A Sermon Preached at
Belleville, IL
By The Rev Rob Dyer
April 13, 2014
(transcribed from audio tape)
Let us pray –
Prepare our hearts O Holy Spirit to accept your Word. Silence in us any voices but
your own so that we may hear your Word and also do it through Christ our Lord.
Today’s scripture reading is from the Book of Matthew 21:1-11.
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at
the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into
the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied,
and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says
anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will
send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been
spoken through the prophet, saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ The disciples went and did as
Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and
put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd
spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the
trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him
and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the
highest heaven!’ When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in
turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the
prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Who doesn’t love a good parade? I remember some of my first experiences of
being in a parade. I mean it’s one thing to go to a parade, but when you get to be
in it? The earliest memory I have of being in a parade is the Hobo Day Parade.
The Belleville West Hobo Day Parade that we had each year and each class would
gather at the St. Clair County Garage and we would build our floats. There would
be wood structures, chicken wire and you were making those little pompoms out of
tissue paper and we would make these giant floats.
We would march alongside it and at the end of the Hobo Day Parade you would
find out which class had the best float. I remember my class won like at least 2 out
of the 4 years. We won as Freshmen which was really fun and it was just a great
experience. I don’t really know how many people showed up for a Hobo Day
Parade. You know I don’t really remember that because I wasn’t really paying
attention to that. It was just fun to be there and be next to the float; wondering if
you are going to win. There’s lots of excitement going on with it, you know?
I remember even one year and this is where only long time Bellevillians will get
the impact of this, so for the rest of you I apologize. One year I got to drive a
convertible for the Miss Maroon Court through the Hobo Day Parade. But I didn’t
get to drive just any convertible; I got to drive Merle Guthrie’s convertible. Now
those of you who don’t know Merle Guthrie, she was a teacher at Belleville West
for 49 years. For 49 years! She had my mother. She had me and she was sharp as
a tack.
I remember my first day in her classroom. I said “My name is Rob Dyer” and as
the next person started to say their name as we were going around the room she
said “Hold it!” She looked at me and she said “Joyce Zimmerman! 5 th seat against
the window! You look just like your mother.”
I said to my mom “Did you?”
She said “I sat next to the window. I don’t know. It was a little ways back. Might
have been the 5th seat.”
Now I know it was the 5th seat, because Merle Guthrie remembered it. But to get
to drive Mrs. Guthrie’s convertible was a big deal and I remember getting to do
that – driving that vehicle through the parade. That was quite a treat.
I have to say that as I’ve gotten older parades are less exciting. As a parent having
young children a parade is just another day that I’m going to get to carry home
another giant bag of candy and try to hope that my children don’t run out into the
street and get hit by a float.
I do remember there was a parade in Mt. Vernon and we decided we were going to
get together a large gathering of the pastors and representatives of the different
churches in the town. Under the banner of the Jefferson County Ministerial
Association we had about 25 pastors and we told each pastor to bring 4 or 5
members of their congregation and we would be a giant massive witness to the
unity of Christ in our community. There we were and we were going through the
parade and it was the Sweet Corn and Watermelon Festival Parade. Okay?
There we were. We’re going down the main streets of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. We’re
all gathered together and we noticed that not everyone is as thrilled as we are with
this display of the unity of Christ. We thought this was going to be just an
amazing witness. Look at the churches coming together and it was just kind of like
uhhh! Then we realized that no one remembered to bring candy.
There were all these people cheering and then we came by and they slowly
stopped. Wait until the next candy shows up.
When there are no political lines or religious lines . . . when there is a parade you
don’t care what political party that guy’s from if his truck is throwing out jumbo
tootsie rolls, you’re going to take ‘em. It doesn’t matter. Are those Jolly Ranchers
real Jolly Ranchers? That’s wonderful! You have no idea what that float is about
or what that truck is supporting. All you know is that they’ve got the good candy.
