About twenty years ago I visited Jerusalem.
this was neither a crusade nor a mission trip to alleviate distress or build a water well nor some devotional pilgrimage. It was a business trip. In fact it was kind of an ecumenical business trip because my companions were a Hindu business man and his wife. We were guided around Jerusalem by an American Express tour guide assigned to us by a business contact.
As we walked through the first century parts of Jerusalem we passed numerous church groups following the “way of the cross.” These pilgrims rubbed their fingers over every stone and cobble at certain places where it was said that Jesus had stumbled or his sacred blood dripped.
I remember thinking that this was some kind of fantasy world- part actual, real place with a long and significant cultural and religious history and part make believe kingdom, a religious theme park where every citizen was really an actor just playing a role. Where divine mystery oozed out of the building walls and where a drop of Jesus’ blood could leave a stain still visible 2000 years later.
I felt kind of cynical about all this...
(Listen to the rest of this sermon on the podcast.)
On Palm Sunday, a man named Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem amid crowds and throngs of citizens. He was a prophet. He was a healer. He was a spiritual leader.
He was God.
It was a tragic week for him and those around him.
He was set up by one of his closest followers. Sold out for a few silver coins. Sold out cheaply to the religious authorities who wanted to see him dead because he was a heretic. They wanted to see him dead because he stirred things up too much. They wanted to see him dead because he interpreted the scriptures differently than they did. In fact, he interpreted the scriptures in a way that turned upside down everything that those religious authorities had been using to keep the status quo under tight control.
This Jesus was dangerous and he had to be stopped. (Hear the rest of this sermon on podcast.)
Here’s a question for you to answer silently to yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone else your answer.
What do you do when you pray?
What do you, personally, do when you pray?
Now I‘m not really talking about your posture, whether you’re kneeling or sitting and I’m not referring to whether your eyes are open or closed or whether you mutter or clamp your mouth tightly shut. People do different things.
Some people sway. Some people shout out loud- although they probably aren’t traditional Presbyterians. Some people look up toward the sky as if they can see God sitting there, Buddha-like on a golden throne at the top of some towering cumulus cloud.
Many of us pray as we were taught as children, head down and eyes closed, hands clasped before us. Is that the only way to pray?
All these body position issues are the things that people usually think about when they visualize themselves praying. I wonder why instead we don’t immediately think about the communication itself.