Palm Sunday Reading: Psalm 92-93 and John 12:12-50
I know it’s Sunday. My plan all along on our 40 Days of Reconciliation was to write only Monday through Friday and not on weekends except Palm Sunday and Easter weekend. Traditionally the 40 days of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and does not count weekends. So, we are in good company. Today, however IS Palm Sunday so I will be brief.
Yesterday was opening day of the Barfield Baseball League. In case you missed it on Sports Center let me give you the highlights. Jakson Courtney, starting catcher for the Barfield Reds 6 year old team went 3 for 3, scoring all 3 times and leading his team to a 13-2 rout. He also called a masterful game for his pitcher, 35 year old Josh Courtney, also known as Daddy. (It’s coach pitch.)
On the heels of that celebration. The 9-10 year old Red Sox won a nail biter when Jon-Mical Courtney, a speed demon on the bases, stole home in the bottom of the last inning with his team down 4 to 5. Not only did he score the tying run but his steal forced a wild throw from the pitcher and allowed the winning run to score. Jon-Mical had a perfect on base percentage in a very brave outing after he got plunked in the head by a high and tight fastball in his first at bat. He showed great restraint by not charging the mound although PoppyC did have to be pulled down from trying to climb over the backstop fence.
Celebrations! They are what life is all about. Baseball wins, report card A’s, healthy check-ups, and losing 4 pounds, we all need to find those things to celebrate in life and we need to celebrate them with gusto. Jon-Mical and Jakson celebrated with Skittles and water (because Jon-Mical has given up soft drinks for Lent.) I celebrated with dancing and clapping. Mimi celebrated with an embarrassed look and a disavowal of even knowing that crazy old man doing the moon walk to the Barfield concession stand with the Reds and the Red Sox.
On this day we celebrate another celebration, Palm Sunday, the Triumphal Entry. Jesus is perched on a donkey, the unmistakable symbol of a conquering monarch, and riding into Jerusalem as the crowds throng the streets and chant, “Hosanna, Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” They pave His pathway with palm branches and hold their kids up in the air to get a glimpse of the One who had raised Lazarus from the dead. If there had been Skittles at the time, they would be tossing them in the air. I’m sure there was moon walking going on. Celebration, big time.
Now, not to be a party pooper, but remember at the end of the week this same crowd will be yelling, “Crucify Him. Give us Barabbas.” The fickle fans flop from friend to foe in the fortune of five days. Celebration turns into accusation. Lauding turns to lying. Those that are screaming to lift Him up will soon be calling to string Him up. Jesus rides in to Jerusalem on Sunday to the adoration of the people and will stumble out of Jerusalem, up to Golgotha on Friday, to the jeers of those same folk. The old adage among preachers used to be, “Be careful of your most ardent supporters at the beginning of your ministry. The ones who move you in will be the ones who move you out.”
Wow. So much for Skittles and opening day. I’m depressed. Well, maybe not. Maybe there are a couple of lessons that are important for us to remember on this Palm Sunday. First, celebrations are an important part of the cycle of life. We celebrate. We must. If we didn’t life would be unbearable. But we also come down from those celebrations and go back to the real world or else life would be unrealistic. The Wisdom Writer said, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Opening days are followed by homework and chores. Graduations are followed by getting a job. Losing 4 pounds is followed by, well, by trying to lose 4 more. The other wisdom writer, John Michael Montgomery said, “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. Don’t worry ‘bout what you don’t know. Life’s a dance, you learn as you go.”
The second lesson is that win or lose, succeed or fail, celebrate or not; it does not change who you are. Your intrinsic value and worth has been buried deep in your DNA by the God who flung the stars into space and hung the moon on the other side of the ocean. He breathed life into you and stepped back and said, “This is GOOD!” He loves you with an everlasting love and whether you go 3-3 or get called out looking, you are awesome to Him and He ALWAYS celebrates you. Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you. If all men count with you but none too much…” Jesus knows that the crowd cheering Him will be turning on Him in a few days. He knows that the disciples that say, “We will never desert you,” will flee in panic before long. But in John 17 He prays, “Father, I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work You sent Me to do.” (John 17:4) He did not get His status from the celebration or the crowd. He knew who He was because He was doing what God wanted Him to do.
That is true for me and you also. We will have wonderful times of glorious celebration. We will have gloomy days when we don’t want to come out from under the cover. As long as we are doing what God wants us to do, we’re good. We can hold our head high. We have worth. That’s what really matters That’s what we celebrate.
Before the game, Jon-Mical came up to me and said, “PoppyC, I’m a little nervous.” This is his first year where the kids pitch. I didn’t tell him that after I saw how wild the other pitcher was, I was nervous too. I said, “Jon-Mical, I have a Bible verse for you, Joshua 1:9, ‘Be strong and very brave because God is with you wherever you are.’” I told him to say that every time he walked up to the plate. When the game was over I asked, “Jon-Mical, you stole home and won the game. Amazing. What were you thinking?” He looked at me like, ‘what a dumb question’ and said, “Well, PoppyC, Joshua 1:9, of course.” WooHoo! Moon walk!!!