As Jesus was getting ready for the very first Palm Sunday,
there was a feeling of secrecy in the air.
Do you feel that in the text?
Before the end of the day there’s going to be a big triumphal parade.
But if word of it gets out to the Romans who are occupying Jerusalem,
there’s going to be big trouble.
So, they start things off on the down low.
They’ve made no real plans.
They don’t have a parade permit.
They don’t even have a horse.
So, Jesus sends two disciples surreptitiously to acquire a colt.
If you get caught stealing it, he says, just give them the secret password,
“The Lord needs it.”
But the morning quickly goes from hush-hush
Jesus is riding on the colt covered in cloaks.
The people have come out to call him “King!”
They lay their cloaks on the road,
they shout and cheer.
The whole multitude began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice.
And Jesus’ old adversaries, the Pharisees there in the crowd, say to him,
“Teacher, order them to stop!”
It’s not just that they didn’t always agree with Jesus,
the Pharisees were right to be worried that a great crowd
hailing a king as he rides down from the Mount of Olives
just before Passover
would be more than enough provocation for the Romans
to slaughter the crowd
and probably do a whole lot of collateral damage along the way.
The Romans dealt very harshly with insurrectionists.
In fact, they crucified them.
The Pharisees would rather that Jesus just kept all this to himself.
Stop celebrating it!
Go back to sneaking around!
But Jesus says, if the people were silent, the stones would cry out!
When I say: If the People Were Silent!
You say: The Stones Would Cry Out!
What a great line.
And it’s not a throw-away line.
It’s not just witty.
It’s a deeper line than that.
If we follow it, it will lead us down into a deeper understanding
of what Palm Sunday means for Jesus, for God, and for all of us.
In the apocryphal Gospel According to Thomas
(one of the books that didn’t make it into the Bible),
Jesus has another great line. Jesus said,
"If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
I think Palm Sunday is about turning the secret inside of you
into the truth in the world.
Secrecy may be necessary at first,
but there comes a time when silence is no longer an option.
What God is doing within us has to come out!
And if it doesn’t?
The silence could be deadly.
First, what does it mean to be silent?
There’s a 2011 movie called “A Dangerous Method”
about the relationship between Psychologist Carl Jung
and his mentor Sigmund Freud.
And there’s a scene in the movie based on a real incident
that captures one of the disagreements that pushed these two men apart.
Jung and Freud are in Freud’s office arguing
about ESP, telekinesis, and paranormal psychology.
Jung believes that these are all legitimate areas for scientific inquiry.
Freud thinks that all that paranormal stuff is “sheer bosh.”
As Jung listens to Freud speaking badly
about an area of psychology that he thinks is very important
he begins to feel something in his diaphragm,
like his chest is made of red-hot iron.
Suddenly, a loud CRACK comes from the wooden bookcase beside them.
“Aha!” says Jung, “You see! This proves my point!
We’ve just experienced a catalytic exteriorization phenomenon!”
By which he meant, he had bottled himself up in front of his mentor
and his subconscious mind or his powerful emotions
had taken an effect in the physical world—
smacking the old bookcase.
Freud wasn’t buying it—it’s just the wood creaking as wood does.
But Jung feels sure another crack is coming.
He predicts this to Freud and sure enough
a second pop comes out of the bookcase!
And now this even spooks Freud
and he spends a few days making notes
of all the creaks and cracks coming from his house
until he’s convinced
that what happened with his mentee was just a coincidence.
But Jung remained convinced that something within him
had come out into the world and cracked that bookcase twice.
Now no matter what you may thing of Jung’s interpretation
of what caused the bookcase to crack,
you can probably sympathize with the way he felt—
holding his tongue in front of his teacher was tearing him up inside.
This was an issue he was passionate about
and it connected deeply to his sense of self and his feeling of vocation.
He needed to say something,
needed to be taken seriously,
but didn’t know how to do it.
And his emotions were boiling in his chest so fiercely
that it felt to him like they just had to crack something.
When we talk about silence—
silencing the disciples on Palm Sunday,
or Jung holding his tongue,
or a culture that refuses to listen to or believe the stories
of people of color
or LGBTQ people
about the kinds of discrimination and abuse they face—
we are not talking about the good kind of silence.
We’re not talking about stillness in the midst of goodness.
We’re talking about a gag in the mouth of truth.
If you have something within you that is happy to curl up in the sun
and stay right there, that’s a good thing. That’s contentment.
We’re talking about the opposite of that—
when the wild animal inside of you dying to be free
finds itself in cage that’s too small.
Now, what does it mean when bookcases or stones cry out?
I’m sure you’ve all seen statues of the Buddha.
And just like depictions of Christ,
there are lots of different ways of depicting the Buddha.
