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People Change

The Rev. Joseph Winston

March 16, 2008

Sermon

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1
If you have been around Texans long enough, one of the sayings that you are
bound to hear sooner or later is, “If you do not like the weather, then just wait
fifteen minutes and it will change.”
On one level, the attitude expressed in this statement confirms the popular
view that Texas is the last frontier. Here in Texas everything is bigger that what
is found elsewhere. This includes our weather. For example, we have artic cold
fronts during the fall and the winter that come rushing down from Canada. When
this happens, the temperature drops dramatically in just a few minutes. Something
similar happened a couple of weeks ago. The last strong cold front brought in ad-
dition to the powerful winds and rain, sleet and snow to the area north of Dallas.
1
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians
1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3

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Another type of severe weather that we have all experienced is the thunderstorm.
In just a few minutes, we can have more rain than many areas of the country re-
ceive in a year. We are used to these torrential downpours but to a person who has
never seen one they are frightening experiences. It seem to them like the heavens
have been opened up and instead of going about our normal business we should
be searching for Noah’s ark.
On another level, the statement, “If you do not like the weather, then just wait
fifteen minutes and it will change” is nothing more than an observation on the be-
havior of most people. Give someone a little time and they will change their mind.
We all know that this assertion is true. Politicians have this down to an art. During
the current campaign season, we have seen them run advertisements in one part
of the country that states their undying opposition to a particular item. However,
their sound bites change dramatically in other locations where people depend on
the issue for their source of income. Teenagers often appear to be politicians in
training. One minute, they cannot stand to be with a person who used to be their
best friend. Merely give them a few minutes and they will be over it. Adults are
not any better. We change our minds on what we like and dislike just as quickly
as any teenager. The advantage we have over the teens is that we have had more
time to practice covering up our “flip-flops.”
The two Gospel lessons that we heard today are full of changes.
The first example of how things change is seen in the expectations that we
place upon a king. When asked, most people would consider a king to be the most
powerful person in the empire. Along with this dominance comes a certain level

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of arrogance. This is seen in the action that the subjects must take in the king’s
presence. They must lower their heads and only speak when spoken to. The king’s
access to authority also means that he can use the best in all the land. No real king
would ride triumphantly into his capital city on the back of a donkey. He would
parade in on a large stallion with rows and rows of troops following him. Jesus
inverts our ideas about kings. He humbly entered Jerusalem on a donkey that He
borrowed.2
Our preconceived notions about kings are not the only things that change in
today’s Gospel lessons. The crowd illustrates this point nicely. They welcome
Jesus into the area on the east side of Jerusalem as if He is a king.3 They cry
out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name
of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matthew 21:9)” The ruler that they
associate him with is not some insignificant little monarch. Rather, the people
greet Jesus as the Son of David. With this title comes not only the illusion to the
wisdom of Solomon but it also means that Jesus is the ligament heir to the throne.
This news shakes the city to its core.4 However, the crowd’s devotion to Jesus does
not last for long. A few days later, the people change their minds. They demand
that a notorious prisoner named Barabbas be released from prison and that Jesus
2
The world for colt (πῶλος) could mean young horse but in the light of Zechariah 9:9, it
must be read as a young donkey. S.J. Daniel J. Harrington; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Matthew,
Volume 1, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 293. Also
notice that the author of Matthew leaves out “triumphant and victorious is he” from the original
quotation found in Zechariah 9:9, which focuses the prophecy on meekness. ibid..
3
Both Bethphage and the Mount of Olives are on the east side of Jerusalem.
4
The Greek verb for earthquake (σείω) is used in Matthew 21:10 and this indicates how much
the city was rocked by the appearance of Jesus. Ibid., p. 294.

