Sunday, 17 April 2011

Where is Your Donkey? A Sermon for Palm Sunday—with Reference to Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus rode into town on the colt of a donkey to begin the week that would end with his death on the cross. This was no Quixotic or comic gesture. The Kings of Israel rode donkeys. Each had a royal donkey upon which no else could ride. It symbolized royalty, humility and peace. By riding into town on that donkey Jesus was saying who he really is. He was clearly demonstrating that he is what Zechariah wrote about:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.(9:9)
Jesus is our king, righteous, having salvation, gentle, on his way to the cross to take away the sin of the world, riding on a donkey which he instructed two of his disciples to bring to him.

When they brought it, (Mt 21.7) they put their cloaks on the donkey as a saddle, Jesus sat on them and rode into town. And in v8:
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
What would be the equivalent for us of that donkey colt, the cloaks, branches from trees spread on the road, the Hosannas in the Highest; to bring Jesus into our town? What could we provide nowadays for Jesus to sit on and ride into town? What ministry could we do that would give Jesus a way to ride into our town? So that people would be stirred and would ask “Who is this?” and we could say, “This is Jesus, royal, righteous, gentle—come to save you from sin and death.”

It might have something to do with this: I’m part of a study group with a local pastor who is doing his doctor of ministry. We’re reading some books together and talking about them. The books are by Reggie McNeal, the first one is Revolution in Leadership: Training Apostles for Tomorrow's Church (Abingdon Press, 1998), in which I read this:
The challenge for North American Christianity involves a willingness to emerge from a sociological cocoon and adopt a missional agenda designed to embrace the world. 22 
The options are two: thinking and doing church as refuge or thinking and doing church as mission. Leadership will make the choice. 32-33
The book I’m reading now is Missional Renaissance: changing the Scorecard for the Church (Jossey-Bass, 2009) I found this:
The way forward for churches that want to redefine their position in the community will be through service and sacrifice. 6
What are the donkeys of service and sacrifice we can provide upon which Jesus can emerge from our church sociological cocoon and refuge and ride into this town?

McNeal isn’t talking about the forms of outreach that have been traditionally used by the institutional church. Things have changed, he argues. We need to develop some new ways (new donkeys) and celebrate what is already happening.

Consider the world of education, for example; we have several teachers in the congregation. I can think of five people whose souls are fed here each Sunday who are agents of God's blessing to, what, a hundred children in our school system. We have two Medicine Hat College teachers, too. How can we help and support them in that?

We deploy at least five people into God's medical healing system. We send folk into the business world. There are carpenters, banking people, retired people. Wayne Craven is on city council.  Imagine people like those going into their environments with a missional agenda, intending to take their faith in Jesus there, intentional agents of blessing to the people they serve.

Jesus is a good rider. He can ride on all sorts of things. Jesus can ride into town on what they do. How can we develop and bless that?

Is there more? I think there is. I read that missional ministry rides well on things we love to do. Things that give us joy. Joy is an excellent donkey upon which Jesus can ride.

And when I think of what I’ve heard about what some of you enjoy most: there’s the music that comes from our people—Jesus can ride on the songs the Selah Singers and the Hat Harmonettes sing out in the community, on the music Tilley Ganden plays in the nursing homes. All we have to do is invite Jesus to ride on what we do.

McNeal writes about an ex-pastor guy who became frustrated at not being able to reach men with his church programming, so he started what he calls his “cigar bar church.” Every Sunday night he meets with some guys over cigars and drinks and they talk—about everything, including Jesus.

Two other things I hear about which seem to be extravagantly enjoyed around here are golf and hockey. I know there are opportunities for mission there.

Ask Jesus where the donkey is. Get it and let him ride it onto the golf course (perhaps even the nineteenth hole) and the hockey arena and go with him.

Who knows some folk might get stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And you’ll be able to tell them.