It really is dawning on me that I have to start preaching again every Sunday. I’m preaching this Sunday, and I’ve returned again to the lectionary to begin preparations. It should be easy, shouldn’t it? After all, it’s Palm Sunday. But, then again…it’s Palm Sunday. How does one be fresh on a passage of Scripture that is preached every year at this same time. What is God saying to us this year that He hasn’t said for over two thousand years? Yes, I feel the pain of all my sisters and brothers who are busy preparing for their Palm Sunday sermon.
I have often sought to title my sermon and have the title serve as the “big idea” of the sermon. I try to let the Scripture guide me to the point of the message and then formulate a title around that point. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this week (while spending long hours in the Cabinet room dealing with appointments) and it’s a little more difficult because we’re headed to Palm Sunday.
There is rich fodder in Luke 19:28-40 this week. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the final week of his earthly ministry is filled with imagery for good sermon titles, and points to make. Of course, there is the whole matter of expectations. The crowd had their expectations of Jesus. The disciples had their expectations of Jesus. The Pharisees had their expectations of Jesus. Jesus had his own expectations of what the week ahead was to be like, and he was the only one who knew what lay at the end of the week.
Imagine how our lives would be different if we expected that next week would be our last. I am reminded of what Steve Jobs said after he discovered he was dying with cancer: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Yeah. I could do something with that. I might title it “Expecting the Unexpected” or “What Did You Expect?” That could work.
There is also the means whereby Jesus obtains the donkey upon which he will arrive in Jerusalem. That’s an interesting account, I think. Jesus simply sends his disciples to get the colt. “Go over there and get it. You’ll know it when you see it.” And, the disciples go, and sure enough they find the donkey, and sure enough, the owner asks the disciples, “What are you doing with my ass?” I can imagine the disciples’ response being, “The Lord needs your ass.” Well, now, that’s a loaded question, and the response is equally as loaded. I can probably get a lot of mileage out of this point. Maybe play with the whole idea of the role we have to play in the living out of God’s Kingdom among us. Do we all have an ass Jesus can use? Not quite sure how the folks this Sunday would respond when they show up and the title of the sermon is printed across the bulletin “When Jesus Needs Your Ass.” I suspect it would be somewhat akin to the reaction of the Pharisees when Jesus came riding into town that day. Hm? Maybe I’m on to something here.
I’ll keep playing with it. It’s only Thursday, you know?
Nah! I probably won’t use that title. A bit too shocking. A bit too much to leave to the imagination. A bit too much to be misconstrued. It’s a novel thought, though. Maybe it’s time we were a bit more shocking in our preaching. After all, it will be a shocking end to the week when Jesus rises from the grave.
My! My! My! The task of preaching on Palm Sunday and Holy Week. What’s a preacher to do? I suppose it’s time to live into the reality that Jesus needs my ass.
Until next time, keep looking up…