Quite often, I can tell what time it is by visiting Wal-Mart.
Currently, the time is Easter. You can tell by all the bunnies and eggs and spring-themed decorations. Dresses and suits for kids are at the front of the clothing section. The seasonal store displays are full of candy, baskets, and everything else you’ll need for Easter. It’s a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ!
But soon the time will change. On April 22, or perhaps even on the evening of Easter itself, the shelves will empty of candy and baskets. The Spring-themed decorations will come down. Endcaps with seasonal items will change. In their place, like clockwork, will go cap and gown decorations, gift ideas for your favorite graduate, party supplies for your graduation party, and the endcaps will feature books about finding and living your dreams like “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss.
Right after Easter, the time will change. We’ll go from celebrating the risen Christ to celebrating the arrival of dreams.
I’ve always been inspired by dreams. In fact, for years I found much inspiration in a quote that’s on a picture frame in my office. Inside is a photo from our wedding day with the famous words of the great existentialist Henry David Thoreau. I bet you’ve heard his words, probably in graduation speeches. Thoreau says, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”
I like to dream. I dream frequently. And, for much of my life, I went confidently in the direction of those dreams.
Just as the characters in our scripture this morning are headed confidently in the direction of their dreams. Let’s read together our Palm Sunday account in the gospel of Luke, chapter 19, verses 29-40:
It’s Palm Sunday. It’s the day we remember Jesus’s triumphal ride into Jerusalem, fulfilling the dream of the prophet Zechariah.
Jesus’s arrival stirs his disciples, a huge crowd, into a response. They’ve heard of his works in the surrounding countryside, they’ve heard of his miracles, they’ve heard of his teachings that give the common people hope. And now, their folk hero is finally visiting Jerusalem! They’re so excited by this that they throw him a ticker tape parade. Just like our victorious heroes who ride through New York City with ticker tape falling, Jesus rides with palm branches waving, the colt riding upon a red carpet made of everyday clothing. In our modern ways of speaking, we might say Jesus is living the dream.
Today is Palm Sunday. A day of triumph, a day of victory, a day of celebration.
But today is also Revolution Sunday.
That’s exactly what has Pontius Pilate worried. From his headquarters in Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast, not far from Jerusalem, Pilate worries each year when the Passover comes. Jerusalem swarms with tens of thousands of pilgrims who have come to the city for this holiest of Jewish holidays, some of whom have ulterior motives.
For there’s a revolution brewing in Jerusalem. We hear echoes of it in verse 38: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” That’s the dream of the everyday Jew who’s been waiting for the Messiah to arrive. This Messiah would be a political savior, an ancient version of an Abraham Lincoln, full of morality and clarity of purpose who saves the people and makes them a great nation. They’re waiting, eager with anticipation, for political autonomy from the Romans and the establishment of a new Kingdom of Israel under a descendent of David. On this Palm, Revolution, Sunday, Jesus looks just like the man to lead a political coup, to start a revolution.
Pilate knows this and executes his own plan out of his own dream of control of Israel and Jerusalem. Like the North Korean military parading around Pyongyang in a show of force, Pilate marches into Jerusalem in full military dress, riding a stallion, a legion of soldiers marching behind him with red banners on gold posts, the signs of the Roman Empire.
And Pilate’s point to the people is clear: any attempt at revolution will be brutally suppressed. The real king is the Emperor Tiberius. Pilate won’t let them forget it.
On this Palm Sunday, this Revolution Sunday, Pilate marches into Jerusalem at probably about the same time as Jesus. Pilate comes to brutally suppress a revolution. Jesus comes to bring a revolution of humility and love that will defeat sin and death, destroying their power forever.
But no one, at the time, can comprehend that. Everyone: Zealot, Jew, Roman, has their own dream. The Zealots are waging a guerrilla war to overthrow the Romans, their dream. The Jews are celebrating Jesus, their messianic Abraham Lincoln, waiting for him to say the word to overthrow the Romans, which is their dream. The Romans move to suppress these revolutionary tendencies, working for a peaceful Palestine, their dream.
But dreams, like the dreams of the Zealots, the Jews, and the Romans, are just the problem. They blind us to the Revolution.
Consider how blind the crowd is. This crowd that cheers on Jesus, proclaiming him their new king, eagerly expecting his overthrow of the Romans, will turn on him. In just a few days, the crowd that today yells “Blessed is the king!” will yell “crucify him!” From a king, they’ll come to regard Jesus as a common criminal, worthy of the death penalty. The crowd, the average person, is blind to the real revolution being birthed through Jesus.
Or consider how blind Pilate is. He marches in pridefully believing he is in control, that he is all powerful, that he rules the day. He’s living his dream of regional conquest and power. In just a few days, he’ll stand before Jesus, a collision of earthly power with divine power, and the earthly power will condemn the divine to death. Pilate, worried about a political revolution, blinded by his dreams of control and power, is blind to the real revolution being birthed through Jesus.
Dreams are just the problem. They blind us to the revolution.
Today is Revolution Sunday. The question before us is the same as it was for the characters of our story this morning: are we blinded by our own dreams? Are we missing the revolution?
