“There or Not?”
Growing up I made regular trips to Cape Breton. Family vacation when I was small, my grade 6 school trip was to Baddeck and Louisburg, in my teens I was here pretty much every year for basketball. And then, of course, I met Bev in university and made trips even more regularly after that!
There is one trip that comes to mind from my teens. In 1991 I came here with my high school basketball team, as we did all three years. But that year we came to play in the Coal Bowl in New Waterford.
Now, we were living in a basketball crazed school. We were one of the tops in the province, and our fans were some of the best and loudest in the province.
But the Coal Bowl is it’s own world. For a week we lived in classrooms and played games in a gym full of loud fans, no matter who was playing. Every night there was a dance for the players and school.
And the autographs. We spent the week signing autographs. I had never experienced anything like this before.
I was a second string player that year, and I was signing autographs. Now I only get to sign my autograph when I buy groceries with my credit card.
But for that week it felt like all the world was cheering for us, and all the other teams in town.
Wherever we walked, it seemed like the red carpet was rolled out for us and people stood in awe as we walked around. Even on our way to the showers!
But it didn’t last. Once the week was over we went back home and returned to our normal lives. The memories forever etched into our mind.
These moments of fame we have, they puff us up, they make us feel pretty good about ourselves. They make us feel like we’re important and people like us. It doesn’t take long for reality to sink back in when the moment of greatness is over.
You often hear the saying we all get our fifteen minutes of fame. The time in our life when we are the one on top of the world, and everyone is our friend.
I’ve been told I’ve been in the paper the last couple of weeks while I’ve been away. It feels good to be recognized. But I also am wary of how this popularity could be received. It’s for a good cause, we’re trying to help people here by raising food for the Food Bank. Or last fall we were working together as churches in response to the crimes in our town.
What I want people to know though is we are doing these things out of response to the Gospel message. Our calling as children of God to do His work in the world. I want to be sure that when I am getting in the paper it’s because of the work we are doing in our church as a result of being moved to show God’s love to Sydney Mines. I have no idea how this is really being perceived, but I hope it’s working.
We can’t expect red carpets wherever we go as followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus walked long, dusty roads, he endured challenges to his ministry we will never have to face, he also faced regular threats on his life.
Yet, today we read about his final entry into Jerusalem. The day when people laid down their coats and waved palm branches as he went by. They day we hear shouts of “Hosanna” and “Glory in the highest!”
Luke tells us the people who have lined the street are disciples of Jesus. They are his followers, his supporters, the people who swarm him wherever he goes. The crowd is full of people who have heard his teachings. People who were fed on the mountainside with just a few loaves and a couple fish. People who he touched and healed. People who’s lives were turned around in a simple encounter with the Son of God. These are the people who became his disciples and followed him to Jerusalem and cheered him as he entered the city on the back of a colt.
These people are going crazy cheering him on prompting the Pharisees to tell Jesus to make them be silent. I love the response Jesus gives. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
All of creation is crying out as Jesus enters the city one last time. I don’t know if the disciples really understand why or what they are cheering about, but they are. They are cheering Jesus before he goes to die. Do they know or believe it? I’m not sure.
This spontaneous victory parade is amazing to think about. What prompted all these people to suddenly begin to cheer Jesus on as he passed by. To compel them to lay down their coats as he rode onward to the city gates. To call him a king as they watched.
This wild display also is the end of the public support of Jesus. After he enters the city walls, the voices become silent.
As Jesus walks around the city, he finds himself with a different crowd. No longer do people flock to just be near him, but instead he and his disciples walk alone.
The Gospel message takes a different tone. It becomes more confrontational. Jesus overturns the tables in the temple. He is betrayed and arrested.
He is beaten and dragged through the streets to a hill.
And he is crucified and buried.
Today marks the start of Holy Week.
A sombre week where we walk with Jesus to the cross on Good Friday. A week where we reflect on the final actions of Jesus Christ as he walks toward certain death.
A week which sees him increasingly alone as people begin to leave and scatter. To the point where on Thursday night he will be with just some of his disciples in the garden of Gethsamane.
From there he completes the journey alone.
How quickly it changes from having hundreds of people lining the street just to celebrate his passing by, to standing in front of a crowd and hearing them scream out “crucify him!”
People are following Jesus around the countryside, listening to him, being healed by him, being fed by him. Their lives are being turned around, and life is good.
Now Jesus is facing death in the next couple days. And people scatter. They’ve got what they came for, and now are staying clear of Jesus in case they might get pulled into the trouble he finds himself in.
This morning we paraded around the church with the children, celebrating Jesus and rejoicing in his company.
The rest of the week we will meet in different churches, recounting what he does after he enters the city walls.
Will we abandon him like those who lined the streets?
Will we remember that his death is for us? When he died on the cross, he died for us. Jesus suffers the pain of death by bringing all our sins upon himself.
This happens so we, as followers of Jesus Christ, his disciples in the world today, can continue the celebration we start today next week.
As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour. The one who who saves us all.