And when he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Beth′phage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19.28-40 RSV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4.4)
In the four Gospels, Jesus spends his time either teaching people or helping people. What isn’t mentioned, directly, is how much time Jesus spent walking from place to place. I think he spent most of his time walking, walking to this village, walking to the next village. Walking gave him time to think and pray and plan.
We live in the age of the automobile. We live in a part of the world where cars are everywhere. But in Jesus’ time people walked wherever they went. They were used to walking miles a day. This is still true in a lot of countries.
In our Bible reading, Jesus has finished a long walk, from Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south, 80 miles. It typically took four days to make the journey. It probably took Jesus longer since he stopped a lot along the way. He stopped to teach people and to help them.
Now his tired feet have arrived at the holy city, Jerusalem. To imagine the scene, picture the southwestern U.S. The topography is the same. Desert sand, mountains, little vegetation, deep blue sky.
Jesus has been to Jerusalem many times. This visit will be unique. It will be last time he arrives at the holy city.
The word arrive literally means to come ashore. When you arrive somewhere, you bring your little boat up on shore. We’re always arriving, in small ways and big ways.
We arrived at church this morning. Thank you for arriving here. You have options for what to do on a Sunday morning. It is important to spend time together as a faith community. It helps us to walk by faith the rest of the week.
Tomorrow you’ll arrive somewhere else. At work, school, the grocery store, wherever you need to go. Later you’ll arrive back home again. And so it goes. Every day we arrive somewhere.
Sometimes the place you arrive is a new phase of your life, a new leg of your life journey. A new job, or a new house, or a new life situation. It may feel strange at first. It may feel disorienting. You have to develop new habits and new routines. You may ask, Who am I now in this new place?
Maybe you never expected to wash up on this shore, but here you are. You’ve arrived in this place. The question is, what do you do now that you have arrived?
When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he finally got a ride. He rode into the city on a donkey, or on a young horse (the word used means either animal). To ride on an animal was a sign of status. Kings and conquerers rode into Jerusalem on a stallion or a war horse.
Jesus enters the city as the king of peace. He rides a peaceful animal. His followers are excited. They spread their coats along the road for him to travel on. They made a red carpet for their king.
Luke doesn’t say this, but in the other Gospels the people wave palm branches. This is why today is called Palm Sunday. They sang a hymn from the Book of Psalms. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. In a word, they rejoiced.
A few religious leaders were upset and complained. But Jesus brushed it aside.He told them if his followers didn’t celebrate,the rocks would shout for joy.
Think about it.Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, and the first thing he does is to rejoice. There will be time later for sorrow. In the next scene he laments over Jerusalem. But in this moment, this present moment, he rejoices along with his disciples.
Jesus is teaching us here. Wherever we have arrived, we can rejoice in our present moment, just as he did. Whatever place we are in, we can look around and find a cause for rejoicing.
St. Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.” He wrote that line in prison. He couldn’t rejoice in his circumstances. But he could still rejoice in the Lord. He was loved by God and nothing could ever separate him from God’s love. That was cause for rejoicing.
Last month our church helped at a homeless shelter in Adrian. People brought food, did laundry, spent an evening or a night there. One evening I was talking with a homeless man, probably in his mid 20s. He had a calm, joyful look on his face. He knew he was loved by God, he told me. He didn’t have a home right then,but he’d always have a home with God. That knowledge was his cause for rejoicing. Simple, but effective!
What prevents us from rejoicing in our present moment? I think what prevents us is either the past or the future. We feel regret or anger over what has happened in the past; this crowds out any joy we might feel in the present. Or the problem is anxiety about the future; that fear flows back into the present and steals our joy.
But think logically: the past doesn’t exist, except in our memory; the future doesn’t exist, except in our imagination. Past and future depend on our perception of things, and our perceptions are often wrong. All we really have is the present moment.
I went to college in Reno, Nevada. My home was 30 miles away in Carson City. I often drove back and forth. There was a man who walked along that highway every day. He had long brown hair and a full beard. He carried a big leather pouch. He walked along the highway, on the opposite side, facing traffic, as he walked he waved at the cars and smiled. We called him the Waver. He was there every day.
The newspaper did an interview of him once. He said a lot of Zen like things. He said to the interviewer, “All I really know is that I am talking to you right now.” His name was Ed Carlson. He died just a few years ago.
All I really know is that I am talking to you right now. All we have is the present moment. Use it well. If the past or the future try to crowd in, push them back. Keep your eyes on God’s unfailing love. Then you’ll always have a cause to rejoice.