did our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ own parade Now, I want to correct a common misunderstanding about this parade, this entry into the capital city. This was no spontaneous celebration of some random people who happened to spot Jesus and like Mardi Gras revelers who are always ready for a celebration, staged an impromptu parade. It’s not like people starting cheering and caught Jesus by surprise and he goes, “Aw shucks, Ah never knew you liked me so much.” Jesus orchestrated the whole thing - Matthew devotes six verses to describing the preparations 1

the crowds, who cheered, were largely his followers who came with him from Galilee down to Jerusalem, the donkey - came from someone who already knew about Jesus and Jesus deliberately climbed on the back of that donkey and rode into the city full of people who were there to celebrate Passover in order to fulfill a Messianic prophecy that Matthew quotes for us - rode into that city, to be King, rode into that city, to found a Kingdom. Jesus intentionally and deliberately rode into Jerusalem, to stake his claim - on the hearts of the people there, on the territory of Israel, indeed of the whole world. To stake his claim, that he is King over us, and King of all the earth. But what kind of kingdom? But this is a different kind of kingdom and a different kind of King than anybody has every seen before. A king, who rides in not on a warhorse, but on a donkey, whose followers are not waving swords, but palm branches, and who comes not to dictate, but to serve. This is a new kind of King, and a new kind of Kingdom. What we’ve got here - is Jesus bring an alternate reality, the reality of the Kingdom of God. But small problem - there was already a kingdom in place when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. An empire, actually. The Roman empire. The military and economic superpower of its day that had gobbled up little Israel and ruled it with an iron fist. And here comes Jesus riding into the capital of occupied Israel to claim it, claim the Empire, claim the world, for God’s kingdom. One way to understand what the Lord was up is that he was creating an alternate reality right within the Roman world. An illustration from an episode of the first Star Trek series. There is an alternate universe that is the opposite of our universe, a mirror image of our universe. And a hole opens up between the universes. Here - Federation good - there - Federation evil Here - Federation peaceful, came to the planet to invite them to be part of the Federation - there - Federation an evil empire - conquered planet and enslaved the people. Here - Kirk and Enterprise crew good - there - bad - clue - Spock is sporting a Fu2

Man-Chu that along with his pointy ears makes him look downright Satanic. Well, in coming to earth, it’s like Jesus created an opening between heaven and earth, and allowed heaven to flow into earth and create the new reality of the Kingdom of God. And that new reality grows within our world and heals and transforms it. And that kingdom is still here, still growing and we’re invited to be part of it. Jesus has staked his claim on the world, staked his claim on this church, staked his claim on us and our decision is whether we’re going to be part of what he’s doing in the world or stand by and get left behind. Let me share with you some glimpses of what this kingdom is like. Community After he was baptized and began public ministry, you know what one of the first things Jesus did was? He gathered a community - first the twelve disciples - and then it grew to seventy - included women - and then grew beyond that - and part of that community followed him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The world in Jesus’ time was fractured. Still is. I can’t recall a time when our country has felt more angry and divided, and I grew up during the time Vietnam War was being fought in Southeast Asia, and on the streets here. It feels like the country is coming apart, with people on both sides just foaming at the mouth and ranting at each other. One dimension of the Kingdom - is community. People. Living together for a common purpose, taking care of one another, sharing life together - putting up with one another fighting and making up, sharing all the mess and complications of life - a community of people with Jesus at the center who holds it all together. Fred Craddock is one of the church’s greatest preachers. His first pastorate was in North Georgia, in Appalachia. It was that church’s custom to do their baptizing on Easter evening, by immersion down at Watts Bar Lake. Following the baptismal service, the little congregation would gather around a bonfire and eat supper together. When the meal was over, one of the leaders of the church introduced the new members. The rest of the congregation would then get up and circle around the new members. One by one, each person in the circle of members took their turn speaking. “My name is Jennie. If you ever need somebody to do washing and ironing, you call on me.” “My name is Earl. If you ever need anybody to chop wood, call on me.” “My name is Regina. If you ever need anybody to babysit, 3

I’m good at it. “My name is Joe. If you ever need anybody to sit with the sick, I have a loving heart.” “My name is Nancy. If you ever need a car to go to town, you let me know.” When everyone was introduced and offered themselves to the new members, then the church had a square dance. Finally, the oldest member of the church, Percy Miller, with thumbs in the bib of his overalls, would stand up and say, “It’s time to go home,” and everybody would leave. The first time Craddock was a part of this, he lingered with Percy Miller and they watched the fading embers of the bonfire. Finally, Miller said, “Craddock, folks don’t ever get any closer than this.” I don’t know about you, but I need this kind of community - we’re stressed and anxious and life vomits stuff up into our laps - I need a place to belong, to be accepted for who I am, where I don’t have to pretend to have it all together, people who will love me and hold me accountable if I go off the rails and encourage me - and I bet you do too. That’s part of the Kingdom of God, friends - and this Kingdom - is found among us - and it will be seen, or not, in terms of how we love one another, care for one another, treat one another, accept new people and love them for who they are. A community that changes the world But not just a community that looks after its own - it’s a community that follows Jesus into the world to share his love and compassion, to bring healing and help to suffering people. As part of our Celebrating the Past, Preparing for Our Future capital campaign, we’re supporting Joy Home, a ministry in Kenya that houses and educates AIDS orphans. I heard from Rudy Miller, who’s over there now - he and his wife visited us in the Fall here’s a blog post he wrote: In Kenya remote and rural regions are often referred to as “the other side.” This past week we traveled to Kiserian in the Ngone Hills area of Kenya….the other side. We accompanied a medical staff team from Holy Family Center. Once a week six staff travel to the Kiserian Clinic to oversee treatment and care of HIV/AIDS patients. Our first home visit in Kiserian was a distant family compound. Inside a primitive fence we found four small structures made from sticks and cow manure….three wives, sixteen frightened children and curious neighbors. Behind this collage of humanity was a tragedy in the making….all of the adults and children are HIV+ 4