I remember being along the side with my kids and there would go by and I
remember thinking “What is the Sweet Corn and Watermelon Festival about?” I
marched in that parade and I don’t know what it’s about. I mean okay - Corn and
Watermelon! But really what is the meaning of this gathering? What’s behind it?
I know that each year they would have a giant arrangement with all these tables
and the upper crust of Mt. Vernon to the folks that are in the more impoverished
neighborhoods would all come and there would be free corn and watermelon for
So I thought I don’t know the meaning of this event but at the very least this is the
day in our city when everyone gets fed. And then they stopped doing the corn and
watermelon feeding and I thought, well there went the meaning. We had the
parade and the event, but no one knew what it really was about.
I’ll tell you what’s interesting is that we have a similar situation in the scripture
passage where there’s a parade coming to town – right through the middle of
Jerusalem. As a kid I remember that as an event where Jesus comes into Jerusalem
and the whole town comes out and they’re waiving palms, throwing them down
and welcoming “Yeah, Jesus is here! Yeah, Jesus is here!”
But if you read it carefully you realize that’s not exactly what happened. The
parade came into town and the crowds that are cheering and waiving the palms are
the people who are in the parade. The people in the city of Jerusalem, their line in
the story is “What’s this all about? Who’s that guy?”
They’re not celebrating. They’re confused. The great parade of Jesus is coming
right through the middle of their city and they have no idea of what the meaning of
this is. “Who’s that guy?” I’m not sure this was a popular event. You know there
were a couple of people who came out of their homes that morning and looked
around and all the leaves were off their palm trees.
“Honey, have you seen the donkey?”
The parade came through and no one understood what it was about. The people
with Jesus understood that this was a triumphant entry. This was a coming of
Jesus. They wanted to proclaim the goodness that he had. They wanted to share
him as a great teacher; revealer of God’s Word. They wanted to share this gift
with Jerusalem; the heart of their faith.
There’s a pronouncement of who Jesus is and as they come through the town the
people of the city are still confused. You know there had to be at least one
disciple; one person in the crowd who said “Wait! We’re going to do what?
We’re going to just walk into the town; we’re going to grab a bunch of palms off
the trees and we’re going to make a spectacle of ourselves? Isn’t it true that the
authorities are not too happy with Jesus? Couldn’t we get in trouble for this? I
mean seriously we’re going to look like fools out there and we might get arrested.”
Don’t you think there’s at least one guy, disciple Fred? You don’t hear about Fred.
Maybe he’s the disciple who said “I don’t know about this. What do we have to
celebrate here? What is it that we’re really doing here?”
They had hope though. They had hope and they had a faith in what was going on
there. In our lives of faith it can be a lot like a parade itself.
Have you ever gone to a parade and accidentally sat at the end of the parade? That
is the saddest place in a parade. It’s sad! Many of the folks are out of candy so
they have nothing to give you. Maybe that one that was stingy and at the last ditch
effort they throw it all out at the end, but for the most part everyone looks
exhausted. Maybe even the band doesn’t even play anymore because they had 3
kids pass out somewhere around 2nd Street. Right? Parents didn’t bring enough
water, whatever, so the band comes lumbering in and everybody’s sweaty and
tired. “Yeah! A parade!”
Often the best place to be in a parade is right at the beginning because everyone is
still excited to be in the parade; the songs are playin’; the candy’s flowin’;
jubilation is there. That’s a great place to be in a parade. But what happens along
the way? Well in a parade you get tired. You get beat down by the elements and
the circumstance. The joy and the hope become a little bit faded because you’ve
been out there for awhile. The magic and luster of it all is just kind of faded a bit,
so you’re just lookin’ to finish the parade.
In our lives of faith we’re in a parade, or at least we should be in a parade,
shouldn’t we? We know how this story ends. We know where this is going. We
know that we have a God that loves us so well that he would send his son to die for
us. We know that no matter what happens along this Holy Week – no matter what
message of doom and gloom we might feel is coming with the Good Friday that
there is an Easter morning to our story of faith.
We may have forces pressing down upon us right now so very hard, but the great
battle has been won and we lose sight of that. We get parade fatigue. We’ve been
doing this awhile.
