Sermon for Palm Sunday 4-1-12

Sermon for Palm Sunday 4-1-12

How many of you have been “April Fooled” already today?

Did you get salt out of the sugar bowl for your coffee or cereal? Did the lids to the pepper and salt shakers fall completely off with the first shake?

Were all your shirt sleeves turned inside out?

Good April Fool jokes and pranks are supposed to strike out at our routines, shake up our perceptions, make something ordinary odd and extraordinary. Sometimes April Fool is something contrived. Sometimes April Fool just happens. For example, Andy Warhol, who turned out to have been a devout Christian, received a Catholic burial at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan on April Fool’s Day 1987, attended by 2000 people. Whether contrived or natural, to be an “April Fool” is to embrace the surprises and new experiences of Spring.

There is no better day for Palm Sunday to fall upon than April Fool’s Day. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a classic “April Fool” experience.

First, the two disciples Jesus chose to go “borrow” that colt in Bethphage must have been waiting for Jesus to say “April Fool.” But he doesn’t. Instead Jesus seriously instructs his disciples to go and commit the first-century equivalent of “grand theft auto.” “Borrowing” a valuable animal, a pristine, unbroken young colt, was frowned upon and punished in first century Palestine as seriously as horse-thieving was in the Old West.

Jesus’ suggested “get out of jail free” card sounds like another “April Fool” — just say, “The Lord needs it.” Yeah. Right. That will work. But . . . it does!

Jesus and his disciples were observant, pious Jews who knew their scripture. His disciples knew the significance of their master riding a young colt into Jerusalem. This was a statement of kingship, of deliverance, of prophetic fulfillment. It is then with great anticipation and expectation that Jesus’ disciples decide to disrobe. They bare their arms and back, they lay their cloaks, the garments that most physically identify who they are, down upon the roadway, creating a cushioned path for the skittish young animal bearing their master. What April Fool’s was this, what April Fool’s were they for stripping down and looking undignified and under-dressed, in order to honor a scriptural image of the messiah.

The disciples surely envisioned that such a significant, majestic entrance into the holy city could not help but lead to great success. Surely Jesus chose to enter the city in such a significant, royal, messianic manner because he was planning some sort of popular uprising, or some extraordinary display of power. This Passover Week was obviously going to be a scene of great success. April Fool.

Other Passover pilgrims traveling into Jerusalem got into the spirit of Jesus’ procession. Some of them also peeled off their cloaks and dared to bare their backs in a state of crowd enthusiasm. Others chanted “hosanna” and lay down branches for their combined procession into the city. For everyone in this crowd — Jesus, his disciples, the mixed multitude of travelers — the destination is the same, the spiritual center of Judaism, the Temple. Obviously something wonderful is about to happen.

April Fool.

Instead Jesus reaches the Temple, enters into that sacred space and simply stares it down. Then, without a word, Jesus turns on his heel and departs — not just from the Temple Mount, but from the city of Jerusalem. Yet nothing speaks louder about the transformation Jesus’ presence and sacrifice are about to bring into being than this: Just as Jesus instructed his disciples to shake off the dust of those communities that would not welcome them, so Jesus shakes the dust of the Temple and the entire priestly/sacrificial bureaucracy off his feet as he walks back to Bethany.

The Temple and all it thinks it accomplishes is nothing. Jesus does not linger. There is nothing of God there. Besides, he has a young colt he promised to return “immediately. “ If the Temple, the priestly authorities, the religious power structure, thought Jesus was on his way to pay them honor and homage . . . “April Fool.”

Jesus never flinched from playing “the fool” in order to fulfill God’s will. He directed and rode in a pilgrimage parade to the tune of “Hosanna” into Jerusalem. Then he left it all to plod a dusty path back to Bethany. His disciples were not scholars or star students. They were fishermen and tax collectors, nobodies and ne’er-do-wells. His “foolish” path took him into Jerusalem to the chants of “Blessed be” and had him driven out of Jerusalem with a cross beam strapped to his back on his way to Golgotha.

How willing are you to become an “April Fool” for Christ? Are you willing to admit that you are part of a truly “foolish” family?

It is not without the “foolish factor” that Jesus Christ is also known as the “Son of David.” King David is the backbone of Judaism, the patriarch of Israel’ identity, the lineage for the Messiah. King David is also the one who stripped naked so he could dance for joy before the Lord. David happily divested himself of all his “kingly” attributes and attire, of everything and anything that might have distinguished him as royal or special or unique. David wanted to represent himself before God as “everyman,” as “anyman,” to be seen as only a “praising man” so that he could freely and fully express to the Lord his joy and gratitude, his utter dependence and commitment.

David danced unhampered and unadorned by any human attachments.

David danced naked before the Lord so that he could be fully present before God’s presence.

God’s prophets routinely made “fools” of themselves.

Isaiah stomped around naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah 20:1-6);

Jeremiah wore a ruined loincloth (ewh!!) (Jeremiah 13:1-11); wore an oxen yoke around his neck (Jeremiah 28:1-17), and bought land occupied by the enemy (a truly BAD investment) (Jeremiah 32:1-15);

Ezekiel ate up scrolls of written words — not a low carb diet (Ezekiel 2:1-3:3);

Hosea married a prostitute and named their children after God’s judgments (Hosea 1:2-2:1).

And that is just in the Old Testament!

After the ultimate “April Fool” — the April Fool of Christ’s death, the April Fool that destroyed the sting of sin and offered instead complete salvation a whole new raft of fools took float. The Pharisee Saul of Taurus became Paul the Apostle. The libertine, sophisticated Augustine became a father of the faith. Throughout the two thousand one hundred years of Christianity the faithful have stepped forward form the safety of anonymity or the security of a well-heeled position to embrace . . . foolishness, nakedness, a Palm Sunday parade mentality . . . in order to proclaim Christ.

If we get all “dressed up” on Easter Sunday, then Palm Sunday should be the time we get “dressed down,” the time we “get naked.” Take a risk at caring about someone who is truly risky. Go out on a limb. Take the path usually not taken. Don’t cross the street to avoid a possible problem. Don’t’ be afraid to be naked. To be on parade. To be different.

To be a follower of the One who never flinched when it came to being a fool for God, is to be an April Fool for Christ. Will you be just that? An April Fool for Christ?

Leonard Sweet, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., 2012,

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