The end is near! I imagine most of us, either in person or on TV or in the print media, have seen someone like the person who probably drives this van. He or she is usually around at events or occasions that draw a big crowd. They don’t even have to be religious events, although I’ve seen people like this warning us “apostate” Presbyterians at our General Assemblies in the past. But I’ve also seen and imagine you have, too, these poster waving, self-identified prophets declaring “The end is near!” at football games and festivals. It may even be just what they call “Tuesday” in popular tourist spots like Times Square or the Washington DC Mall of monuments in the busy summer season. These prophets (I use the term loosely, very loosely) may turn up anywhere there are a lot of people around because they are trying to announce what they think is a very urgent message – “The end is near!!!” Judgement is coming! You better get your stuff in order, because this is your last chance. Continue reading
Speaking of Turmoil – a sermon on Matthew 21:1-17
His reputation certainly preceded him. Adoring crowds accompanied Jesus and gathered ahead of him, while the anxious city awaited his arrival. His supporters had been building around him for some time. His ministry started of more like a small group than a megachurch, but after the word started to spread about the healings he provided, the miracles he performed, the blessings he procured, he wasn’t traveling alone much anymore. Coming down from the mountain of the transfiguration, a crowd was waiting for Jesus, out of which he cured a boy with demon. Traveling to Judea beyond the Jordan where he was tested by the Pharisees on the intricacies of religious law, crowds gathered to hear and see Jesus, even to be healed by him. Leaving Jericho and turning toward Jerusalem, having just predicted his punishment, death, and rising to new life, a crowd is determined to follow Jesus, even into the unknown.
It’s no wonder the city was stirred up in turmoil when this crowd of Jesus’ supporters was heading straight for Jerusalem. They came marching toward the gates, waving branches, offering even the cloaks off their backs to honor this him, talked of prophecies being fulfilled and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” The city was expecting devout pilgrims for the Passover observance. But now they had either a parade or a protest. It may have been hard to tell the difference. The teachings of this Jesus were not the normal teachings. He di something with them. He didn’t counter them, but someone reapplied them. He took the law of Moses, kept the core, and expanded on it for a new day. It was challenging to some, to say the least.
The seats in the middle of the sanctuary
A few weeks ago I found myself in the church sanctuary all alone. Now, that isn’t completely abnormal. I’m regularly running
into the worship space for one thing or another. Maybe I left my Book of Common Worship on the communion tableSunday, or more likely my son left his iPod under the chair. But this particularly afternoon I had wandered in for some completely different reason that is lost to me now, and instead of wandering right back out I sat down for a little while, in the middle of the sanctuary in the middle of a row in the middle of the day when I am not leading worship. I got stuck there — in a good way — for a while.