yet refusing further life saving treatment. Our staff pleaded that all would seek help…no one was convinced...The prognosis is grim. Left untreated they will probably die within five years. We left this family with a pall of emotions as heavy as the lingering odor of cow dung. Everyone was silent as we drove to our next stop several miles away. Josephine’s compound was well kept and inviting…one sensed life. In 2007 Josephine’s husband died of AIDS. She was tested in 2008 and also found to be HIV+. She began ARV treatment and is now living a productive life with her two sons. Josephine discussed her disease openly and was thankful for her health and family support. As I processed my day I was reminded of my tendency to view life as very Black and White….health vs sickness…good vs bad…poverty vs plenty….urban vs rural. Am I trying to limit God? Again today God revealed his heart for all His people….even those on “the other side.” Enlarge our understandings of what Jesus came to do Jesus didn’t come just to save individual souls - he came to save the world - John 3:16 for God so loved the world - by helping people know and love God, and serve as his agents - helping others hear the good news and be changed and work for a better world. Lewis Smedes described it this way: “How many of you would like to wake up tomorrow in a world where no child ever feared to dance on the street at night, or nobody ever pointed a gun at another human being, or no child ever starved, or nobody ever put you down because you were different, or no mother ever wept over a hungry baby? How many of you would like to live in a world that finally worked right?” What I’m trying to say, friends, is that this church - planted here on the square in 1868 - is an outpost of the kingdom that Jesus founded, created, when he rode into Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago. We are part of the greatest movement in the history of the world - and we have to enlarge our vision of what we’re about. Why we oppose it, and need healing Now that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it - a Kingdom that has this dimension of community where we are loved and accepted and challenged to grow, and a community where we can participate with the work of Christ in bringing love and healing to the world - and a Kingdom ruled by a King who’s not like Caesar, but who rides in humbly, on a donkey - peace-able like.

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So Jesus rides in - comes to the capital to bring the message of the Kingdom - he goes into the temple and drives out the money-changers, he teaches and heals - and a week later after he rides into Jerusalem, he staggers on foot to Golgotha - with a cross on his back - they nail him to the cross - and lift the cross up against the daytime sky - and he hangs there - and dies. Turns out, that nobody wanted this King, or his Kingdom. Turns out, there’s a bigger problem in the way. And that problem, is you and me. Our mess In one of my previous churches, we had a preschool like we have MDO here. I used to watch the children come in first thing in the morning. And there was one little fellow who caught my attention. He was a cheerful, energetic little guy who, it appeared, was suffering no lack of self-esteem. I say that because every morning he came to school, he bore proudly on the top of his head a paper Burger King crown. He would walk, or strut in, wearing that paper crown like he was king of the world - and wear it all morning long. King of the Kids! Ruler of Recess! Potentate of Preschool! And only four years old. We are something like that little guy. There is something inside us that doesn’t want a King, doesn’t want anyone, demanding our obedience. There is something dark and twisted inside that resists the goodness that Jesus Christ offers us, that resists the Kingdom he came to found because it would mean, that there is a King, and it’s not me, and that King has an agenda, and it’s not mine. Jesus riding in on a donkey - that seems cute and pretty harmless, and we love watching the kids process into church and waving palms - but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that when we hear Jesus’ claims on our lives, when we hear Jesus call to follow him into the world, when we hear Jesus claim to be Lord of all the world and Lord of our lives, we resist. We need to be converted, our church needs to be converted, converted away from our agenda and converted to Christ’s agenda, if we’re going to be part of this new Kingdom. Converted from our thinking that our life is our own to do as we please, converted from thinking that this is my church and I like it just fine the way it is. Converted - or else we’ll just play at being Christian, play at being church.

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How it’s healed And the problem - is in here - and the only one who can get at it - is God. And they way God does it - is through the cross of his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus knew what was going to happen when he rode into town on that donkey - knew he was going to be arrested and tried and crucified and when he was hanging up there on the cross they put a sign over his head to mock him - and it read, the King of the Jews. they were trying to mock him - but in a divine irony, Jesus was never more a King than when he hung there and died for us. You see, as Robert Farrar Capon put it, “the Messiah was not going to save the world by miraculous, band-aid interventions: a storm calmed here, a crowd fed there, a mother-in-law cured down the road. Rather, it was going to be saved by means of a deeper, darker, left-handed mystery, at the center of which lay his own death.” Through his death on the cross - Jesus showed us what kind of King he was - one that came to serve and died for us - and if you put your faith in that King and what he did for you and me on the cross - the darkness inside begins to lift - you find your heart changing, your priorities shifting - and you can get with the program of his kingdom. That is my prayer for all of us, for our church. Amen.

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