Harrowing Of Hell
March 25, 2018

Missing the Point

The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

Have you ever had one of those moments…I call them genius moments, when your spouse (or a really close friend) comes to you with a problem, and, in about two minutes, you solved the entire thing?  And as you’re standing there, basking in the glow of your genius, your friend is like angry at you.  They’re mad at you, like you did something; like all of a sudden you are the problem? Have you ever had an experience like that?

Have you ever had a child come to you with a homework issue, and in like ten minutes you’ve mapped out their entire research project, complete with bibliography?  And you feel like a genius, ready to tackle third grade all over again.  Have you ever felt like that?

Have you ever done service work, maybe even over seas, and you go in there and you build a house or dig a well, and at the end of the day you’re so pooped that you just go back to your hotel room, order room service, take a hot shower, and crash…Have ever done that?

Have you ever shouted at someone from the sidelines, maybe of a soccer field, with the intent of motivating them by your instructions?

If you’ve done any of these things, then today’s sermon is for you, because today’s sermon is about missing the point.

We miss the point when we amend reality to fit into the world as we want the world to be. We miss the point, mostly, when we seek to solve an issue, or inspire a person, or have an impact from the perspective of our place in the world. I am most inclined to fall into this pattern when I am feeling capable, in charge, like I know what I’m doing, and the world, because of my significant wisdom, should respond…and when I am thinking like that I’m usually missing the point.

Today’s sermon is about missing the point, because that is what the crowd on the side of the road as Jesus rides into Jerusalem is doing. They are missing the point.

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning Holy Week, which starts today with everyone missing the point. This is what they see, as they see the Messiah, King Jesus, riding into the city…They see the fulfillment of the prophecy to put Israel back on top. And you can see why this is what they are perceiving.  After all they have been tracking Jesus for three years.  They have been observing him, and what they have seen is power like they have never seen before.

Jesus is the one who turned water into wine. Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5000 men. Jesus took 7 loaves and 5 fish and fed 4000 men. You know what that means?  Any military man knows what that means… no supply lines. No need to worry about food and wine when your leader can conjure them out of the air with food carried on the back of one small boy. Hello King Jesus.

And he could walk on water and help others to do so as well.  They heard the story of Peter getting out of the boat. They heard how, by his command, the wind stopped, and the rain let up, and in an instant the boat was to the other shore. With logistics like that, an army could sneak up on the enemy in an instant. Welcome King Jesus.

They had seen once, twice, three times, the dead raised.  That’s a big deal. There was a dead boy on the funeral pyre in Nain.  There was a young girl, the ruler’s daughter, raised in a back room. There was Lazarus, four days in the tomb, who Jesus called back to life…You know what all that means: No wounded on the field.  No chance of being slaughtered, and if you’re slaughtered you just get back up.  Let’s go King Jesus!  With an army like that, Rome would crumble in a week, maybe 10 days.

King Jesus was on the move, marching into Jerusalem… on a colt never ridden before. What?  A colt?  A colt never ridden before?  Hmmm. That is the point they missed, a clue they didn’t see, or maybe didn’t want to see.

Kings don’t normally ride colts. And if they do they are making a statement…That is what the tradition tells us. A king on a colt is a man who comes in peace. The colt was a message, a symbol, loud and clear. But that was lost to the minds of those who lined the streets.  That was the point missed, or overlooked, in favor of their perspective, a worldly victory, Jerusalem as the center of all things, Jews holding cultural hegemony, and Jesus on the throne…that is what they saw, and in seeing that they missed the point.

This point will become clear in the coming week, for them and for us. That is the intention of Holy Week, to be a time of reorientation, as we realign our lives to God’s power and wisdom, starting with Jesus on a colt and finding fulfillment in resurrection.

Here is what we’ll experience if we let ourselves; We’ll plug into a power that liberates us; a power that gives us a new way of being human; a power that puts us in touch with the real presence of Jesus; and opens our souls to the forces of grace, peace and love.

In resurrection we meet real power, and it comes to town on a colt that no one has ever ridden.

Let me tell you a story. I used to own a horse named Bricka.  Well, she wasn’t really a horse; she was half donkey half quarter horse. And she was mean.  I mean really mean.  When I would pick her hooves, she’d always try to kick me.  And when I’d take that bot knife and try to skim off the bot eggs she’d try to bite me.  And when I rode her she’d try to scrape me off against the fence or decapitate me under a tree branch.  But those were the little things that I learned to work around.

No, the bigger thing was catching her out in the paddock.  I was a little kid, mind you, around third grade, and I’d go out to the pasture to get Bricka, and she’d pin her ears back when she saw me, and lower her head, and then, at full speed charge me.  And I’d turn and run and run, zigzagging my way to the nearest fence and launch myself under it.  Then I’d go crying back to the barn, and someone would come and help me catch her.

This went on for a while, until one day Jane Voberding went out to the pasture with me. And she said, “You can do this!”  It was a statement. “Here is how. When Bricka charges, stand your ground take a breath, be calm, peaceful, center yourself, and don’t move. Close your eyes if you want. She’ll stop. Trust me. She’ll stop.”

And then Jane walked to the fence and climbed over it and walked away. leaving me standing there, so I stood there.  Bricka saw me, turned, and charged.  I shut my eyes and could hear her pounding hoofs on the sod as she roared towards me.  I kept them shut (that is probably when I first learned to pray…),  and that crazy mule skidded right up to me, her breath on my face, and I opened my eyes, and grabbed her halter, and walked to the barn.

The most important thing that happened in that field that day was that Jane walked away. Had she not, the story of Bricka would be about her and how for the rest of her career she either went to catch my horse or didn’t go to catch my horse.  Stories would be written about her capabilities as a horse catcher, and how much she loved me because she would catch my horse.  Songs would be written and ballads told claiming there was no one as great as Jane Voberding at catching crazy horses.

That could have been Jesus’ legacy as well, but Jesus came so WE could have life and have it abundantly. Jesus came so we could witness his mighty acts, and hear him say: “You will do greater things than these.” Jesus came to not conquer this world, but to reveal how we can live eternal lives in this world right now. Jesus came to help us grow up, to recognize ourselves as children of God made in the image and likeness of God; To be people inspired enough to see the point that Jesus is king, not because of his might, but because of his love…a love we are capable of as well, a love imbued with equanimity, peace, and soul-centering grace that enables us to ride a colt never ridden before–riding it right into a conversation with a friend who has a problem, or into a third grade classroom, or to a mission site overseas, or down the sidelines of a soccer field…riding calmly, with grace and equanimity, so as to never, or shall I say hardly ever, miss the point.