Sermon preached by
The Reverend Dr Joan Crossley
Palm Sunday, 13th April 2003
Anyone here prepared to admit to glancing through Hello! Magazine?
What about Now! ?
Anyone here admit to watching a TV programme called "Lifestyles of the rich and famous", or "Through the keyhole"?
If you look through the magazine section at the supermarket or flick through the television channels you soon realise that we are, as a culture, completely obsessed by celebrities. On your behalf of course I have purchased this month's Hello! Magazine. The fashion tips, the fitness fads, the designers homes of these so-called stars are endlessly explored. Many young people want to be "famous", and so expose themselves to ridicule by appearing on shows like Big Brother. But surprise surprise (another show incidentally) when they achieve this longed for celebrity status they discover that not only doesn't it make them happy, they are actually made miserable. They can't walk out on the streets without being mobbed or heckled, they can't shop or eat out with attracting attention and they sometimes become the object of stalkers or kidnappers, like the Beckhams.
If as a society we adore our rich and famous we really, really love it when they are revealed as having feet of clay. When the promoter of family values turns out to be a hypocrite, when a couple pictured canoodling in Hello! Magazine turn out to be filing for divorce, the media love it even more. People who set themselves up on pedestals are not only looked up to but can be easily pushed off. Attracting attention can be a nightmare as well as a dream.
The reason that the so-called stars are caught out is because they have
one face that they present to the world, and another which they wear in
private. By seeking to be something they are not, acting a part, they become
increasingly fragmented and torn individuals. The stress of constantly
performing makes them tense and ill.
On Palm Sunday we see Jesus at the very height of his fame and popularity. The entry into Jerusalem was the sort reserved for triumphant generals and heroes. At that moment, Jesus could have done anything with the crowd. The Romans must have watched anxiously waiting to see if He would incite an uprising against their rule. The Jewish authorities must have been afraid of a mass attack on the Temple. But Jesus did not manipulate people and would never have called people to destruction and violence. When the mob dispersed Jesus went quietly about His purposes, seeming neither elated or surprised by the adoration of the crowd.
Jesus did not court anyone's approval. We have seen him in front of a mob before, when they were preparing to stone the woman accused of adultery. He was calm and unafraid, gently challenging the hypocrisy of the crowd, until one by one they faded away. We have seen Jesus breaking down barriers by talking alone to a woman and a Samarian woman at that, making it clear to her that God knew about her way of life and knew that she could change. Jesus would treat the mighty and powerful Pontius Pilate, a man who had power over life and death, with the same intelligent, gentle, questioning approach. Unlike those who wear different faces or use different voices according to the power or prestige of the person they are with, Jesus was a totally integrated person, never changing Himself in order to win favour or affection.
Judas was desperate to find the flaw in Jesus. There was something in him which made him envious of Jesus' power to inspire love and devotion. In the same way that people long to debunk the rich and successful, so did Judas prowl around Jesus wanting to topple Him from His pedestal. He tried to pretend that Jesus was uncaring about the needs of the poor, when the woman anointed Jesus' feet with costly oil, but all his verbal attacks were feeble. Because in Jesus we see a unity of purpose, a wholeness of personality, a perfection of characteristics which made His detractors, look lame and stupid. In the end Judas could only help to have Jesus killed. But even that could not destroy Him.
Bible Readings and Notes for Palm Sunday, 13th April 2003.