APRIL 2. 2023 SERMON:  ‘Are We Up for It?!’

Rev. Jane Courtright

Here we are, on Palm Sunday.                                                                               

This is the Sunday when we Christians remember

Jesus entering Jerusalem & visiting the temple.

It’s an exciting day for Jesus and his followers!

In hindsight, it’s also a bittersweet, poignant day.

Many people: crowds, throngs of people

come there for the Passover celebration,

as Jesus and his disciples did.

It seems that only Jesus had a grasp

of the significance of the day,

the moments, the symbols

which foreshadowed the dark events

to follow during the coming week.

His own followers were confused

-they certainly didn’t see

how this day could further Jesus’ mission.

They could see nothing but danger,

failure in this coming to Jerusalem.

By this time,

there was great tension between Jesus

& the Roman officials

who militarily occupied the country.

There was misunderstanding, even enmity,

between Jesus & many of the leaders

of his own Jewish faith.

Let’s imagine, then,

the scene in Jerusalem on that fateful day.

As you’ll see in few minutes,

Jesus and his followers entered the city

by the East Gate.

Jerusalem at the time, had 8 gates into the city.

Directly across – within sight of the East Gate

was the West Gate

(which was near where                                                                                         

the famous Wailing Wall is today.)    


In Jesus’ time, the Roman military

had taken over the West Gate.

It was the location of the

Roman garrison of soldiers,

with all their might & armor & weapons.

The West Gate at that time

had been decorated with a Golden Eagle,

which signified that the Roman army occupied –

had taken over Jerusalem.

Many people who were supporters

as well as enemies of Jesus,

hoped, believed, feared

that he was there to confront,

to defeat the occupying Romans,

using power and might!

And what did Jesus choose to do,

much to their confusion, fear & surprise?

Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem,

NOT ON a mighty stallion,

which would have been

a symbol of military power;

but on a borrowed, lowly colt

the offspring of a donkey!)

– a symbol of humility.


That Jesus, always turning the normal,

knee jerk human response

of retaliation, vengeance, violence,

tit for tat, an eye for an eye –


I have visited Jerusalem

more than once in past years;

and I can tell you,

the scene there bears some similarity

to that first Palm Sunday.

There are no longer Roman garrisons

housed around the city,

no longer guarded gates.

Instead, there are military checkpoints

one must go through to enter Jerusalem.

These checkpoints are guarded by

Israeli soldiers armed with Uzis (ew’-zies.)

Jerusalem is no longer a city

whose inhabitants are Jewish or Roman.

Jerusalem is now a city sacred

to Jews, Christians & Muslims.


It is a city rife with tensions – some religious,

but largely tensions having to do with

land ownership, power,

hoarding of natural resources such as water.

In fact, much of the ‘Middle East’

is rife with tension right now.

And though that area of the world

has often been so

[as has most of the world

(including our own area)

at various times in history;

we are in a new era

with complicated tensions & alliances,

not to mention forms of warfare!

And we continue to confront such threats,

however we label them:

terrorists, dictatorships – with violence.

A response which plays right into the hands

of ‘enemies‘

because it continues the cycle of violence.

People throwing stones

have their homes bulldozed.

Terrorist bombings are answered with airstrikes.

People who murder others

are murdered themselves.


A simple, yet profound question

asked today is:  WWJD?

What DID Jesus do on the first Palm Sunday

and Holy Week?

Some time ago, at a former church,

I had a simple, yet profound discussion

with one of the ‘Rainbow Kids’

(which was the name of several                                                  

of the elementary kid’s groups I started.)            

She was excitedly filling me in

on the Easter Egg Hunt

which her Grandmother held that year.

Her Grandma hid an egg

in her yard which holds

a slip of paper which reads, “YOU WIN!”

The child who found that egg won

a giant egg – full of Rice Crispy Treats.


Apparently, the previous Easter,

this girl’s older sister had won this prize

AND shared NOT ONE BIT of it!

So, the Rainbow Kid told me that this year,

she WOULD win the egg with its treats

AND that she would share this much (gesture)

with her older sister.

She looked proud, happy and determined

as she imagined this triumphant scene.

I looked quietly into her beautiful eyes & asked her,

“What do you think Jesus

would want you to do with those treats?”


She looked back at me silently

for several seconds

and her countenance fell.

The delight at getting back at her sister

drained from her face.

Surprise, then sadness, then realization,

then understanding and finally,

determination crossed her face.

She answered, “He would want me

to share them with my sister.”

“Why?”  I gently pressed her,

“What good would that do?”

“It would show my sister how to share, too.”

This little girl, I knew,

was part of a Christian family

and had been taught about God

and Jesus all her life.

She did understand finally.

I’ve had the same experience

with other children: (and adults!)

suggesting that instead of doing

the same things back

when someone does them wrong,

that they respond with wisdom & kindness,

as Jesus taught

(without putting themselves in danger.)

Their reaction is often a look of

‘Are you crazy?’

For many of them,

this is an entirely new idea.

They are shocked and surprised

to even try to think of such a thing!


One spring,

as we made May spring baskets

to deliver around town,

I asked one girl…

on whose porch or doorknob

she would place her basket.

She said she didn’t know

many neighbors on her street,

except for a grumpy old lady

next door to her.

When I suggested that she

gift this lady with a basket,

she replied, “Why would I do that?

She’s always grouchy at me!”

I talked to her about how grumpy people

are usually unhappy people

& probably need God’s kind of love.

She was so surprised

that she was rendered silent.

I don’t know if she left her May basket

on that woman’s porch,

but I do know the she thought about it.

I’ve been describing situations with children

and how they can learn to get along

with each other & with neighbors

& other people.

Granted, these situations seem simpler

than our current complex

national & international situations.

Yet, the principals, the teachings of Jesus

are the same when it comes to reacting

to more complicated scenerios.

I wonder sometimes,

what are we and our children being taught

by our leaders and our culture?


And do we, in our minds,

think that those ARE practical,

smart responses for the real world?

And that Jesus’ teachings are fine

for church & religious thought,

but make no practical sense?

Do we have two sets of rules:

How we respond in the real world

AND how we SHOULD respond

in some religious idealism?

The reality is that Jesus

DID live in the real world.

He lived smack in the middle

of tensions & conflicts, oppression,

injustice, poverty, hatred,

religious and political polarization.

Even his own followers

didn’t agree with him

about how to get his message across,

how to manage his ministry.

But Jesus did not cave,

even as he prayed to God,“take this bitter cup from me!”

Jesus didn’t respond

in an understandably human

knee jerk fashion.

If he had, I don’t think we would know of him at all.

His prayer, at the end was,

“Forgive them,

they know not what they do.”

It takes a lot of guts to go

beyond our normal reactions.

This way of Jesus is a different way!

It doesn’t mean being weak

or becoming a doormat.

It’s a way that requires a deeper strength,

courage & insight.

Today, we remember how

Jesus rides a borrowed colt

into the center of the city

that will reject him.

He empties himself of all he has.

And God keeps doing this saving work

through us.

ARE WE UP FOR IT?    Amen.

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