For Jesus’s revolution of hope, peace, joy, and love that began through his birth and continued through the humility of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem continues to this day. God’s ways are far different from our ways; God’s call is unexpected and often confounding. But God has a dream for the world, a dream where all people live together in lives marked by hope, peace, joy, and love. A world where justice reigns over all. A world where all people are in right relationship with the God who created them in the first place.
That’s the dream. That’s the revolution we celebrate on this Palm Sunday: that hope, peace, joy, and love rule over all the forces of darkness and evil. No power for hate, no despicable evil deed, no words of harm, can undo the power of God’s love. We are all inheritors of that revolution as brothers and sisters with Christ. What Christ did in defeating sin and death and destroying their power for ever is rescued us, even in this life, from the oppression of sin and evil. We need not live in fear!
Christ brought forth a revolution: that not by might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit of hope, peace, joy, and love, will the world be saved. That world, that vision, is what we call the Kingdom of God. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus called and enabled us to be co-laborers for that kingdom; to bring to bear on this world hope, peace, joy, and love. We have a calling on our lives, God’s dream for the future lived out through our lives.
The Kingdom of God is the dream. This is the revolution.
But all too often, our dreams get in the way creating that Kingdom.
For we get busy building our own mini kingdoms to ourselves. We dream of power and prominence in our lives here in Eastman and Dodge County. We dream of building up our business. We dream of creating opportunity for our family. We dream of becoming wealthier or gaining fame. We dream of buying homes or cars or other material possessions. We dream of our church or other community organizations having renown and growth. We dream, and we often dream big, but the question in that dreaming is this: do we pause and ask, “God, are those your dreams?”
That’s the difference between the arrivals of Pilate and Jesus; that’s the difference in joining the revolution and being blinded to the revolution; that’s the difference that matters this morning: the difference between choosing dreams for ourselves or asking God to give us our dreams.
None of the dreams I mentioned are necessarily wrong; they’re only wrong if we haven’t asked God if they’re the right dreams, the dreams God has given us, that will cause us to further the revolution of hope, peace, joy, and love, bearing witness that the Kingdom of God is here among us today.
Consider the opportunity Jesus has here on this Palm Sunday to seize the political Revolution. The crowd is with him and for him. He could rally them, call them to throw down their Roman overlords, and establish himself as the new King. Sure, a battle would ensue, there’d be blood, but the people are ready. Jesus could have avoided the cross and the tomb by seizing upon this revolutionary moment, taking the power and prominence the crowd offers him and using it for political purposes.
But Jesus doesn’t do that. He chooses instead to live out God’s dream for his life: marching toward the sham trial that he knows will be humiliating, riding his colt toward the abuse he’ll suffer at the hands of the Roman legion, hearing the praise of the crowd who will taunt him while he dies the horrific public execution of crucifixion. He lives out God’s dream because he knows that the revolution God is brewing will be far greater than anything he could accomplish on his own.
So it is for us. The revolution God wants to bring about through our lives and through our church for Eastman and Dodge County is far greater than anything we could imagine on our own. The revolution for our families, for our workplaces, for our community organizations, for ourselves in our interior life, is far greater than anything we could ask or imagine. God wants to bring the Kingdom to bear through us, not through might, nor through power, but by God’s Spirit! We have the chance to participate in that! We can be co-laborers in the Revolution, bring to bear the Kingdom of God for our neighbors, that they may know the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christ.
But will we?
Seems the graduation gifts and cards are wrong. Thoreau was wrong. We cannot be anything we want to be, we cannot pursue any dream we desire, we should not go confidently in the direction of our own dreams, nor should we pursue living the life we’ve imagined.
I know that’s a radical notion, but we cannot simply pursue our dreams, whatever they may be, no matter how significant or insignificant they seem. We cannot because we are not our own, we belong to God, because of what God did through the crucifixion and resurrection that will be upon us this week, and thus our dreams must find their inspiration in our relationship with God.
This morning, will you cede your dreams to God’s dream for your life? Will you join the revolution?
Consider your many dreams: are they God’s dreams for your life? Begin today to ask God if your dreams are his. And if they’re not, be brave to ask God to inspire your dreams and then choose those.
Consider, too, your role here at the church. Are you doing all God has called you to do for our church? The church is the outpost of the Kingdom of God in the kingdoms of the world. This is the primary place to give of your time, presence, gifts, service, and witness so that, through you and through our church together, Dodge County may become a place known for it’s hope, peace, joy, and love.
Or perhaps, this morning, do you sense God calling you to be a pastor, to be full time in ministry? Be bold, accept God’s prompting and declare you’ll explore that call. Come talk to me and let’s begin that journey together, for God is birthing a dream through you that will make this world more hopeful, peaceful, joyful, and loving.
What dream is God giving you today?
If you don’t know, ask. Be bold, ask God, then listen. God will answer. The Holy Spirit will stir inside of you, motivating and directing you. For it’s by God’s Spirit, not by might nor power, that you will know the dream God has for you.
This morning, you are invited to join the revolution, becoming a co-laborer in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth. Accept the invitation. Choose, with humility, to march with Jesus, joining in the work of the Kingdom of God. Dodge County can know hope, peace, joy, and love, above all else; our neighbors can know the salvation God provides through us, if only we will set aside our dreams to follow God’s dream for our lives.
So, on this Revolution Sunday, cede your dreams to God’s dreams for your life. On this Palm Sunday, join the revolution.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.