One that you may have seen is the Buddha sitting in meditation
with his left hand upturned serenely in his lap
and his right hand slipping over his knee to touch the ground.
It’s called the Earth-touching gesture.
It depicts the moment just before the Buddha got enlightenment.
He’s been sitting under the Bodhi tree in meditation for weeks
and the demon Mara comes up with one final test
to try to steal enlightenment away from him.
Mara claims that he is the Awakened One
and he brings forth all his army of demons
to bear witness to his worthiness.
Who, Mara asks Buddha, will bear witness for you?
And Buddha says nothing.
But he lets his hand slip from his lap to touch the Earth.
And the Earth rumbles and the Earth cries out,
“I bear you witness!”
And the demons all disappear.
And the next morning,
Buddha stands up from underneath the Bodhi tree, enlightened.
Palm Sunday, for me, is a day of perfect harmony.
Jesus’ truth, the true identity that he carries within him,
is radiating out into the world.
And all of creation—
and the very stones
are responding to it,
and being transformed by it.
Jesus can’t shut the disciples up
because he has reached a point of inner and outer harmony.
The truth on the inside and the truth on the outside
are resonating together.
And if you’re a musician, you know that when one string starts vibrating,
it vibrates the other strings that are in harmony with it.
As followers of Jesus there are two big lessons here for us.
First, I think we all know, that we should be in harmony with Jesus,
just like the disciples were on that first Palm Sunday.
We should tune our internal strings in such a way
that when Jesus plays the chords of his true identity
our souls and our spirits should vibrate sympathetically.
If we don’t make music when Jesus makes music,
we’re literally duller than rocks.
And if even the rocks of the earth could offer up their testimony and their witness
that YES Jesus is the Messiah,
then what’s stopping us from raising up our own powerful testimony?
Second, the Lord needs us, Beloved.
And this doesn’t mean that you have to become one of those subway preacher.
All it means, is that we must respond to the world and to our neighbors
as if the one who rode toward Jerusalem on colt,
rather than a war horse,
who rode on cloaks
rather than a saddle,
who rode not victorious from battle over enemies
but rode preaching peace and good news to all people,
who was riding not to a throne
but to a cross,
as if that one held our ultimate allegiance, our faith, our hope.
If we can respond to the world as if Jesus’ way were the way,
then we can respond to the needs of the world with a love and justice
that proclaims Christ in the world today
as loudly and boldly and beautifully
as on that first Palm Sunday.
If we look inside and find only calmness there,
only a wide-open silence curled up for a contented nap in a patch of sunshine, then the question I think we have to ask ourselves is:
Are we in harmony with the world?
Does our inside reflect what’s happening outside?
We live in a troubled world that needs us.
Jesus came into the world to teach us how to respond
to the suffering and the needs of our neighbors.
And if we look around,
we can all plainly see,
there’s still plenty of suffering that needs to be addressed.
This, I think, is the third big lesson of Palm Sunday.
Who Jesus was on Palm Sunday was precisely
the Messiah that the world never expected,
but that the world desperately needed.
So, what Jesus brought out of himself to give to the world
was a product of God’s imagination
intersecting with our needs.
Beloved, this is our journey as well.
We can’t just say Jesus brought the Messiah from out of himself into the world. That was Jesus’ journey.
All I have to do is point to it.
And shout about it.
As many of you have felt when people have shouted Jesus at you
in a way that didn’t ring true,
shouting it out is not enough.
We have to live it out.
Jesus’ journey is the model for our journey.
Just like Jesus brought the truth of God from within him
into the outside world,
we too, all of us,
have to bring the truth of God from within us
out into the world.
For each of us that looks unique.
So, it’s not a cookie cutter exercise.
For me, it means being a pastor.
And bringing that identity out was a long, hard labor.
And for you, what is it?
Maybe it’s writing that book you’ve always wanted to write,
or helping make a little peace in the world,
or making worship happen every Tuesday evening,
or serving wherever you’re needed in whatever capacity you can provide. Or maybe you haven’t quite found it yet.
When we turn to God and ask for a mission
or ask for a storm with strong winds inside of us,
God turns us around and sends us out
into a world that is absolutely full of need.
Whatever it is that your neighbors need,
you’re the only one, who can take that love,
that secret joy within you,
pluck that string,
open that cage,
and have it make music in the world.
But when you find it,
when you play that music,
whether it saves the whole world
or brings a friend to one lonely person’s life,
when you do that,
you are bringing Jesus out of your heart
and into the world!
And that is a revelation worth celebrating!
Colts will kick!
Palms will wave!
Bookcases will crack!
The Earth will shout!
The wind will blow!
The rocks will praise God!
Because when we bring out what is within us to bring out,
we are helping God save the world. Amen.