"Tanks or Donkeys"
"Tanks or Donkeys"
A sermon preached at the Mint Methodist Church Exeter
at 10.30 am on Palm Sunday, April 1st 2012,
by the Minister, Rev Andrew Sails
When President Barak Obama comes to town, he arrives in a motorcade
Times and technology change, but some things stay the same.
Ancient Roman Emperors didn’t have bullet proof limos, but they did have war horses. They were not surrounded by Secret Service men but by armed soldiers.
Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria and Barack Obama may have had many differences, but you didn’t easily miss the most powerful person in the world when they came down the road.
I remember many years ago going to the theatre to see Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in modern dress - Caesar, Brutus and Cassius dressed not in Roman togas but in Nazi Jackboots and SS Raincoats.
I suspect that life in 1st C Palestine, when the Roman Empire was at its might, must have been not a little like life in Nazi occupied Europe during the 2nd World War.
Brutal armed force was never far away - whether the Storm Troopers to put down any local disturbances, or just the ceremonial cavalcade for the visiting 5* General from Rome.
Caesar rode at the head of victory parades on a fine white war horse
The impact must have been much the same.
Today is Palm Sunday - and Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom
No War Horse, Staff Car, no legions of angels nor tanks
Like a King driving down Whitehall in a battered Citreon DCV -
It was more than that - those seeing Jesus that day knew their
Jesus was making a point about his distinctive take on kingship
The hymn we have just sung by Pratt Green reminds us how
The irony of course was that Christ’s humble reign
Love is the ultimate weapon
Just so, Christ’s weapons are the weapons of love
So often, from Constantine onwards,
Tomorrow marks the 30th Anniversary of the Falklands War.
It is not easy to engage in the world whilst continuing to ride a donkey
Desmond Tutu once remarked
“There are three good reasons for a cleric not to harbour poitical ambitions - AB Macarios, Ayatollah Khomeni and Bp Musorewa”
Which is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics.
Easy to say - but to turn away from violence, and trust to the ultimate victory of love, forgiveness and sacrifice is certainly no easy path.
I’ve just seen an excellent Danish movie called “In another world”.
when he learns that one of the mutilated women has just died.
I won’t repeat the exact phrase, but basically he intimates that
The doctor, who has kept the angry crowd and his own repugnance
at bay throughout the treatment, finally gives up -
A parallel story in the film is set back in Europe in comfortable Danish suburbia and is about the doctor’s son being bullied in the local school. The same questions how to respond to evil and violence in real life.
In political & domestic life, the challenge of love v. vengeance is everywhere - and being loving is neither simple nor easy. It needs courage and often the ability to face physical assault and public ridicule.
But still this is the way of true power and victory -
Mahatma Gandhi based his methods passive non-resistance on the person and activities of Jesus. Of this method he said, "First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Which reminds me of words of Lord Soper
Today is April Fools’ Day - we are called to be fools for Christ - to do the things that the world considers foolish - but as Paul knew, what the world calls foolish can be the beginning of wisdom.
I hope you will explore our prayer stations today or on Monday or Tuesday - they are a chance during this Holy Week to walk with Christ and find that love and power and wisdom which the world calls folly.
And maybe being a fool for Christ is being a donkey, an ass.
On the first Palm Sunday Jesus sent for a donkey
Going back to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,
Mark Anthony says: “He is of no value - a mere messenger boy”
Octavius replies “You did think well of him”
To which the reply comes: “He is a mere donkey carrying gold -
Carry Christ and you carry gold. But you will not be cast aside –
So let me conclude with some words of Joy Cowley - (SCIO p26)
who tells a modern version of the Palm Sunday story
No donkey this time but a borrowed Honda 550.
Jeans frayed at the knees, and L-O-V-E
Those who saw him said that his smile was like the sun,
Warming shadowed corners & causing the way to blossom unexpectedly.
Those who saw him told of all the light left over
To be taken home and set in eyes, in hearts and at windows for strangers
It was like a miracle, they said.
The rest of us missed it.
We were in another part of the city, waiting for the Messiah.
Lord help us find you,
serve you, carry you.
And bring us safe home.