9am Worship Service – Sunday 31st March 2019
Series: Lent & Easter 2019 – Reimagine
Bible Reading: Luke 19:28-48
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
I know it is a little weird that I am having the Palm Sunday reading two weeks early … but we often pack so much into the Psalm Sunday service (being the beginning of Holy Week) that we don’t have time to look at some other perspectives that arise. So today, we are exploring this issue of Jesus the revolutionary…
Here is a trivia question for you … Do you know what Jesus was arrested and tried for? What charge was brought against him?
It is a trick question because there are two different answers…
The Jewish Sanhedrin tried him for blasphemy – for saying that he was the Son of God, even though he was (Mark 14:61 & Matthew 26:63). The Sanhedrin found him guilty but did not have the power to sentence a person to death – only Rome could do that but the Romans weren’t interested in trying some on a “blasphemy” charge … so instead Jesus was brought before Herod and Pilate accused of leading a rebellion. The accusation was that if Jesus claimed to be a king – that was going against Caesar.
Upon trying the case, Pilate admits that he found no fault in him – Luke 23:14, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.” Jesus was found innocent but ultimately Jesus’ conviction was a matter of political expediency. (Luke 23:24) The Jews were pressuring Pilate and he was more interested in keeping the peace.
So … Pilate declares that Jesus was not a rebel – but I want to suggest this morning that Jesus is a revolutionary. The dictionary defines Revolution was a change or overthrown of a government, practice or social order in favour of a new system. I want to explore this morning that Jesus did indeed push back against the powers that be – against the status quo – against injustice, corruption, discrimination.
The second half our bible reading here is a great example of this. Jesus walks into the temple at Jerusalem, sees the corrupt money changing system which benefits the powerful but hurts the poor, sees the way the outer courts which are suppose to be used for prayer are used as a marketplace, sees the discrimination, the lack of compassion and … well Jesus explodes with righteous anger. Overturning tables, driving out animals… I don’t know if you have noticed the little pictures that I have been putting on the branding for each week – but the one for this week is quite confronting. Jesus is not just angry … he looks aggressive as he pushes back against injustice, corruption, discrimination.
At the Coffee and Chat session yesterday morning (plug – next one is at Koorong Café 8:30 next Saturday before the Alpha training). At the session yesterday, the question was asked, “This was not the first time that Jesus had been to the temple. Actually, he had probably been there 100 times before this incident. Why did Jesus choose then to respond?”
[Sixty seconds to share…]
- Week before the cross – trying to tick things off the to-do list
- He was going to die anyway, might as well stir up more people by addressing this issue
- Making a public point in a very busy season in Jerusalem
- Popeye… That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more
- All of the above
Whatever the answer – it is clear that Jesus thought that the current system was wrong and he wanted to speak against it and do something about it. What was the definition of a revolution again … a change or overthrown of a government, practice or social order in favour of a new system… Jesus was out to change a system in favour of a new system that was more Godly, more loving, more just. When Jesus walked into the temple and saw the injustice of the system to benefit those in power and the desecration of the temple for profit … he got angry … and that anger drove Jesus to address and change the system.
So … if we are followers of Jesus … if we are walking in the way of Jesus … what does it mean for us to be revolutionary? What do we need to revolt over?
When you look around the world, around our nation, around our cities and church and local community … what makes you angry? Where is the corruption, the injustice, the discrimination that the Holy Spirit is stirring you up to address? What can’t you stand and can’t stands no more…
To help you … I found a list by the World Economic Forum where they surveyed 30,000 people and came up with the top 10 issues in the world that people think need to be addressed:
- Climate change / destruction of nature (48.8% of respondents)
- Large scale conflict / wars (38.9%)
- Inequality (income, discrimination) (30.8%)
- Poverty / The rich getting richer (29.2%)
- Religious conflicts (23.9%)
- Government accountability and transparency / corruption (22.7%)
- Food and water security (18.2%)
- Lack of education (15.9%)
- Safety / security / wellbeing (14.1%)
- Lack of economic opportunity and employment (12.1%)
As followers of Jesus – do we need to find our voice on any of these issues … make know to what a considered Christian respond or wisdom is on these? Do we need to do something to change an unjust system?
