Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Hasn’t life changed?
If we go back just a couple months ago life was never better.
I had just arrived back from my 2 week cruise and excited that we had rebooked our next cruise.
Coffee shops and wine bars were filled with people celebrating life with not a problem in the world.
But then something happened.
Stories of a virus were doing the rounds.
Rumours that it had come from a wet market in China.
But we felt safe – it was over there – we were over here.
Then we heard of the Diamond Princess and the cruisers whose dream holiday turned into a nightmare.
There were Australians on the ship and it felt like it was getting closer to home – but still far enough away that we didn’t really have to worry about it.
But then the cases started arriving in Australia.
There were rumours that things might get shut down.
We learnt new phrases like “social distancing”.
We started joking about it – don’t come too close – and we’d laugh.
We were told not to shake hands – but we did.
We were given instructions on how to wash our hands.
We were given instructions on how to worship – how to receive communion.
And then we started hearing more rumours that churches might be asked to suspend services – and some did.
We heard more rules – no gatherings over 1000 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – no gatherings over 100 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – 1 person per 2 square metres – we found a way to do that.
Life kept changing – it was, what we describe as “fickle”.
And then the decree – places of worship were to suspend all services until further notices – and this could last 6 months.
In today’s readings we see Jesus experiencing that same fickleness – that same uncertainty as he enters Jerusalem to the cheers and support of the people of Jerusalem – only to face the same people asking for his death not long after.
What can we learn from this?
We learn that Jesus knew that this was going to happen.
In Matthew 16 Jesus explains this entry into Jerusalem:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
What happened to Jesus in that triumphal entry into Jerusalem symbolises life on earth.
It reminds us that we too are on a journey and before we reach that destination of eternal life in Heaven that there is always the unexpected fickleness of life.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about what is happening.
Not at all.
What is happening is heartbreaking to see.
And it is hitting very close to home for all of us.
We’re used to knowing someone who knows someone who is affected by a tragic circumstance.
But we are finding that we are all becoming personally affected by this first hand.
We have a family member who has lost their job.
We have a family member or friend who has cancelled their wedding.
I have 2 funerals to conduct but only after the pandemic conditions end.
Life is very different to how we have always expected it to be.
But so many times Jesus encourages us to be founded on solid ground for just such occasions as this:
One of my favourite parables for such a time as this is the parable of the 2 builders:
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
It wasn’t the strength or craftsmanship of the house that provided the safety from the storm – it was the foundation.
Likewise, it has not been the things that we have built our lives on that are providing us with hope and strength – our careers – our finances – our social lives –
No all these and more have been threatened.
Even our church buildings are not providing the security – BUT the foundation on which our churches are built – the rock of Christ – is providing that hope in these times.
When Jesus told his disciples about his entry into Jerusalem he explained that while it might begin as a “triumphal entry” to the hosannas of the crowd, it will look anything but a triumph as the crowd which cried out “hosanna” one day, will in just a short time cry out “crucify”.
But we need to remember that even with the fickle nature of the crowd, this is still a triumphal entry.
Because the triumph will be his triumph over death.
At the moment our worldly situation looks anything but triumphal.
There is very little we can do.
I was devastated this week when I led a funeral and seeing the mother of the deceased crying her heart out but I could not even console her with a personal touch.
But what I could not do, God did, as he comforted her with his word of assurance.
The word we heard last week at the death of Lazarus as Jesus proclaims his triumph:
I AM the resurrection and life – whoever believes in me, even though they die, they shall live.
This is a triumph that no one else can give.
Death is the worst case scenario for this virus and any other earthly threat.
Our sporting stars can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too have had their games cancelled.
Our actors and celebrities can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too are in isolation.
Only God can give us triumph, even though it presently looks anything but triumph – just like it did on the cross.
St Paul reminds us in our 2nd reading:
Christ humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
We are challenged to humble ourselves and trust God.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In this time of earthly uncertainty, let us be like the wise builder who built his home on the foundation of the rock.
Jesus said he would build his church on that rock and not even the gates of hell will overcome it.
 And as we live in the eye of the storm that is beating against our church let us remember that Jesus is the one who even though he was asleep in the helm of the boat while the disciples thought they were going to drown – he got up and told the storm to be quiet – and it ceased.
The disciples felt like we probably feel because Jesus was asleep – don’t you care that we are going to drown.
Don’t you care that I’ve lost my job – don’t you care that I’ve lost my house – don’t you care that I’ve had to cancel my wedding.
Of course God does!
But Jesus showed his power and authority – who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him.
And he will show his power and authority in this as well and he asks us to trust him.
He says: Don’t let your hearts be troubled – trust God, trust also in me.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

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