Today’s service begins with Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, with the crowds shouting: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!
Then, after that moment of mass adulation, we heard our readings from the Old and New Testaments … The prophet Isaiah urges us to stand firm in our faith as we continue to share that faith … even when we are faced with persecution and oppression … And, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul reminds us of the one in whom we should hold firm in faith … the one before whom every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth …namely, Jesus, the one who emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … the one who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
Then we heard the great Passion reading as we have received it in the Gospel according to Luke … We heard the whole story from Jesus’ ‘trial’ before Pilate, through to his condemnation and death on the cross … On the way we heard of rejection and humiliation …
but … we also heard words of prophecy, forgiveness and hope.
Our reading from Isaiah opened with these words: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.
What do those words mean to us?
We know that teaching is a skilled profession … not a vocation that everyone is called to follow.
But that is not what Isaiah is saying! Isaiah is not speaking of degrees in a specialist subject and time spent on a teacher training course.
Isaiah is speaking of God’s call to each and every one of us … the call to sustain the weary with a word … the call to share the Good News of the Word made flesh … that is Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.
Of course, there are those who will still talk of ‘specialist training’ … it is certainly true that standing in a pulpit and PREACHING is something that demands training and specific authorisation … But that is not meant as a muzzle, but rather as a safeguard against confused and confusing words detracting from the great message we have to share.
However, notwithstanding the formality of whether or not the Church, as an institution, allows an individual to stand and preach in its name, we are all called to sustain the weary with a word … That is, we are all called to share our personal faith in Jesus with those who are struggling in the quagmire we call ‘daily life’.
Still I know that some are resisting … some are holding firm to the position that they are not ‘evangelists’ or ‘preachers of the word’!
On innumerable occasions I hear a distinction being made between different ‘brands’ of Christianity … those distinctions revolve around the use of the word evangelical, and all its variants.
Very often the word evangelical is used as a weapon … a vehicle for criticising those who choose to worship God in a specific way.
Well … let me disabuse you of this misuse of the word evangelical … it is not about a particular ‘worship style’ … it is only about our being rooted in the truth of the Gospel … and absolutely nothing else!
Evangelical derives from the Greek word which means Gospel or Good News … and that is it … all who believe in the truth of the Gospel, that is the Good News of Jesus Christ, are evangelical … and are, therefore, called to sustain the weary with a word.
And the Word we are all called to use as we seek to sustain the weary is the name that is above every name … the name of Jesus.
Perhaps you are still thinking that these words are not meant for you…
Well, let us go back to the opening of today’s service.
Would you have been amongst the crowd that hailed Jesus as king as he entered Jerusalem?
I would suggest that we would all have got caught up in the joyous hysteria of the moment!!!
But … if we could be so easily overwhelmed in that joyous hysteria … surely we would have been just as engaged as, a few days later, the same crowds screamed: Crucify him.
In every aspect of our daily lives, we have ‘opinions’ … opinions that we are never that reticent about sharing with anyone who will listen … and, whether those opinions are ‘joyous adulation’ or ‘outright condemnation’, we just get on and blurt them out … so we are similarly called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
But … too often we don’t!
As we enter Holy Week 2022 we need to face up to the responsibility that God has laid upon us … the responsibility to sustain the weary with a word … the Word that is the Good News of our faith … the Word that is Jesus Christ our risen and loving Saviour.