It’s not quite so magical maybe as it once was. It starts to fade, but that’s where
we need to be shouting all the more and cheering all the more. For there are
people all along the route of our lives and they need to hear the Good News that we
have. And it is such Good News, but we lose sight of that. We lose sight of what
it is that we have in this grace, in this love, in this God. We go along, along the
path. We read scripture and we pray prayers. We do some good works along the
way as the church.
We get worn down by circumstances of depression, disease, boredom, whatever it
is. We just get worn down a little bit and what we so desperately need is a cloud of
witnesses coming right down the middle of life, still filled with joy and hope. And
as we march along together some of us are going to get tired. We need to take care
of one another along the way; to provide refreshment to one another along the way;
to build up the faith along the way because the parade route is long and some of
those are steep hills and not all of us are quite as fresh as we once were. Maybe
we’ve been in this parade a lot longer, but as new people join the parade we need
to hold on to the joy that we had; to proclaim the goodness that’s there.
This coming of Jesus is a proclamation. This coming of Jesus into Jerusalem is a
proclamation of hope, not of certainty but of hope. There’s plenty of fear and
doubt going on in the minds of this crowd. There has to be. They know the risk.
They know what Jesus has been teaching and pushing; how he’s been spreading
those boundaries out bigger and bigger to get more people included in this love and
yet they’re in the parade. They’re in the parade!
They believe in the cause. It’s not a mystery. We’re not marching in a parade
together that we know what it’s for; we know what this is about. This is about
what God has done. God’s doing beautiful things each and every day. We just
don’t see it because we’re tired; cause we’re thirsty; because it’s just been awhile.
That’s why we need to keep the faith; keep the encouragement for one another; to
not lose the hope that we have.
I think parades can seem kind of foolish at times. I think they can seem kind of
foolish because I know as a parent I’m just sitting there thinking “Oh goodness!
More candy! What is the point of all this? What are we doing here?”
I think that the minute we start to get a little excited about our faith, very quickly
we could start to feel that negativity flow back in. Uhhh! Why get all excited?
We’ve done big mission projects in the past and it’s faded away.
We’ve had a big Vacation Bible School and it’s been fine and then it goes away.
We’ve had a Sunday worship service and then we go back into our week.
Why? Why keep getting excited? Because there is so much to be excited about
and because there are people here who need that excitement from you. We need
you in the parade; the smiles and joys for all the blessings that you have.
Christ calls the crowd together to give witness even in the face of certain death
that’s coming. There is an occasion to show joy and jubilation. There are burdens
in our lives to be sure. We don’t forget about those. We just know that there is a
greater victory. We know how this ends. We know where this is going. Why
wouldn’t we be filled with joy each and every day of our lives? Why wouldn’t we
join in the celebration?
I want to encourage you on this Palm Sunday to walk the path. We have a
wonderful set of worship services.
On Thursday night we are going to gather here at 7 o’clock and share a very
intimate feeling of communion together in this very room; to remember
specifically that last supper that Jesus had that started this whole communion
And on Friday night we are going to join with our brothers and sisters in Christ
over at Westminster Presbyterian Church at 7 o’clock. Our choirs are going to sing
together and we are going to remember a very difficult part of this story, but an
important part, because it reveals just how much this God loves each and every one
of us.
And then we’ll wait a day and then comes Easter morning with celebration, with
joy. We gather together on Easter morning to remember the grace that’s given; to
remember that God did something with that very ugly thing and in that to know
that God can take the ugliness of our lives and do very beautiful things with those
as well.
We must go through this parade together if we are to get the full message. So I
want to encourage you to come and join the parade this week. It begins with the
waiving of palms and ends with the glorious resurrection story. And then we will
be prepared to go out and share that great hope with the rest of our community.
The story does not end here. Your joy and your hope does not end with your own
story, but joins with others and becomes a bigger story together.
Let us reveal the joy of Easter together this week and proclaim the goodness of
God wherever we go.
Halleluiah and Amen.