Preached FCCW, Palm Sunday 201825
The title of this sermon comes from a very old Epic tale from Estonia.
It tells of an Estonian king who wanted to wage war on Finland.
Which might have just made everyone here of Finnish descent sit up a little straighter.
The King sent his four sons out to the corners of Estonia to gather an army for the invasion.
The youngest son was sent to the cities in the north with the official call to arms from the king.
The fact that this is an “epic” tale means it has a very long and intricate plot.
So, I will abbreviate the story.
Suffice it to say that along the way to the first city where he is to begin proclaiming his father’s call to arms, this son encounters a number of characters that teach him about the horror of war.
By the time he reaches the first city he has lost his appetite for battle.
Outside the city, he strips off his armor and sets his warhorse free.
He rides into the city on a donkey, wearing humble clothing, never stopping in the city square to read the proclamation from the king.
Instead, he travels on to the border where he enters Finland as a peasant.
To everyone he meets in this new country he gives a greeting of peace and he makes a life for himself as a farmer.
The king is never able to gather the army he needs and war is never waged. Instead peace prevails.
And, all the Finns here this morning, relaxed.
Another ancient epic.
A different King. A different Son. A different proclamation of an imminent triumph for a different kind of Kingdom.
This herald was sent on a mission to mobilize an army that would wage peace instead of waging war.
He rode no war horse. Wore no armor. Brandished no sword.
Dressed like an ordinary peasant from the start, his sandaled feet walked dusty roads for mile after mile,
crossing back and forth across borders that divided enemies one from another, without any interest in choosing sides.
He encountered many characters along the way in whose lives he saw the horrors of sin and injustice.
The poor. The rejected. The oppressed. The powerless.
With each encounter with injustice his appetite for justice increased.
Against the barricades of hypocrisy, words of Truth became the sword he wielded.
The fires of every threat breathed against him, served only to forge his resolve for his mission and his trust in his Father, into an impenetrable armor that he wore.
Some admired him from afar, but were not reckless enough to enlist in a campaign so obviously doomed to disaster.
Even those who did heed his call to defend his Father’s Kingdom, desperately reasoned, begged and rebuked him in their attempts to persuade him to embrace a more realistic strategy.
But he refused to heed their advice.
By the time he approached the gates of the city, the battle lines were clearly drawn.
Within the walls of Jerusalem, stood the magnificent Temple built to honor the Peace Herald’s Father.
But most of the custodians of that Temple had already chosen the side of opposition to the King’s Son.
Standing guard, as it were, over the Temple, towered Fortress Antonia, which served as the barracks for the occupying Roman army.
The greatest war machine the world had ever seen.
They were there to enforce the iron-fisted authority of Pontius Pilate, who was the Governor assigned to Palestine by the Roman Emperor.
Pilate, wore armor and sword. He rode a war steed in full battle array.
Every detail of his appearance was chosen specifically to communicate Imperial power and the threat of violence at the Empire’s disposal.
Outside the walls, Jesus, for the first time in the Gospels, makes the decision to ride, instead of walk.
The animal he chooses for his entrance into Jerusalem is a donkey.
The donkey was not shielded in armor.
Only the cloaks of some of Jesus’ disciples that were thrown on its back.
The cohort that accompanied him into Jerusalem were not a well-disciplined Praetorian Guard, bristling with swords and spears.
In their hands, they held only palm branches.
It was a mismatch from the get go.
Yet the crowds somehow found something worth cheering about!
They shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord— the King of Israel!”
What they saw in Jesus’ less than grand entrance into the city, was the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, which said:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
Yet for all their faith in those ancient prophetic words, and their almost embarrassing display of optimism and bravado, it all ended as badly as you might expect.
The Herald of Peace was crowned a king, all right.
But it would be with a crown of thorns.
There would be no slipping over the border to a life of tranquil obscurity, such as the Estonian Prince found for himself, at the end of his journey.
What there would be was a trial, angry mobs, cheers tha turned to jeers, cruel soldiers and in the end, a cross.
But not an end. Not really.
Because peace WAS triumphant that day.
Not the peace that comes with the vanquishing of opposition; like the Pax Romana, the enforced peace of the Empire.
Not peace, in the sense of a cessation of all conflicts among humanity.
Aggression, war and violence have staked their claim on generation upon generation since that dark day.
It was a different kind of peace that was won for us.
The peace of reconciliation between God and humanity.
For this tale is not of some obscure, narrowly avoided border skirmish between Estonians and Finns.
This was a struggle for the hearts and souls of all humanity.
The irresistible force of God’s Love and the immovable object of human Sin clashed head on in those Jerusalem streets.
And despite appearances and against all odds, love won.
To this day, whenever, and wherever women and men believe in their hearts in the Journey of the Herald of Peace; whenever and wherever they put their faith, as he did, in the reality of God’s everlasting love for them; the prospect of loving their neighbors, or even their enemies, still triumphs.
Copyright 2018 Raymond Medeiros