“Upside Down Week”
Rev. Leah Lyman Waldron
Park Avenue Congregational Church, UCC
March 25, 2018
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power 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 heaven!’
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’
Welcome to Upside Down Week.
Instead of Emperor riding in on a white stallion in victory, Jesus rides in on a lowly donkey.
Instead of the Passover lamb, Jesus tells his disciples that his body and his blood are what they should remember as a sign of God’s saving love.
Instead of the servants washing the road-weary feet of the disciples, Jesus, their honored leader takes on the task of a slave.
Instead of supporting their beloved teacher, one of his followers betrays Jesus while his most fervent supporter denies even knowing him.
Instead of Barabbas, a treasonous murderer being executed, the innocent Jesus is to take his place while Barabbas goes free.
And instead of being throned in glory as their king and messiah, Jesus dies a cursed, shameful death upon the cross, hung up like a common criminal for all to mock and despise.
You’ll notice that the bulletin calls this a dramatic reading of the Good News – and you may ask, especially since we haven’t even gotten to Easter yet, what could be so good about this heart-rending story of cherished dreams evaporating and treasured relationships cut to the quick.
I think it’s two things. One: in a world where we are so often reminded that all is not as it should be, it is deeply life-giving, even liberating, to know that God is present in the upside-down, senselessness of it all – that God-with-us is with us not just in happy times but in confusing, chaotic, seemingly hopeless times. God chooses that very chaos, those moments of defeat and the perversion of justice, to make a definitive statement about the power of love to overcome it all.
And two – whatever ways we feel we may have fallen short – as Christians, as humans, as spouses or parents or children or friends or coworkers – however we feel we may have betrayed our ideals or denied what matters most or even, perhaps without meaning to, snuffed out something precious to us – this week reminds us that through God, it is all redeemed. The deepest, darkest, most unsavory parts of our story find light and transformation in this story.
So let us listen, now, to a dramatic reading of the Good News according to Luke.