First Congregational Church
April 10, 2022
“The Big ’T’ of Faith” (Trust)
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
I don't have confidence or trust in elevators anymore. They always seem like they're up to something, but they also let me down quite often. Never trust an atom. They make up everything.
If I were to tell this story as I have read it before, I would use the term “old lady” for the woman in the story. That term is way too close to home, not to mention sexist and ageist, and not polite at all. So there was a woman who was pulled over for speeding. The officer gets out of his car and goes to her window. “Is there a problem, Officer?”
“Ma’am, you were speeding.” “Oh, I see.” “Can I see your license please?” “I'd give it to you but I don't have one.” “Don't have one?” “Lost it, four years ago for drunk driving.” “I see ... Can I see your vehicle registration papers, please?”
“I can't do that.” “Why not?” The woman says, “I stole this car.” “Stole it?” “Yes, and I killed and hacked up the owner.” “You what?” “His body parts are in plastic bags in the trunk if you want to see.”
The Officer looks at the woman and slowly backs away to his car and calls for backup. Within minutes five police cars circle the woman’s car. A senior officer slowly approaches her car, clasping his half-drawn gun.
The senior officer says, “Ma’am, could you step out of your vehicle, please?” The woman steps out of her vehicle and asks, “Is there a problem sir?” The senior officer says, “One of my officers told me that you have stolen this car and murdered the owner.” “Murdered the owner?” “Yes, could you please open the trunk of your car?”
The woman opens the trunk, revealing nothing but an empty trunk. The Senior Officer asks, Is this your car, ma’am?" “Yes, here are the registration papers.” The officer is quite stunned. The Senior Officer says, “One of my officers claims that you do not have a driving license.”
The woman digs into her handbag and pulls out a billfold and hands it to the officer. The officer examines the license, looking quite puzzled. He then says, “Thank you, ma’am. One of my officers told me you didn't have a license, that you stole this car, and that you murdered and hacked up the owner. She replied, “And I bet he told you I was speeding, too."
If I was a betting woman, I’d bet a lot of cash that Jesus didn’t speed into Jerusalem on that famous Sunday. For one thing, there would have been way too many people there for the Passover celebration, some scholars estimating between 200,000 and a million individuals. Then don’t forget that there would have been hundreds and maybe even a million sheep and goats, because families would purchase one, take it home until it was the day of Passover, to be cared for a loved, washed and groomed and played with until it would be given up for the sacrifice.
We don’t know what the weather was like, but there was probably a fair bit of dust in the air with all that movement, and there weren’t port-a-pots like we have, so there was the smell aspect, too. The cherry on the top was the talk of this Messiah that was quickly becoming a hero, the one who would free everyone from Roman tyranny. The day was nothing like the pictures we’ve grown to associate with this famous day.
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a] “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Thank you, Judy. Imagine that you were one of the two disciples tasked with getting the colt, or the donkey as other gospel writers called the beast of burden. Imagine, even today, going to a farmer or ranch owner and telling them that “the Lord needs it.” I can’t imagine a person alive that would wonder just what kind of kool-aid you were drinking.
The wild thing is that the animal owner didn’t resist the request. What was going on his or her mind and heart? Did the Holy Spirit do something to this person that allowed perfect strangers to take a valuable animal for who knows what purpose? What was it that allowed this livestock owner to trust that you and the other disciple would use the animal the way the Lord had need of it? Wouldn’t the most logical thought from the livestock owner be that you and your accomplice were really stealing, that this request from the Lord was a ruse, and that he was getting scammed?
And there wasn’t just the doubt that would have accompanied you on your task, but the history of all the crazy stuff Jesus had done. Changing water into wine, healing people, speaking to outcasts, raising a dead person to life. What on earth would he do with a colt or donkey?
In any of the accounts of that day when Jesus returned to Jerusalem, there was a whole lot of trust going on, and I think we miss it all too often. And it was a trust, not based so much on history and familiarity, but because Jesus was who he was - and continues to be.
