Is it true? What? Is it true that you somehow used a Mr. Potato Head as a sermon illustration this past week? Why, actually yes. Can you explain to me how on earth you can justify using a Mr. Potato Head in a church service and not get nuked by God? I always know that a sermon has done its work when people who missed church on Sunday call to make sure the story they heard was correct or that I am going to include it in my message in the Bulletin. Yes, I did use Mr. Potato Head. Yes, I was making fun of us a bit. No, I do not think that God thought it blasphemous. Yes, we did have several visitors. Yes, they seemed to get the point. I hope we all did as well.
As I shared with both services this weekend, I was speaking with my evil twin. I was complaining to him that I felt that I needed to give a brief homily this past weekend. I had a sense that we would have some visitors. On major Feast Days, I am more inclined not to preach. What more can I say than God has so clearly spoken? Palm Sunday certainly falls into that category. We read the Passion Narrative and, thanks to the cooperation of so many in our midst, we never know who is going to get what part. In this way, each year, we are all reminded that we all had a hand in His crucifixion. Such is all well and good for a group of believers who gather consistently to hear God’s Word. But, sometimes, some of the teachings of such passages need to be explained better.
Why Mr. Potato Head? How does he relate to Palm Sunday? So often, you and I and other Christians are busy constructing a God of our own image. We may decide that God hates this groups of sinners more than this group, or that He loves that group of sinners more than this group. We make project our thoughts and feelings, flawed as they are and as tainted by human sin as they are, and create a “My god would never . . . “ or “My god would . . . “ kind of idol. We begin deciding what we think our King should look like. We begin to decide whom He would save. And in this, we are no different than those about whom we read this past weekend.
The rulers in our stories thought He would be like them. He would keep the status quo. Their authority derived from Moses (for the priests) or from the emperor (for Pilate). As such, He would choose to honor them for their positions. And the people had their own illusions. Their king would free them from the tyranny of Rome. He would be a king in the line of King David. A champion of the people! They would add and subtract to their vision as they saw fit, just as we might give Mr. Potato head angry eyes instead of startled eyes or smiling face instead of sad face. And that picture each one of us creates of Him looks as ridiculous to God as does that image of Mr. Potato Head does to each of us.
Yet our story this week serves to remind each of us that God’s King is radically different from our own idols. He came in humility, riding in on a donkey. Our King came in any way other than the world expected. And He came in fulfillment of the Scriptures! We do not have to guess at the mind of God. We know God because of Jesus! He went willingly to the cross, though He knew its pain and cost to Him, that we might be raised to new life in Him. Our readings remind each of us, as that wonderful song says, that Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who is saved. Before leaving us, Jesus reminded each of His Apostles and each one of us what leadership in the Kingdom of God is like. Each of us is called to a radical servanthood of others which recalls His wonderful work on our behalf. And so we labor, not for our glory but for His, and not for ourselves but for others, that the world might be drawn to His saving embrace. Does it look ridiculous to world? Perhaps, maybe even often. But you and I are called to labor not for the world’s opinion, but for the glory of God. So, as we prepare to remind ourselves of our Lord’s passion and death this Holy Week, do you find yourself worshipping the Christ? Or do you find yourself worshipping a figure every bit as ridiculous to God as Mr. Potato Head might be to you?