Monday, March 30, 2015

Sermon: Luke 19: 28-40 If Stones Could Speak

This evening, I thought we would start with a little bit of a quiz. Can you name the famous stones? Stonehenge. The Stone of Scone (the Stone of Destiny - on which the monarchs are crowned). The Giant’s Causeway. We’re going to show the picture of a building in Northern Ireland. Does anyone know what this building is?

It’s St Columb’s Cathedral in Londonderry. Now, after the excitement of those other stones, why have I showed you a Church of Ireland cathedral? If you’ve ever visited the cathedral, you’ll have walked past the dedication stone in the porch. Here it is. Now, just in case you can’t read ye olde language, this is what it says: ‘If stones could speak then London’s praise should sound who built this church and city from the ground.’

The city of London had paid for the building of the city and the cathedral in Londonderry. So the builders reckoned that if stones could speak, then they would be shouting out the praise of London. Now, that’s a lovely thought, but it’s not quite right. There is only one name the stones would shout out, and it isn’t the name of the city of London.

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. But in our reading, there aren’t any Palms. You see, the four gospel writers are telling the same story, but they don’t include every detail. It’s like the Telegraph, the Newsletter and the Irish News will write about the same event, but they’ll put it slightly differently.

So Luke, here, tells us what he discovered from the eye witnesses. He highlights the bits that (under the guiding of the Holy Spirit) are important to him and the way he tells Jesus’ story. The thing he wants to focus on is the praise.

Jesus had been on the way to Jerusalem from chapter 9. There’s a big crowd of people following him, listening to his teaching, seeing the miracles he was doing. And now, eventually, he gets to the edge of the city. If you’re a football fan, it would be like getting to the gates of Old Trafford or Anfield. The excitement rises; the end of the journey is in sight. Here’s how Luke tells it:

‘When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’’ (37)

The disciples praise God in loud voices, and they praise God joyfully. Could there be a reminder for us in all this? Perhaps an encouragement for us to lift our heads and our voices? You don’t have to have the best voice; you don’t even have to hold a note - we’re not told about the disciples’ tunefulness. But we are told they praised with loud voices, and they did it joyfully.

Verse 37 gives us the reason for their praise. Do you see it? They ‘began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.’ They had been with Jesus. They had watched as Jesus made the blind see, and the deaf hear. They had witnessed Jesus make the lame walk. They had even watched as Jesus raised the dead. They had watched the miracles (promised in the Old Testament) and were sure that Jesus was the long-promised king.

That’s what they sing and shout about. ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’’ They praised God because of what God had done - sending his Son as King and Saviour. Jesus comes as the king, the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

That’s what the bit about the donkey shows us as well. Jesus sends the disciples ahead, telling them what will happen when they untie the donkey. Then they go, and it happens when the untie the donkey. Now in those days, your donkey was your family car. You wouldn’t just let two strangers come and take it away. Yet just four words are needed. ‘The Lord needs it.’ Jesus is the Lord, the promised king.

The disciples praise God for it. But not everyone was so happy. Verse 39 says this: ‘Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus: ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ They know what the disciples are saying. They can’t believe what they are hearing. Surely the disciples have just lost the run of themselves. They’ve got a wee bit too excited. They’ve overdosed on sugary buns and fizzy juice. Surely they don’t really mean that Jesus is the Christ, the king? So they tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples. They’ve overstepped the line this time. They’ve gone too far. After all, they think that Jesus is just a Teacher. Just a rabbi like them. Surely he’s embarrassed by what they’re shouting. Surely he’ll tell them off, tell them to be quiet.

As we sing our praises to Jesus; as we go about praising him day by day as we seek to honour him, people come alongside us as well. They tell us to keep quiet. They try to tell us that Jesus was just a good teacher, just another man, or that he’s just one way of salvation among many. It’s nice if he’s special for us, but he’s not special for everyone.

But look at how Jesus answers them. ‘I tell you, he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

Jesus says that the disciples are right to praise him. He really is all that they are saying about him. He really is God’s promised king. But even more amazing is that if the disciples were to keep quiet, then ‘the stones will cry out.’ Jesus is worthy to be praised. He deserves our praise. And if the disciples were to shut up, the stones would sing instead. They would cry out to their creator. Now, I have never heard the stones singing. Imagine if we were to be put to shame by some stones?

We have the reason to praise God. Jesus, the king has come. He has done amazing things, none more amazing than him going to the cross, to die for our sins, and rise again to give us life and hope and a purpose. If you’re a Christian today, then he has already done a miracle in your life, bringing you from death to life. That’s a reason to sing, joyfully; praising God in loud voices. Don’t leave it to the stones to sing.

If stones could speak, whose name would they sing? Not the city of London. They would cry out to praise the name of Jesus, our King. Will we use the voice we have to praise our King? Let’s pray.

This sermon was preached at the SNATCH Palm Sunday Praise in Clabby Parish Church on Sunday 29th March 2015.

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