At the Coffee and Chat yesterday, we were saying it is hard – partly because these issues are so big and complex that we think we can’t make any difference … and partly because the world is not really interested in hearing the Christian voice anymore … we have sort of lost our influence.
Yes – it is hard … but as followers of Jesus I think we need to join the revolution. Jon Humphries in his reflection today says it so well … if you haven’t read it yet … go and have a read of the way that Jon words his call for us to challenge and overturn
materialism, greed, privilege, injustice, racism and discrimination.
Let me share you a story of two people who push against the status quo of our society – two friends of mine Jonathan and Sue Cook.
In the 1950’s Jonathan’s family bought 5 acres near Winston Hills … about 10 mins from Parramatta. Over the years, Jonathan’s father lived on the property. About 20 years ago, Jonathan and Sue were approached by developers to sell the land – for many millions of dollars. All the other land around it had been developed for housing … so a 5-acre lot so close to Parramatta was very attractive.
But Sue and Jonathan are passionate environmentalists and something happened to make them very angry. This is a photo of the block of land next to theirs. When it was sold to the developers, they came in an cut down every tree. As Christians – their faith demanded that they do better – make help society make better environmental choices … But how?
They took an incredibly brave step. Instead of selling the 5 acres and literally becoming overnight multi-millionaires, they decided to show how to create a “create a space for use as residential housing in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable and in so doing, to create a successful community project that will be delightful to live in and provide a model for sustainable development in urban Sydney.”
And thus, the idea for Illabunda Village was created. I’d love for them to come and speak to us sometime – because as they describe it … Illabunda is an expression not only of their passion for the environment, but an expression of their faith.
Has it been easy? Not at all. It has been hard work. Has it been financially successful? They are not millionaires, but they are not bankrupt. Have they been noticed? A little, but not heaps. So why did they do it? Because they wanted to push back against the idea of development at any cost – and this was their way of showing that it was possible.
So … what about you? What is the issue, the situation that has come up in your life, that you need to push back against?
I once read a phrase, “Holy Discontent” to describe the experience when we see something, hear something, experience something that stirs something within us so much, and we get so uncomfortable and edgy that we just have to do something about it.
For example, we might see documentary about poverty and we are so moved that something stirs within us and we can’t get rid of this stirring feeling. It continues to grow and we begin to notice more and more examples of waste and frivolous spending that we start to change our habits. But we are still uncomfortable and this stirring becomes so much that we just have to do something about it. We need to speak up, make a difference, change the world. That stirring is Holy Discontent.
God uses those feelings of uncomfortableness or discontent to guide us.
So … if you are feeling that Holy Discontent, here is some great advice that I found in an article on how we as followers of Jesus can respond…
- Be informed … don’t just jump to the comment section in Facebook and Twitter and start raging against an issue. Make sure you are informed and aware of the complexities of the issue. What do experts think? What do others think? What does the bible say? (I have a list of bible readings in the bible study for this week). Your voice will be much more powerful if you are informed.
- Are there other people or groups that also get angry about this issue as well? (Google is good for this…) You don’t have tackle issues alone.
- Lastly … Remember that we are followers of Jesus, so the key question is “How can you – in a considered faith way – make a stand or make your voice be heard or make a difference with this issue?” We need to make sure that in our stance we do not compromise our faith.
I usually finish with a challenge – but this whole sermon has been a challenge. We are to follow the example of Jesus and to push back against injustice, corruption, discrimination.
So maybe instead, I’ll finish with a prayer – loosely based on Psalm 104:30 which was in Angus’ reflection yesterday. I often pray this prayer when I see injustice, or corruption etc.
“Come Holy Spirit, renew your creation.”
But I guess if we pray that prayer, we need to be open to being a part of God’s answer.