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die on the cross (Matthew 27:20-23).
By far, the most dramatic change in today’s lessons can be found in the twelve
disciples. These men had been with Jesus during the good times and the bad. The
saw Him perform miracles, they studied the Word with Him, and they heard the
accusations against Him. None of this mattered because they all abandoned Jesus
in their own way. During their final Passover with Jesus, each man had the chance
to say that they were weak.5 No one did (Matthew 26:22). Judas betrays Jesus into
the hands of the chief priest and the scribes (Matthew 26:48-50). Even though he
said he would never do it, Peter denies three separate times that he even knew
Jesus (Matthew 26:33-35). Peter, James, and John cannot stay awake while Jesus
prays in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46). But the largest scandal of all is that none
of the men stayed with Jesus during His death on the cross. The only witnesses
to Christ’s death are the Roman soldiers, the chief priest and the leaders of the
temple, and the woman who followed Jesus.
In a nutshell, the changes by the twelve disciples model what happens in our
lives. We all think that we have the strength to stand up to everything that happens
to us. Rather than admitting our weaknesses to God and asking for help, we con-
tinue fooling ourselves. Because of our destructive behavior, a few of us will turn
our back on Jesus. Others of us well select some activity that we feel we need like
sleeping rather than staying with the people who need us the most. And all of us,
at one time or another, will deny that we know Jesus. This might happen when we
5
Mark, Matthew, and Luke tell us that this meal happened during Passover. John has the arrest
on the afternoon before the first day of the Passover when the lambs are killed.

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refuse to say to others that we are followers of Jesus or it might occur when we
just do not show up when He needs us to.
All throughout the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the author gives us the
following portrait of Jesus. He is in complete control of what is happening around
Him, He is fulfilling the words of the prophets, and through it all, He is the Lord
and the Son of David.6 The Good News found in today’s Gospel lessons is that
despite what will happen to Him, Jesus does not change His mind. He rides into
the east side of Jerusalem on a young donkey because the prophet Zechariah said
that He would do this. Jesus accepts the praise of the people since He is the Son of
David. He gathers the twelve disciples for their last meal together so that He could
forgive their sins and continue down the path toward the cross. Jesus lets the chief
priest and the elders arrest Him instead of calling down twelve legions of angels
(Matthew 26:53). He stays in control despite all the taunting and torture during
His trial and offers Himself up for death. Even on the cross, Jesus continues with
God’s plan. He does not free Himself from the cross and certain death. Jesus dies
so that we might live. This is what He has done for you and for I.
We know that the statement, “If you do not like the weather, then just wait
fifteen minutes and it will change.” is true. On one level, the weather does vary in
Texas. Sometimes during a cold front or a thunderstorm the weather hits us with
great force. On an other level, the statement tells us that people change. We see
this in politicians and in ourselves.
The lessons from Matthew, which stared last December on the first Sunday
6
Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 296.

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of Advent and which will continue until Christ the King Sunday in November,
paint a different picture of Jesus. Once His mind is made up, He does not change.
In other words, He came into the world knowing what He would have to do so
that we could live. Our hope comes from the One who took the path from the
Bethlehem to Golgotha.
As we all know, we live with much less certainty in our lives. It is often difficult
to decide what we need to do on a day-to-day basis much less make any long-
range plans. Despite this reality, we must make up our minds on what will happen
to Trinity Lutheran Church.
The facts that we have before us mostly have to do with numbers. The Pew
Report, released in February probably says it the best. “More than one-quarter of
American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of
another religion – or no religion at all.”7 We see that right here. In almost eighteen
months, we have not had a single adult class on Sunday morning. It has been a
long time since we had any children in Sunday Church School or had any young
adults in “confirmation class.” Our attendance at worship has been on a downward
trend for many years and if it continues, we will only have seven people in worship
at the end of the year.
The sad reality is that we have a mission field outside our doors. The same Pew
Report tells us that one in six adults are not associated with any faith tradition.8
This means within five miles of this building there are almost two thousand people
7
Luis Lugo et al., U.S.Religious Landscape Survey, (The Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Life, 2008), p. 5.
8
Ibid., p. 20.

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who do not attend any worship services. This number balloons up to twelve thou-
sand five hundred if we consider the entire county. We have been either unwilling
or unable to translate even an insignificant portion of these people into members.
It is clear in my mind that I have been unable to make any significant impact
in the direction that we are heading and because of this, I feel that my calling
is elsewhere. At today’s congregational meeting, I will tender my resignation as
your pastor and Sunday March 30 will be my last Sunday with you. My prayer
is that you find some way to continue Christ’s mission of bringing the Word of
salvation into the world.
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus.”9

References

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.; Idem, editor, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Sacra
Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991).

Lugo, Luis, U.S.Religious Landscape Survey, (The Pew Forum on Religion and
Public Life, 2008).

9
Philippians 4:7.