Stand On Your Feet (A Sermon for Palm Sunday 2020)

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Hello my friends. My name is John Shuck.
My website is www.johnshuck.com

I am a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister and I have been one for 27 years having served four different congregations. I parted ways with my last congregation in November 2019. I don’t need to go into that, except that my awareness of spirituality and the human condition has expanded, at least how I see it. I am on my own and the irony is that while I have been on my sabbatical trying to determine what comes next, the apocalypse hit and the government has shut down the churches.

We are in uncharted territory as a human species. These are in a very real sense, the last days. I will get to that.

I should offer a disclaimer. Even though I am a Christian minister, I am not an orthodox Christian. I take a wide variety of viewpoints and synthesize them in my own way. And I change my mind on things as I learn and experience new things. You will find things to like and things to dislike. Take what is true for you, leave the rest. It is all good with me.

Before I begin my quote “sermon” endquote, I want to be clear that there is no such thing as “virtual” church. It is not a thing. What we call church in English comes from the Greek word, ekklesia, which means congregation or assembly. It is actual flesh and blood people gathering together to share the Gospel, to heal, to pray, to break bread, to worship. Virtual church is fake. These virtual sermons and virtual worship experiences that are being offered are not real. I am not saying they are not valuable, but it is not church. Calling it “virtual” church is an attempt to make you feel better about your imprisonment, your banishment, your punishment, your isolation, your hell.

From my perspective, hell should be called hell, and loss should be recognized for what it is, loss. Even as I may call this a “sermon”, it is not a sermon. A sermon requires a congregation, an ekklesia, an assembly, of flesh and blood people. This is a screen show. But it is what it is. It is the best I have for you today. I say this so we do not forget and are not fooled and lulled to into accepting that this assault on humanity, this attack on the people of Earth is not as horrific as it is. This is not OK. This is not right. This is evil.

Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

More on that to come. Today is Palm Sunday. It is also Passion Sunday. Palm/Passion Sunday. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to shouts of Hosannas.

Here is the text:

Matthew 21:1-11

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’ This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Two Christian scholars who have helped me appreciate Palm Sunday and Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem at Passover are John Dominic Crossan and the late Marcus Borg. They wrote a book together called “The Last Week” explaining the last week of Jesus’s life according to the Gospel of Mark within the matrix as Crossan calls it of Roman Imperial Theology.

This parade of Jesus is a demonstration. Scholars debate as to whether this is historical or parable, and I think it is probably some kind of combination, but what is real in all of this is the matrix for this spiritual story. The matrix is occupation by the Romans and the Jewish leaders over the people and everything that goes with it. As Dr. Crossan has said, you cannot talk about Martin Luther King and not talk about slavery and Jim Crow and lynchings, that is the entire matrix from which King arose, preached, and led a movement. You can’t talk about Jesus and not talk about Roman Imperial Theology and the Second Temple Theology which worked hand in hand to oppress the people of Palestine.

What is happening when Jesus enters Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, that is from the east, on the other side is a military parade from the west. They are showing their stuff. Roman soldiers on war horses. They have a job to do. This is Passover. This is the time of revolt. Passover is about after all, liberation from slavery and oppression. It is a hotbed of revolution and resistance. The Roman soldiers are marching in a loud and visible parade with everything they got. They are planting crosses in front of the gates to the city. Swords, arrows, soldiers everywhere. They will be needing to crucify people to show who is boss. That is what occupation means. Humiliation and control. They call it order. Occupation is the same then as it is today. Of course, the means, the weapons, are far more deadly today.

The parade of Jesus is a counter-parade. The people shouting Hosannas to Jesus are the people. These are people who have lost their land, their livelihoods, their lives to these oppressors who have taken over. They are the people who know the oppression of Rome and the Jewish Temple priests, Pharisees, scribes, and tax collectors who collaborate with their Roman masters. These people are considered non-essential. These people see in Jesus a way out. Freedom. Liberation. Dignity.

What they do not see in Jesus is what according to the gospels, Jesus saw. Jesus saw that he was going to be crushed by this oppression. He would die. He saw that his dying would do something for the future.

That future might be right now. Jesus taught by word and example that dying on your feet is better than living on your knees. Another person showed the world that same truth several hundred years later, Hussain Ibn Ali, in Karbala.