I’d be willing to guess that we human beings have always had trust issues. Maybe we’ve trusted too easily and been hurt too often, so we find it hard to trust. Or the rampant fear that runs unchecked in our world makes trust a casualty.
If I’d ask for people to raise their hands if your trust with another person has been broken, I’d guess that probably every hand would go up. That’s when we are reminded of how delicate and treasured trust is and how hard it can be to be restored.
And then there are those times in our lives when our trust is questioned. I don’t remember specifics, but over the last few years, events have taken place or things said to me that sound like - to this brain and heart - like I can’t be trusted. Even after twenty-three years of living here, ministering here, working here, it hurts when someone feels like they can’t trust me.
I’m not looking for pity here, but to acknowledge that lack of trust happens, and sometimes it’s not really about anything that I’ve done or not done, but because of something going on in the other person’s life that makes them fearful of trusting someone else to have their best interest at heart. Nine times out of ten, when I’ve remembered to think about that one finger-wagging at me has three pointing back to the one that seems to be struggling with trust, I’m reminded that we all struggle with issues - at least from time to time - that cause us to wonder about humanity.
We don’t know what Jesus was feeling or thinking as he rode into Jerusalem, but at the very least, he would have felt the unrest in the air and known a little about the desire for someone to right the wrongs of Roman domination over the Jewish people. Being Jesus, tho, I’m guessing that he had some sort of understanding or idea that things weren’t going to end well that week. How many times had he foretold his death and resurrection?
As much as Jesus might have doubted God’s leading, Jesus trusted - even when he knew it wasn’t going to end well at all. Even as the events of that holy week unfolded, at any point in time, God being God and Jesus being Jesus, could have called the whole thing off. There was a lot on the line, for sure. All Jesus had to do was to say, “Uncle,” or “Abba,” or “Yahweh,” and God, being respectful of all our desires, even if we don’t get them, would have honored Jesus’ request to stop. But Jesus trusted that there was a bigger purpose, a bigger plan and that he was a part of it.
When the news is full of people hurting one another and horrible deeds are done or happen to innocent people, our hearts and minds and souls can take a beating, and we can wonder why we even bother to care anymore. That’s when we have to summon our knowledge and faith that God can be trusted, that ours is not a god of mistrust, but one upon whom we can trust - even if the way looks as dark as it did for Jesus back then.
I don’t doubt that God gets disappointed when our trust relationships are broken. But those moments are exactly why the glue of grace was created, to put it back together, even if it’s not exactly the same as it was before.
Trust, feeding our trust, and strengthening our trust is nourished when we grasp the length and breadth and depth of Holy Week. Even though we won’t gather together in person for services this Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, I encourage you to find a computer and a few moments of time each of those days, to flex your own trust muscles as you observe those of Christ. If you don’t have a computer, let me know. I can hook you up.
Three chapters before the one of today’s scripture passage, as he was trying to explain what was coming down the pike for all of the disciples, Jesus said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
That absolutely profound and lovely pastor at First Congregational Church of Frankfort says, “This week is our time of work in building our trust, walking in Christ’s grief, that we are able to more fully engage in the deeper celebration of the Easter Resurrection.” In fact, she has invited all of us to go through this week with a sense of it being a gift from the One who created us to have emotions and to experience all of them. And we can trust the process of this week, because God holds it, supported by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. So shall we pray?
God, Jesus, Spirit, thank you for partnering with us to experience a deeper and meaningful way of life, as well as our relationship with you. Strengthen our trust, so that it becomes stronger, as a friend that goes with us on our journey of life. Thank you for trusting us to do good and to offer our best, even when you know the potential for our failure. And then thank you for the glue of grace that can restore that which is broken and allows for the celebration of you and each other, in ways that may be new and richer than ever before. For these gifts and all your blessings, all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.