Being Humble in a Boastful World

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Palm Sunday
SCRIPTURE: Luke 19: 28-40 and Philippians 2: 5-11
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death of a cross!
Philippians 2: 8 (NIV)

ROCK STAR

Palm Sunday morning. The week of preparation before the Passover, the most important religious observance in the Jewish year. The time when the people of Israel celebrate God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery in the land of Egypt. A most holy time. Jews from all of the Roman Empire have journey to gather in Jerusalem to remember God’s deliverance and to give him praise.

It has been a very busy time in the city. All of the inns are full. Street vendors are selling their wares to the pilgrims. The streets are crowded with people going to and from the Temple to offer their sacrifices. People. Lots of people. Everywhere people. Noisy. Bustling. Exciting people.

But out of the crowd there emerges a single individual. He is riding a donkey down the middle of the crowded street and people are parting, making way for him and his entourage. Few people can command such respect. Is he a king, a prince, a high ranking Roman official or a military commander? No, he is none of these.

He is Jesus of Nazareth, an itinerant preacher who has been sharing his message in the outlying countryside for the past three years. Among the ordinary people he has built quite a reputation as a teacher, healer and miracle worker. But among the ruling class, he is seen as a danger, an instigator and possibly even a revolutionary. Trouble.

But Palm Sunday is not to be a day of trouble. It is to be a day of celebration because when the ordinary folk realize that this man riding on a donkey is Jesus, they go bizzerk! They start shouting, “Hosanna!” There are people waving palm branches. Others are spreading their cloaks on the ground for the donkey to walk on. And then there are people who say, “What’s all the excitement about? Like, whose the dude?” Others answer, “Don’t you know? That’s the guy we’ve all heard about. The one who was out in the countryside teaching, preaching and healing. Jesus of Nazareth. That’s him!”

That happened about 2,000 years ago. Do you know what happened just 50 years ago this week? This week, fifty years ago, The Beatles latest release called Get Back, was beginning its climb to the top of the charts. Some of us remember Get Back:

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner

But he knew it wouldn’t last

Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona

For some California grass

Get back, get back

Get back to where you once belonged

Get back, get back

Get back to where you once belonged

Get back Jojo…

It would take six weeks which was longer than usual for a Beatle’s tune but it had to displace a truly generational song that had Number 1 for quite some times from the rock musical Hair. That song was Aquarius by the Fifth Dimension:

When the moon is in the Seventh House

And Jupiter aligns with Mars

Then peace will guide the planets

And love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius

Age of Aquarius Aquarius Aquarius.

That’s right. We were all a bunch of Hippies back then, just loving life. It was a great time to be young and idealistic. All of the world’s problems were going to be solved because the sun and the moon were in the right positions in the sky.

So how did that work out? No so well. Maybe we were a little too idealistic. But at least we had great music.

The Beatles were arguably one of the most significant rock bands in history. They began the British invasion that changed music forever. Their sound set the standard for a whole new generation of artists. They were the undisputed rock stars of their day.

Do you know something else? That’s what Jesus was 2,000 years ago. He was the undisputed rock star of first century Judea. We forget that. That’s why everyone wanted to see him. That’s why the people shouted, “Hosanna,” waved palm branches and spread their cloaks on the ground. Jesus was the rock star in Jerusalem as the Passover festival approached. He was the dude!

JESUS’ ATTITUDE OF HUMILITY

Jesus and the Beatles. Who would have thought that they would show up in the same sermon? But they have. Why? Because I want to compare them and their attitudes. Let’s start with the Beatles, specifically John Lennon. John was a gifted musician and performer. He was an even better song writer. He also saw himself as something of a prophet. In 1966 he said one of his most famous lines when, off the cuff, he said, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink… We’re more popular than Jesus now.” Really!?

