ChurchStreetUMC.org - Sermonhttp://www.churchstreetumc.org/Church Street United Methodist Churchen-usChurchStreetUMC.orghttp://www.churchstreetumc.org/images/churchstreetumc_logo.jpghttp://www.churchstreetumc.org/180180Palm Sunday Sermonhttp://www.churchstreetumc.org/blog.phpPalm Sunday March 29, 2015 Rev. Ashley Helton 52 years ago this week, a revolution began not too far from our Knoxville town. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, along with other Civil Rights leaders, launched a desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. The images that many of us think of when we recall the immense violence and injustice that our African-American brothers and sisters experienced occurred in Birmingham that Easter week. News stations across the U.S. broadcast videos of teenagers walking down the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church only to be greeted by police dogs, clubs, gas, and water blasts of 100 pounds of pressure that was literally ripping skin from their young bodies. Many Americans were outraged by these scenes and began to join hands and efforts with Civil Rights activists to take a stand for equality in their so called Land of The Free. The campaign is what many civil rights experts now mark as the catalyst for the change that would come with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am reminded of this story not only because we are entering into Easter (or Holy) week, but because I see parallels between those who stood up against unjust and corrupt power and our Christ who enters Jerusalem for the last time on this day. This ure passage might conjure up cute memories of children waving palms as they walk down the aisles of the church like they did earlier in our service. Or perhaps hearing the retelling of Jesus' "triumphal entry" stirs up emotions of pride in our Lord. For me, Palm Sunday has always been a glimpse of light -- a break in the dark and dreary clouds that have shrouded us during our lenten journey thus far. However, the light doesn't last very long. It is just enough to get us through the coming week. This day in our church calendar foreshadows Christ's overcoming of darkness and Christ's eternal, triumphant reign. People greet him as he enters their city and acknowledge that they might just believe that he is the Messiah that they have been looking for all of these years. Palm Sunday is not just a time of celebration and joy. The cute faces of children, our loud Hosannas, and the triumphant procession mask the very dark, and for some uncomfortable, symbolism of this event. I learned some new insights about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem while preparing for this sermon. Quite frankly, what I have learned has furthered my love of Palm Sunday and who Jesus is as a radical leader of our Christian faith. First, it is important that we take note that Jesus plans his entry into Jerusalem. This scene in ure was is accident; Jesus knows exactly what he is doing. His entry into the city was not haphazard by any means - this was a well-planned and orchestrated event with clear intentions to signal to all who could see and hear messages of what is to come. This might not seem like a grand point; however, understanding what Jesus' entry meant in the bigger, cultural picture might change that. As we read in the ures, Christ takes his place on the colt and begins his parade into the holy city. If the image of a fully grown 33 year old man riding a colt - or at best a young donkey - seems absurd if not humorous, you are right. A large, full grown donkey is only about 4 feet tall, which means that it is likely that Jesus' feet were dragging as he rode into his "final battle." If this seems silly that's because it is - and Jesus likely wanted it to seem that way. You see, Jesus is publicly criticizing the empire by using ridicule, irony, and sarcasm when he enters into Jerusalem in the way that he does. His entry is comical, dramatic, and political. Jesus carefully plans what Barbara Brown Taylor calls a "carnival-esq" military procession into Jerusalem. In this entry, Jesus is enacting a parody of how a King would have ridden into battle during that time in history. Christ makes arrangements to acquire what he needs for his battle. However, unlike a King, Jesus asks for a colt and...that is all. Typically, kings and warriors preparing for their final battle requested weapons and provisions to get them through a battle. But not Jesus. He is a strange one. He goes to take possession of Jerusalem unarmed and riding a colt. Christ is signaling both his final campaign and reinforcing its symbolic stance against the establishment of the time. As he enters Jerusalem, people cry Hosanna! and lay their cloaks and palms on the ground. These acts were treason against the government, but they did not care. They were being empowered by a leader whose battle cry was to turn the social views and constructs on their heads. Jesus rides into Jerusalem as something new: a King who does not long to lord over people in authority and humbly rejects domination. He does not come to battle with extravagance. Instead, he comes identifying with the poor, the overpowered, the less fortunate, and the unprotected. He is not a mighty warrior, but a vulnerable being who "refuses to rely on violence." Jesus' acting differently than what one would expect is an invitation for spectators, both then and now, to live in a new way. It establishes hope for a different revolution lead by people who are searching for a new law and a peaceable King a Kingdom. Certainly, the calling to us today from Jesus' entry into Jerusalem is the same. We follow and base our faith on a Lord who was not afraid to take a stand against what he knew was wrong in the world. I firmly believe that Jesus equips us with that same spirit: to sense when things in our own worlds are unfair, unjust, and not the way they should be. Furthermore, the spirit of Christ empowers us to act. I do not think it is far fetched to see connections between Christ's demonstration and the demonstrations of others throughout history. People have heard the empowering voice of Christ calling to them to take action against the oppressive powers of our world time and time again. The campaign against segregation in Birmingham that I mentioned earlier is a clear example to me of the type of revolution that Christ empowers us to begin. Turning the empire on its head when it is necessary remains part of Christ's battle cry, and, in turn, ours as well. As Christians, we are not called to stand idly by. Instead, we are called to be like Christ. To be brave enough to openly stand against the powers that be if they are violent, unjust, oppressive, or based in tyranny