Palm Sunday: What does it mean to be a subject?
John 12: 1-16
I leave the parish for a couple of weeks and Brexite explodes.
After two years of slow negotiation then there are a few weeks of absolute chaos where there is a hive of activity.
Everything that had been leading up to now suddenly takes a life of its own.
That is what is happening here.
Jesus has been leading a movement of change; of how we see God, of how we relate to the Father.
And now in the space of a few days everything explodes into action.
Mary anoints Jesus feet as an acknowledgement that she sees Jesus as the Messiah. The resurrection of her brother Lazarus had forced her to see Jesus in another light. Jesus was now no mere messenger of God; no mere prophet of God, Jesus was God incarnate, the Lord of Life.
More importantly she recognised him as the Lord of her life.
That anointing had repercussions.
Perfume was expensive and very few people would have smelt of perfume; royalty, priests, very, very well off people.
But most of all royalty and priests.
And the very next day in comes Jesus to Jerusalem, smelling like a king, smelling like a high priest.
A modern equivalent would be myself coming into London blocking off all the roads, with the police at either side and barricades across the pavement to keep the pedestrians away. Of travelling in a horse drawn golden carriage with armed guards walking beside the carriage and a parade in front and behind myself.
I couldn't get away with doing something like that, the queen could.
If you look like the monarch and act like the monarch then you either are the monarch or you are making a claim to be the monarch.
In Jesus case if you look like a monarch and smell like a monarch then you either are a monarch or you are claiming to be the next monarch.,
To me that leads to two very different sermons.
The first is, ’What does it mean to have Jesus as our king?’
And that is an interesting sermon. About how we can feel assurance because Jesus is in charge, Jesus is guiding, Jesus is leading.
But the sermon I want to look at today is the other one, what does it mean for us to be subject to the king?
Because it is one thing for Jesus to claim to be our king, it is another for us to accept that place of Jesus and by definition, accept our role as subject to his kingship.
The crowd here were shouting, ‘Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
But that was meaningless a few days later when Jesus was hanging from the cross.
Where was their commitment and loyalty then?
As the Roman soldiers crucified the man they called their king, where were they?
They didn’t defend him, they didn't fight for him, they didn't even shout out to support him.
So what does it mean for us when we claim that Jesus is Lord?
Or is it some meaningless statement meant to keep God at arm’s length and us feeling smug about who we are without really doing anything?
The first thing I suggest kingship implies is faith in the king.
Faith that in the end things will be all right, because the king is in charge.
But that means putting the king in charge.
And that faith isn't blind faith, that faith is based on experience.
We believe because the belief that we have, has shown to be worthy of belief.
That’s why reflection in our life is so important.
Every morning in my personal prayers I start off with the phrase, ‘Thank you for yesterday, it was a good day.’
It is just a habit I have gotten into. But that habit then forces me to look at the day that had passed.
What in that day was worth thanking God for?
What happened that made my life better?
Who helped me in that day?
Or who did I help?
How did I make the day better for someone else?
Or did I make the day worse for someone else, do I need to apologize? If I do then that forces me to look at myself and the standards I am setting for myself, or rather the standards that God is setting for me.
And if that makes me a better person, or stops me sliding into becoming a worse person then that is a good thing.
If I live with that constant attitude then over time that changes me, that attitude helps me to look at life differently.
I have become aware of how many people miss out on life. How much of their life isn't enjoyed, and it is not because their life is bad, it is more because people don't see the gifts of life for what they are.
Let me give you a personal example.
When you are in relationship you can either ignore the relationship and let it drift, or you can commit to it, have faith in it.
Fore instance, Roseanna and I have a relationship. I have learnt the hard way that it is not about waiting for the happy ever after to make the relationship special.
Instead I need to see that it is the journey of life together that makes it special.
There is no end point that makes it all worthwhile, there is no moment when we have created the good marriage and everything will be fine, it can just run in its own steam...instead the relationship is about going with the relationship wherever it takes us and expecting it to work out, which is easier to do now because we have been doing it for so long.
When we were away Roseanna had booked us into a hotel in Garelochhead. There is not much there, so she suggested we go to Rosneath as it was close by. But Rosneath isn't exactly the Barcelona of Scotland. There is no great cathedrals or historical sites. To be fair it did have a Co Op and a take-away. So we had lunch there and Roseanna thought we had done Rosneath for the day and wanted to go somewhere else. She looked on the map and saw Coulport. That looked like a nice place...on the map.
So off we went to Coulport.
As you get to Coulport you just travel down this duel carriageway and then hit a roundabout and then hit Coulport, which is a huge military naval base with 15 foot razor wire fences and huge blockaded entrances with men with guns and we decided to carry on past the roundabout and see where the road took us.
And there in the middle of nowhere we came across The Green Kettle Cafe and Boarding House.
So in we went to relax and have a coffee or a Butterscotch Sundae and just see what life hit us with.
And what life hit us with was just the two of us in the middle of nowhere and this other couple talking to this guy about organising a birthday party. To be honest we weren’t really listening just minding our own business.
Then this guy said, ‘I’ll go and get changed so that you can see what it looks like.’
10 minutes later our comes this 60 year old Elvis in full white glimmer gear, black wig and singing all the Elvis songs so the couple could see what they would get on the night of the birthday.
What are the chances that we would be in the middle of nowhere and meet Elvis?
But that’s what it is like when Roseanna is navigating me in the car. I am never too sure where I will end up but I am sure that something will happen.
That is what it is like when we put God in charge of our life. When we say to God, ‘You are our Lord, you are in charge’.
We will never be sure where that journey will take us, and a lot of the time it may feel like we are wandering about and we aren’t too sure where we are going, but we end up where we need to be to live life.
When God is in charge of us we are called to be aware that every moment is a moment that something can happen.
How many times have we walked down the street in Alva and meet someone that needs to talk?
That can be a conversation where God is brought into the conversation.
Maybe not directly. I heard this guy got on a plane and was looking for a seat and when he saw a free seat he asked the guy sitting there if the seat was saved and the guy said, ‘The seat is not saved but you can be saved by the living God.’
I’m a minister and if you said that to me I would be looking for another seat on the plain, ANY other seat on the plain.
So we may not be bringing God directly into the conversation.
But we could ask ourselves, ‘What would God want me to do here?’
Because I know half the time I meet someone in the street my first thought is usually, ‘Need to get to the church. Don’t have time for this. Just say ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ and move on’
That’s what happens when I am in charge.
But when I ask myself, ‘If God was in charge here what would he want to happen now?’ Then the conversation can often go very differently.
Just asking them how they are doing and waiting for a response.
Or asking them how life is treating them.
Or if there is anything that I can do for them at that moment.
If you want to know how important that can be, then look at the scriptures, look at the Gospels, and ask yourself how many times Jesus does something because he is being interrupted.
He is on the way somewhere else when a blind man shouts out.
He is going somewhere else when a man stops him and asks him to help with his daughter, then when he is doing that, someone touches him. That’s an interruption to an interruption.
He is dying on a cross and someone asks him a question.
Jesus looked at every opportunity of bringing God’s presence into this world.
And every time it happened the world got better for someone.
So, Palm Sunday.
Yet another Sunday when we think about what hypocrites the Jewish people were for shouting out that Jesus was their Messiah and yet a few days later they disappeared when Jesus needed them.
But now it is our turn.
Jesus is our Lord, Jesus is our king, but what does that mean?
How much do we accept his rule in our lives, let his thoughts and desires help us act the way he would want us to?
As we leave today, as we live our lives tomorrow, what would our King want us to do?