Interestingly, at the time, that was a rather controversial statement. It resulted in a rash of protests throughout the world that included the burning of Beatle albums and memorabilia. A few days later, John apologized for his remarks but it was too late to undo what it demonstrated about his own attitude and character. John Lennon had shown himself to be proud man. Fame and fortune had got the better of him. They had gone to his head and caused him to think more of himself than he ought to have thought.

Fourteen years later, in December 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed outside his New York apartment. Is he still more popular than Jesus? The truth is that if you’re under 30 years of age, you may have never heard of him. John was a proud man. For the last 38 years, he’s been a dead man. In another generation or so he’ll be an all but forgotten man relegated to the footnotes of the history of rock and roll.

How would we compare that to Jesus? Is Jesus still popular? You bet he is! Whether or not people choose to believe in him, I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people in the world at least know who Jesus is. His Church may be struggling in North America and Europe but it is expanding exponentially in the rest of the world. Long after the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, long after his death and resurrection, Jesus is still known and he continues to change lives.

But what was his character like? Was he proud like a modern day rock star? Hardly. When he rode into Jerusalem, do you remember what he was riding? Luke 19:35-36 (NIV) tells us that was riding a donkey.

Yeah, so what? Why is that so important? It is important because back in those days, what important people rode on their visit to a city symbolized their intent. If an important visitor rode a horse he was seen as a threat. Horses were understood to symbols of power and dominance. Conquering kings and generals rode horses. Horses were not good news.

Donkeys on the other hand were not symbols of power but rather they were beasts of burden. They worked for others to accomplish through hard work what needed to be done. To ride a donkey into a city was not to come in war but to come in peace. It was to announce oneself not as a proud conqueror but as a humble servant and friend.

Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. He came in peace and humility. Paul summed it up nicely in Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) where he wrote:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ:

Who, being in very nature God,

          did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

but made himself nothing,

          taking on the very nature of a servant,

          being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

          he humbled himself and became obedient to death –

          even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

          and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

          in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

          to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus came how? He came obediently. He came humbly. He lived in humility every single day of his life. He approached people humbly. He taught humbly. He preached humbly. He even healed humbly. Everything he did was with an attitude of humility.

Why did he do that? He did it because he didn’t want the attention to go to himself. He wanted to point rather to God the Father. That was his goal. The Bible teaches us that Jesus, even though he was divine, humbled himself in two ways. First, he came down to earth to be like us. That in itself is amazing. To think that God left his mighty throne in heaven with his unlimited power and knowledge to live the limited, finite life of a human being is amazing beyond words. But that is what God did in Jesus Christ. He humbled himself by becoming human.

The second thing that he did was humble himself by dying on the cross. Everyone eventually dies and everyone will die his or her own unique death. But there is no more humbling death than crucifiction. When someone is whipped, beaten, stripped naked and nailed to a cross for everyone to see, there is no pride left. There is no dignity left. Crucifiction is not only the most painful death, it is the most humble death anyone could ever die. That’s the death of Jesus. He was born humble. He lived humbly. And he died in the most humble way imaginable.

LIVING HUMBLY

And what does the Bible say to us about that? I’ll read Philippians 2:5 (NIV) again. Listen to what it says: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ…” Did you hear that? Your attitude should be the same as Jesus’ attitude. What was Jesus’ attitude? Humility. Because Jesus was humble, we also are called to be humble.

Are you humble? Do you live humbly like Jesus? Maybe you’re saying, “Pastor Kim, I don’t really know. How can I tell? I don’t know how to measure that.” How do you tell if you’re living humbly? It’s right there in the very last line of the passage that I read from Philippians. It gives us the standard of measurement. Philippians 2:10-11 (NIV) says, “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory and praise of God.” The key is in that last phrase where it says, “… to the glory and praise of God.” That’s the answer. The glory and praise of God.

What does that say to us? It makes you ask yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing? Are my actions done to the glory and praise of God? Or are they done to the glory of someone or something else – for example, to me?” That’s a real challenge today because we live in a boastful world in which we are encouraged to lift up ourselves and look after our own needs. We live in a world that calls us to bring glory not to God but to ourselves.