and domination. My invitation to you this day, especially as we cry "Hosanna," which means "save" or "rescue," is to take a look around you. What is wrong with the systems at play in your life? In this world? Who or what needs to be rescued from social structures that you see? Would Jesus parade into any of those areas to publicly criticize the powers that be? Or maybe even you - or us? You, I, we -- are the hands and feet of Christ. A Christ who mentions not one word in ure about stripping people of equality due to the money they make, the color of their skin,the religion they claim, the person that they love, or the gender they were given. And because of that, we must act as Christ would act: parading into dangerous areas in the name of a gospel that proclaims love and sacrifice for our brothers and sisters. Jesus calls us to move from being spectators of the processional to active participants in a different kind of revolution. With our voices, actions, protests, and votes we must enter triumphantly into the face and scenes of systematic injustice and proclaim - dare I say demand - a new system, a system grounded in Christ's peace, life, justice, and joy. This day, I pray that we earnestly beg Christ to guide our hearts to the places where he would enter and turn on its head. Let our cries for Hosanna - this day and every day - be cries for change, of which Jesus gave us the greatest example. I speak to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of The Holy Spirit. Amen. Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:41:00 EDTSlowing Down for Lenthttp://www.churchstreetumc.org/blog.phpSermon - Lent II Exodus 20:8-11 and Mark 6:30-32 <i>I'm Late, I'm Late for a very important date, No time to say hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late and when I wave, I lose the time I save. My fuzzy ears and whiskers took me too much time to shave. I run and then I hop, hop, hop, I wish that I could fly. There's danger if I dare to stop and here's the reason why, (you see) I'm overdue. I'm in a rabbit stew, Can't even say goodbye, hello, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. Good morning Mister Chatterbox I'd love to stoop and chatter, but in six and seven eighth minutes I must meet with the mad Hatter the mad, mad, mad, mad Hatter. We must chat about a very important matter. I'm off to see the Queen of hearts who lives up in the palace, and the very moment I'm through with her I've got a date with Alice. I can't be late for Alice or the queen of hearts who lives up in the palace. I'm late, I'm late - for a very important date. </i> Perhaps you have heard these frantic words of White Rabbit from Walt Disney's animated version of Lewis Carroll's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Or, maybe we know these words not from the bunny in a waistcoat carrying a pocket watch, but because they are the frantic words of our own lives. The pace of our culture is ever increasing. In fact, studies have shown that the literal pace at which people move in large cities increases by roughly 10 percent every decade. Faster and more is always better - and slowing down productivity to rest or regain sanity is a sign of weakness. We've gotta move - gotta stay ahead of the curve - check everything off the to-do list - and out do everyone around us if we want to succeed in this life. This mentality has created a multi-generational epidemic of tired, anxious, stressed out people who have neglected the art of self-care due to the constant pressure to produce. In short, and as Monastic Brother David Vryhof said in his recent lenten reflection, "We have forgotten how to stop." I believe we fail to be faithful followers of Christ when we live into our society's anxious presence in which work, and doing, and multi-tasking trumps all. Our forgetting how to stop is a rejection of the DNA that we receive as Children of God - who, if you remember, created the world and then did what - Rested. Furthermore, God commanded the Israelites (and, in turn, us) to rest; take a sabbath. And on that sabbath let everything else rest too. Jesus also taught about quality rest and self-care in our Gospel reading from today. The Disciples had been working so hard that the ure notes that many of them hadn't had time to eat - does that sound familiar? Jesus invites the Disciples to "come away to a deserted place all by [themselves] and rest a while." Furthermore, the life of Christ is made up of strenuous stints of work followed by Christ all but disappearing for a few days to pray, to be still, and to rest. Now, I'm not suggesting that we should all go home and don our Lenten sweat pants or slippers until Christ triumphantly returns on Easter Sunday - although, that would be nice. I do not believe that God or Jesus wants us to be lazy, but I do wholeheartedly believe that they both desire for us to be balanced. We must be like God & Christ who both give us examples that teach us that we must balance "times for doing" with - times for being. We must relearn how to stop and the first way we do that is by asking ourselves, "What are you doing?" Ask yourself that - what are you doing? And next, we should ask ourselves, "What can you stop?" We often schedule meetings back to back, drive quickly from one place to another, check our emails while we sit face-to-face with a real person; rarely do we give ourselves permission to be balanced - to allow for windows of time to have a cup of coffee, to step outside for a few breaths of air, to drive safely and still be on time, or to be truly present with those at arms length. Lent calls us into a time of stillness - a time of pruning unnecessary elements of our lives away. Lent invites us to turn inward and dig out some of the self-harming practices that we have spent the rest of the year building up. By relearning how to stop, we slowly create opportunities for inner stillness and mindfulness..and thus, balance. I would like to urge all of us here today to take time this lent to live contrary to the busy world around us; to stop and slow down - to experience freedom and restoration in brief moments of intentional living. Give yourself time to step outside between meetings, turn your smart phone off - or, if that is too much - put it away for a prescribed amount of time, concentrate on listening to someone instead of thinking about your own thoughts in a conversation. Overall, be mindful this lent - chose to "be" as often as you chose to "do". And perhaps, choose to do less - choose to slow your pace - choose mindfulness and intentionality this lent. And let it reorder and rebalance the frantic thoughts of our lives. I speak to you in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen. Tue, 17 Mar 2015 10:06:10 EDT