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The week began with a parade.

Up until this point, Jesus wasn’t making a big deal out of himself. Most of his healings were done in secret, where Jesus was telling them not to say anything to anyone sometimes of course they didn’t listen. But Jesus in Chapter 11, who sends his disciples to get the Donkey, parades to the temple, just to turn around and leave, seems to have a flair for the dramatic. He will go on to enter the temple, overturn tables, and spend days teaching.

Maybe not so much a parade, but a protest march.

Those who gathered for this march into the city had all found their way to Jesus and were drawn to Jesus. The disciples had seen in Jesus a rabbi and their lives behind. There were women who had been given a place in Jesus’ teachings. There was Bartimaeus who had just been healed in Jericho who couldn’t imagine his future Jesus. And there was Jairus and his daughter for whom Jesus was The Giver of Life. And there was the woman who had been hemorrhaging and maybe she was with her family and she came to see Jesus who gave her back community. There must have been those who had seen his healing, those who believed him to be the new king, who were certain he would overthrow the empire. In wonder and celebration, in hope and expectation, in joy and revolution, in gratitude and devotion, they traveled with Jesus from their homes in the country bringing with them just what they had.

And what often happens when you’re in a crowd, you do things you wouldn’t normally do like lay down the coat you’re wearing–perhaps the only one you own, or the first growth of spring you brought with you, to mark the sacredness of this moment, to usher in a new world. In hope and expectation and joy they called out, “Save us,” and gave all they had with them to the one they were certain would do it. They weren’t just walking into Jerusalem. This was a protest march–protesting the powers of oppression and violence and death; they were marching for life and liberation and hope; and they were willing to give of themselves, to risk their cloaks, their wellbeing, their safety for this protest march.

It was probably a bit unsettling when Jesus reached the temple and was like I think it’s time to go home. So much drama. And expectations needed to be shifted just a little.

A few days later when Jesus gathered with his friends for what would be their last meal, a woman approached him. In Mark’s telling of the story, she seems to have a bit of drama. Like she came up behind Jesus and just poured oil over his head

And what the disciples say makes us a lot of sense to me. It’s pouring out and letting soak into the ground a year’s wages. There are hungry people.

And Jesus celebrates her and tells us to remember her. She took the thing of most value, that which was of most important, her whole life, and poured it out in service and love of Jesus. She gave the best she had to offer in generous devotion and extravagant love.

What brings you out to risk your best coat, your comfort, your certainty?

What do you love? What do you bring and pour out for that which you love?

How do you think about your relationship with Jesus?

What would draw you to follow Jesus into a protest march to Jerusalem?

What would you bring to the table in an act of reckless love?

The United Church of Christ, in general, is an intellectually leaning group of people. Your clergy tend to be educated, our population is often educated and learn and read a lot. We ask questions and we wonder. Our Bible studies involve conversations about what was likely to have actually happened and what is metaphor and Parable and what was the author trying to say.

What we don’t do a lot of is talk about is why we keep coming back. It’s likely not because of the academic study of the historical Jesus it’s interesting but not generally compelling. It might be the coffee hour treats, more likely the community.

But there must be something that draws your heart.

Why do we baptize? Why baptize Olivia? I hope it’s not for facts, or simply so she’ll grow up to be a nice person.

The late Rachel Held Evens wrote in her final work, Wholehearted Faith:

“There is something about Christianity–and by that, I mean the venerable, beautiful story that has Jesus at its center–I just can’t shake.”

I have been one who thought Christianity could only be one emotional thing, and I met Jesus in academic world theology books and seminary lectures and smart-sounding conversations. But there is something about the story of God, the life of Jesus, the deep web of connectedness and the stories of God that run through my life that call to me.

So with Rachel: “I want to believe in the God who moves mountains. I want to believe in the God who still the seas. I want to believe in the God who promises to transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh–and I want to believe that the desires of my heart much count for something.”

It’s my hope that those stories move through you too, will move through Olivia. That she… that we may know in the darkest night, when we are wrestling with powers that seem beyond us, it will end and we can demand a blessing from the change it has made in us. To find joy and laughter in the journey, to realize God will show up when and how we least expect. That there is a time for reconciliation and restoration and comfort and return. To love God, and the earth, and each other, and ourselves–to find our place in the world. That there is always resurrection. There is always new life. That life and love will grow again. And that you, that Olivia, has a place in this world of God’s, and place in the story God is writing. Rachel once said, “I am a Christian because the story of Jesus is still the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.” It’s a good story. On the days I believe fully and the days I only doubt. On the days the story whispers and on the days it blows through like a storm. On the days it is all intellectual and on the days it’s all feeling.

When that is what leads me, when that is what compels me forward, I could get caught up in a crowd, screaming for salvation, liberation, and restoration for myself and for the world. What that is what leads me, I could pour out tears and my life, I think I could give up all the things, just to live in that feeling.

But it kinda scares me.

And so I hold back.

I wonder what you hold back. What of you and your thoughts, your feelings, your gifts, your life do you hold back from your love of God, and the world, and each other, and yourself?

What draws you in and gives you the courage to pour out your love? What do you hold on to and hold back?

If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. You are loved, you are called, you belong.

Maybe you feel your heart being tugged, drawn closer into relationship with Christ, with the world, with your neighbor, with yourself. Maybe you feel your spirit being drawn into the current of love that moves from the Creator to all parts of creation.

The marchers, and the woman, remain unnamed in Mark’s telling of the story–we make a lot of assumptions but Mark doesn’t tell us. Jesus told the disciples that there is a time to care for those without and those in need, but there is also time for heart to pour out in love. So when those gather to oppose injustice one pours out extravagant love–even when, or especially when, they look foolish–there is a time for that too. Nothing is wasted when it is given in love. What are you called to stand up for? to pour out?