There’s always so much to learn!
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.
On the job, at home, in school, and even in church, there’s always so much to learn!
Just the other day, one of our members said to me, as she reflected on health issues and a change in living status, “There are lots of adjustments to be made.”
I like that.
A gentle way of putting it.
Life is all about adjustments!
We get married, and we spend years trying to figure out one another … and then we have children, and spend years trying to figure out how to raise them, love them, guide them, guard them.
We take a job and spend years trying to figure out how to do our best, how survive in tough economic times, how to make something of ourselves, and leave a legacy for our families.
We gather together in our church, and we spend years trying to figure out how to love one another, honor and share the gifts God gives to us, and what does it mean to be the church of Jesus Christ?
And always the hard times … illness lays us low … death takes a loved one … the job is lost … a child chooses badly and brings sorrow to the family … misunderstanding divides friend-from-friend … time marches on, and we didn’t have a chance to say what was needed, or do a kindly deed.
There’s always so much to learn.
Which reminds me:
Little Susie asked her teacher: “Would you punish me for something I didn't do?”
Her teacher replied: “Of course not.”
With a sigh of relief, little Susie said: “Good, because I didn't do my homework.”
There’s always so much to learn.
No wonder we cry out sometimes, “LORD, save me. I need your help. This is more than I can handle.”
And Jesus comes our way.
To save us.
When the people cried out, Hosanna, which means “save us,” they were right. They needed some serious help.
Who doesn’t need some serious help now and then?
I heard the LORD speak, two times in my life … as clear as a bell.
Would anyone else have heard it?
I think not!
But I heard the voice of the LORD.
The first instance was in my second year of seminary … I can see our tiny little place, a second-floor apartment, and there I am, sitting at my desk, reading the New Testament, I’m pretty sure it was one of the Gospels.
As I was reading, I said to myself, “I’m not sure I believe any of this.”
And right then and there, clear as a bell, the LORD said, “That’s all right Tom. I still love you.”
I’ve never forgotten that moment.
It’s an anchor in my life.
It’s the heart of the gospel.
Whatever any of us happen to think at any point in time, God doesn’t change one bit!
There are days when we’re really faithful … and days when we’re not … there are times when we believe with all that we are … and other times when we don’ … there are times when we love God, seriously love God, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and then there are times, when our love is like a drop of water on a hot July sidewalk in Dallas, Texas.
God is the one who remains constant.
I had to learn that, then and there.
A young seminarian.
If I was going to preach the gospel, I had to understand grace … I mean real grace.
I had to understand - God’s love for us is unchanging … James says of God: the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Thanks be to God: it’s not our belief in God that brings about the gospel; it’s the gospel that brings about our faith.
And that never changes.
God is always the source of faith.
Like water flowing from a hose.
It’s not the hose.
It’s not even the water.
It’s the snow in the mountains – that’s where the water comes from.
High up in the mountains.
And that’s where our faith comes from.
High up in the heavens.
From the heart of God.
And God is steady.
God is sure.
Faith struggles sometimes.
Darkness frightens us.
Faith limps along.
But, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want … yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me!
The second time I heard the LORD speak was a time of great travail, sorrow and hurt … I felt that all was lost, and sitting in my car in a restaurant parking lot – I had dropped off my family, and I had parked the car.
There I sat, with all the world falling down around me, and I said to the LORD, “Save me!”
And I heard the LORD again, clear as a bell, “I will.”
I think of the shortest prayer in the Bible.
Three words, spoken in a moment of desperation.
Anyone know it?
Peter walking on the waves.
Good for him.
He got outta the boat and did it.
He really did it.
He wanted to be like his Rabbi.
“If my Rabbi can walk on the water, so can I.”
And when the LORD invited Peter to get outta the boat, that’s what Peter did.
And for a few glorious moments, Peter walked on the water.
And then the moment overwhelmed him.
Wind and waves frightened him.
Peter began to sink.
He cries out to the LORD.
The shortest prayer in the Bible.
LORD, save me.
As quick as the blink of an eye, Jesus is there.
And Peter is saved.
Save us, LORD.
Hosanna in the highest.
The highest, indeed!
The people know that salvation comes from on high.
From the throne of God.
The River of Life in the Book of Revelation.
And Psalm 46:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.
Salvation comes from God.
And it comes with certainty.
For God is at work in all things for good.
The people who welcomed Jesus that day had high hopes.
Is he the Messiah?
Is he the answer?
Will he save us?
Jesus rides a donkey.
A symbol of humble power.
This is how kings came into the holy city.
Not on a prancing warhorse decked out in polished silver and well-oiled leather.
Not with legions of soldiers in battledress.
None of that!
Just on a donkey.
A beast of burden.
Because the real king takes up the burdens of the people.
A ruler, true and good, lightens the load.
Jesus himself becomes the burden-bearer for us all.
He carries on his shoulders the sins of the world.
Jesus comes our way to forgive our sins … when the nails are driven into his flesh … hideous forged nails of iron hammered through sinew and bone … a brutal business done by professionals who know how to hurt a man, how to kill their victims slowly.
And what does Jesus say?
Father, forgive them.
Why does Jesus say that?
Did a soldier say to him, Oh, I’m sorry, LORD … I don’t really mean this?
Did one of the religious authorities say to him, O LORD my God, I’m truly sorry? Please forgive me.
We learn from Jesus one of the toughest lessons of life.
And one of the most important.
Forgiveness that comes from the deeps of love.
Like a volcano, hot and fierce, burning away the junk and trash of our lives.
Jesus knows we’re not very good at confessing our sins, though we do it most every Sunday.
Jesus knows how hard it is for us to see the log in our own eye.
So Jesus doesn’t wait for us to ask.
Jesus doesn’t wait for us to get it figured out.
Jesus doesn’t wait for us to come to him.
Jesus doesn’t wait for an apology!
Father, forgive them.
And with grace all the more, Jesus excuses everyone - those who condemn him … those who kill him … those who abandon him - he says, They don’t know what they’re doing.
The love of God understands better than we understand ourselves.
Most of the time, we haven’t a clue.
We think we’re right, when we’re mistaken.
We see the splinter in our neighbor’s eye and overlook the log in our eye.
We judge others.
And exonerate ourselves.
They all thought they were doing what was right.
Soldiers obeyed orders.
Judges condemned a troublemaker.
Pilate preserved law and order.
And everyone seemed to agree – it’s a good thing to take this man to the cross.
But they didn’t know what they were doing.
For all of us, this gives us pause.
When we think we’re right about something, and tempted to get carried away, it’s good to remember the Jesus story.
The next time, we’re convinced that someone else is wrong, and we don’t want to listen to them, it’s good to remember the Jesus story.
When we’re afraid and getting edgy, and we’re tempted to say harsh things, it’s good to remember the Jesus story.
When we believe that forgiveness isn’t possible, unless someone apologizes first to us, it’s good to remember the Jesus story.
When we think all is dark and all is lost, it’s good to remember the Jesus story.
LORD save us.
Save us, we pray.
And the LORD comes to our assistance.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
So a blessed and powerful Palm Sunday.
When Jesus comes to us on a donkey.
Don’t be fooled by his humility.
Don’t look for another.
He’s the real deal.
He’s the way.
He’s the truth.
He’s the way.
Donkey and all.
To God be the glory.
Amen and Amen!