That’s what John Lennon was doing. He was trying to bring glory to himself by saying that he was more popular than Jesus. Who do you want to be more like – John Lennon or Jesus? The Bible says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ.” His attitude was humility.

Who do you point to in your life? By your actions, your words and your deeds do you seek to bring glory to yourself or glory to God? That’s the question for us today. That’s the question I want you to struggle with as we journey through Holy Week. On Friday morning, we will gather to remember the pain and the suffering of the crucifixion on Good Friday. And then on Sunday morning, we will discover the joy of the resurrection.

Why do we do those things? We do them to humbly remember that Jesus came for us. On our own we would be lost in our sin because there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. We cannot earn God’s favour. We do not deserve it or merit it. It is only through Jesus’ actions for us on the cross of Calvary that we can approach God as whole and forgiven people. We remember that during Holy Week and, when we remember that, we bring glory to God.

This week is a Holy Week. It is the most important week on our Christian year. Don’t miss it. Remember what Jesus did for you. Humbly point to him, who deserves all of our praise and all of the glory.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God, we come with our prayers of thanks. We thank you for signs of spring. Although it has still be cold outside, the robins are back. We see the geese in the air as they make their way north in flying vees. Daylight savings time is here and the air is mildly warmer.

We thank you for the rains which wash the dirt and salt from the land making it fresh for new growth. You, O God, refresh the earth and make it bloom with new life. Rain upon us as well with a fresh breath of your Holy Spirit that your new life may flow through our lives and enable us to live according to your great purpose.

Thank you, especially, for the covenant relationship that you have made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. We want to know more of that covenant and what it means to our lives here on earth and into eternity. May we never take for granted the price that you paid for us to be in right relationship with you. May we always honour and cherish your sacrifice above all else.

We also pray for the sick at home or in hospital. We ask that your Healing Spirit be upon names in a special way that he may know the comfort of your love and the presence of your peace.

Heavenly Father, it is a comfort to know that, even though we sometimes go through difficult circumstances, there is always the hope of healing and peace when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. Help us to see beyond the difficulties and experience the joy that you have promised. Give us the strength that we need to confidently trust in your unfailing love. We lift these prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

April 14, 2019 / Palm Sunday

SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31: 9-16; Philippians 2: 5-11; Luke 22: 14-23: 56 (or 23: 1-49)

Liturgy of the Psalms – Luke 19: 28-40; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29

CALL TO WORSHIP

Open, O God, the gates of your Temple.

A simple stone rejected by the builders

has turned out to be the most important of all.

This is the day of God’s victory!

Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

PRAYER OF ADORATION

We come to you, O God of Creation, on this day of celebration. It is a day of palm branches and parades. As the people of Jerusalem shared their jubilation, so do we worship with joyful hearts. Come into our lives, Lord Jesus. Fill us anew with your presence. Speak to us of your saving love and the empowerment of your Spirit. Rejoicing, we come to you. In faith, we trust in you. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We come to you, O God of Mercy, on this day of sadness. We see the excitement of Palm Sunday. But we know that, in a few short days, Jesus will hang crucified on the Cross of Calvary. We mourn that he had to die. We confess that we, your people, did not have the courage or the conviction to follow in his footsteps. Enable us, God, to live lives that will respect your sacrifice. Place before us our sinfulness that we may truly repent…

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

In the midst of the darkness of life, there is a light which shines God’s love. Our light is in Jesus. Our hope is in Christ. When we honestly repent of our sins. God will forgive and, in forgiving, will give to us a place in the procession to God’s heavenly kingdom.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

What could we give that would adequately convey our need of you? What could we provide that is not already from you? Your generousity is beyond our need. May all of our lives and resources be set aside for the sharing of your Good News. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

Jesus died as he lived – with great passion. Go now, and live with that passion. May our lives and our actions proclaim the Gospel which is for all Creation.

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