Choose Your Own Adventure

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Luke 19:28-44


Good morning. Can I get a Hosanna? Can I get another Hosanna? All right! You’re not the frozen chosen today!

When I was a kid, there was a really popular series of books called “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Do any of you remember these? Each book had a different setting or theme, like the Old West, or a spy story, or a science fiction story. The first chapter set up the basic premise of the story, but then the book offered you a choice.

For example, if the book was a detective story, at the end of the first chapter you might, say, get a phone call from a mysterious woman who wants to meet you. Then you have a choice. If you decide to meet with her, you’re directed to turn to page 53. But if you decide to keep working the case you already have, then you turn to page 68. The story changes with every decision you make. These books were really popular in the late 70s and early 80s. I loved them.

Palm Sunday presents a choose-your-own-adventure opportunity for us pastors. I get to decide whether we hear the liturgy of the palms—the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—or whether we hear the liturgy of the passion. That is, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

I chose the liturgy of the palms because it’s shorter. And it’s all happy and yay-Jesus-y! And, yes. Yay, Jesus! That’s great. But there’s more going on than a simple celebration of the savior. Jesus doesn’t have much choice in this part of his adventure. His entry into Jerusalem is the culmination of his earthly ministry. There’s no turning back to page 1 and making different choices.

The scene of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey would have been similar to a military parade. The people who witnessed Jesus riding into the city and the first generations of people to hear this story, all of them would be familiar with the scene. Jesus rode into Jerusalem the same way an emperor or a great military hero would have entered a city. But Jesus rode in on a donkey. A Roman general or emperor would have ridden a warhorse. Jesus hadn’t conquered any territories or won any battles—not at that point. The victory comes later in the story and it’s not the victory that the adoring crowds expect Jesus to bring.