Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The road you came in on

Entry into Jerusalem, 2nd half of 15th c.,
Master of the Thuison Altarpiece, France.

Psalm 31: 9-16; Luke 19: 28-40
******** United Church of Christ
March 28, 2010 – Palm Sunday

In the past 11 years since I have lived in Connecticut, I have observed a curious phenomenon. In the town of Monroe, in Bridgeport, in Wellesley, MA where my mother lives and even on Cape Cod, I have seen street signs with names that relate to significant aspects of my life.

For instance, in Monroe there is a Lorraine Drive, my mother’s name. Every day on my way out of my neighborhood I pass Heather St. (our former interim director of Christian Ed.). In Bridgeport there is a K. Rd. not far from where my husband DK has volunteered for Habitat and there is a ******** Ave. (same name as the church) right next to our favorite Turkish restaurant. On the route for the CROP walk in Bridgeport is a Maplewood Ave., my address in Monroe. In Wellesley, MA there is another K. St. only a short drive from my mother’s house. On Cape Cod there is even a K. Beach! And in the Cape Cod town where we go for vacation every year there is a Monroe Ln. and even a Captain B. Rd. (name of the former pastor).

Most folks would chalk this up to coincidence, but I, on the other hand, tend to lean toward serendipity or synchronicity. I don’t think it is coincidence or accidental. I’d rather think of it as affirmation of the path I’m on, that I’m on the right road, if you will. Sometimes it feels as though we’re just going from one thing to the next or staying motionless in one place with no end in sight, wondering at the meaning and the purpose of it all. But I’d like to think it’s not random; instead, that God’s wisdom (rather than God’s will) can be perceived through the roads we’ve travelled.

I don’t think it’s any accident or coincidence that in Luke’s gospel the road on which Jesus chooses to enter Jerusalem leads away from the Mount of Olives. It was here that Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, wishing that he could gather the whole city in his arms as a mother hen broods over her chicks. Bethany is the village where his good friends Mary and Martha welcomed him into their home and served him. It was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus and the disciples would have a nightly retreat during the coming week in Jerusalem. On the night of his betrayal and arrest he went to the Mount of Olives to pray with his disciples and it was there he returned with his disciples after his resurrection and ascended into heaven. It is from this direction, from the east, from where all things begin, that Jesus chooses to enter the city where he will meet his death.

The Mount of Olives was also the place that King David fled to when his son Absalom was conspiring against him. Absalom had turned the people’s hearts toward himself, away from David, so much so that Absalom’s treachery to be proclaimed king instead of David might have succeeded. Today’s psalm of David from the lectionary could easily have been David’s prayer as he escaped his son’s armies, wondering if he'd ever see Jerusalem again:

“I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors, an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around! — as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.”

As a sign of his faithfulness to God, David had his priests return to Jerusalem with the ark of the covenant, praying that one day God would bring him back to see the ark himself in the place where it belonged. When the priests had departed with the ark, we read this In 2 Samuel 15: “But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went.”

And it is on this road that the disciples of Jesus throw their cloaks, something that is only done for a king. And no longer is it only the twelve but now a whole multitude of disciples. In a loud voice they proclaim “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” These words echo the angels’ and shepherds’ praise at the birth of Jesus at the beginning of Luke’s gospel. The crowd recalls Jesus’ deeds of power, the roads he has travelled in order that he might come to this place, to Jerusalem and in this manner.

Christians walking down from the Mount of Olives reenacting the biblical story of Palm Sunday.

What would be the names of the roads and streets of Jesus’ life? Healing Avenue. Unconditional Love Boulevard. The King’s Highway. Peace and Justice Court. Bread of Life Circle. Bright Path. But also Narrow Way, Poverty Hollow, Lonesome Valley. Crucifixion Alley. Death Row. Resurrection Road. And they all had the city of Jerusalem, the city of God and of kings as their final destination.

Now surely the Pharisees would have remembered their own history, of how a son plotted to overthrow his father, the true king, the greatest king in Israel’s history. We can hear the fear scrambling the minds of the Pharisees as they order the disciples to stop. Is Jesus the son overthrowing the father or the rightful king, the new David? Is this an opportunity to right a terrible wrong of the past or is this the terrible wrong of the present time? Which road should they choose?

They choose silence and to silence those who would proclaim Jesus as king. But Jesus will have none of it. Even if his disciples were silent, justice demands that some part of God’s creation proclaim what needs to be said. Even stones—the most silent of all God’s handiwork, used to mark roadways and the graves of the dead—would cry out the praise of God.

Each of us is headed toward our own Jerusalem, in our own way. This church is headed toward to its own Jerusalem. Perhaps we’ve seen the markers, the signs on the roads; perhaps the very stones are ready to cry out with what needs to be said. What is your Jerusalem, your place of trial and transformation and for this church? What are the roads and streets that have brought you and this church to this time and place in your story, in God’s story? Some of these roads have been well-established routes; others have been arduous, painful, even dangerous for some. Some of us are on a direct course while others are on the scenic tour. Some of you have had many companions on the way; others have travelled alone for long distances, now to feel as though you have come home.

None of this has been random or by accident or coincidence. God’s wisdom can be perceived in your journey, just as it can be perceived in the life of Jesus. Jesus’ journey was a hard one but it was also joyful, healing and loving, and it created another pathway that leads to God and to a changed life. We too are on that same road that leads to God, one certainly not without its bumps and valleys, but one that can be a signpost to others, that not only would our lives be changed but also make a difference in the lives of others.

Trust the road you are on, that on that road you will find God and that God will find you. The road we travel is in God’s hands. As we move through this week with Jesus, let us have the courage to go with him, all the way through Death Row and beyond that we might meet him on the Resurrection Road. Amen.


"It's the road you came in on, the path you walk along
That brought you to this loving, sacred place.
God is working through all the people who
Fill our lives with hope and care and grace."

--from the song "The Road You Came In On", a Silver Lake song written by Tim Hughes and Bob Smith.

1 comment:

Robert said...


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