Now Christians and Muslims are going to disagree over the martyrdom of Jesus. According to the Qur’an, Jesus did not die but was taken to heaven. The Jews crucified Judas thinking it was Jesus. I have deep respect for that revelation and for the people who hold it. My mind may be changed. For now, my conscience sees Jesus as a martyr. That is where I am.

Christians and Muslims will see things differently probably until Jesus (peace be upon him) and Imam Mahdi (peace be upon him) reveal themselves, establish justice and straighten us all out. I hope that time comes soon. When that time comes, I will likely be shown that I had a lot of things wrong. I will face the judgment of the beneficent and compassionate God that judges in truth.

Assuming that Jesus did die on a cross as the Gospels say, for what? Why? What does that mean? Or what does the death of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) mean? What does it mean for us today in what I see as the beginning of the end of life as we know it?

On Palm Sunday we also hear the passion story, the story of Jesus’s execution. I am not going to read that today. You can find it in Matthew 27:11-54. It tells of the fake trial, Jesus’s crucifixion and the punchline after Jesus breathes his last, and there is an earthquake, a Roman soldier, a centurion exclaims:

“Truly this man was God’s Son!”

I do want to say something about what I think the designation, “God’s son” means and doesn’t mean. I think that Christianity probably made a wrong turn by saying that Jesus was different in kind from other human beings. He was different in degree, but not kind, as I see it.

The phrase Son of God was used by what came to be orthodox Christianity to say that Jesus was God. But the phrase “son of God” or “God’s son,” is an honorific title that means chosen one or prophet, someone selected to do a task. Prophet David or Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon them) could be called the same.

I see Jesus (peace be upon him) as a prophet chosen for a task. What is that task? I think Jesus showed us where we came from, what the problem is, and our way out.

I should say another thing. I am not an orthodox Christian or an orthodox Muslim or an orthodox anything. I am independent. I think what I think, change my mind as needed, and you can take what you think is true and reject what you don’t think is true. I am simply following my conscience.

Christian orthodoxy has considered the incarnation of Jesus, the divine Jesus incarnated into human flesh as unique to Jesus. I see it differently. I see Jesus as an example for everyone. I recommend reading David Icke regarding this. According to David Icke, we are infinite consciousness choosing to have a finite experience on earth. Like Jesus who was equal with God says Philippians chapter 2, but emptied himself (kenosis) and had an earthly experience. Here is that text:

Philippians 2:5-8:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

The difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that Jesus didn’t forget who he was when he emptied himself and became flesh. We forgot. We only see this world, the world of our senses, unless of course our consciousness has been ignited. The reason we forgot is because forces of evil have filled us with illusion and deception, telling us that this is all there is.

I find the Gnostics to be very helpful with this. The Nag Hammadi library, found in the 20th century after having been hidden for 16 hundred years is a treasure of esoteric thought about Jesus and the human condition. The Gospel of Thomas, which consists of sayings of Jesus, many of which are quite unlike sayings of Jesus in the other gospels, is helpful here, in regard to Jesus’s ultimate mission. As I put this together, Jesus is like an avatar. He chose to become human but never forgot that he was infinite consciousness. So are you. So am I. What Jesus and all the prophets and other intuitive insightful people have done is to ignite the spark of awareness in humanity. Awareness of who we really are. With that awareness comes freedom.

Humanity has become a prisoner. We are prisoners of this material realm, prisoners of our senses, and afraid of death. If you don’t think humans are afraid of death, then ask yourself how three billion of us have given up our societies and our rights and our dignity within a few short weeks because we are afraid of some so-called virus. The virus is fear. That is what the real virus is. The virus is the deception by which the rulers of this age, the powers of darkness, are enslaving us.

We are going to be fully enslaved very soon. I don’t know if we will be enslaved for centuries or whether we can, with God’s help, beat this. This is what I wrote on my Facebook page a couple of days ago.

“Life in America (and around the world) is ending as we have known it. It may seem to come back partially, for a short time. Then it will plunge into slavery. The vast majority will accept this enslavement thinking that the governments are protecting them. This enslavement could last for decades, maybe for centuries. Do I know that? No, I expect it. What do we do? You must accept that you are not your body. You are not your thoughts and perceptions. You are not your emotions. You will die and this experience will end. The real you will not end. The most important thing is spiritual grounding. This is a long battle. It is not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers and the rulers of this present darkness. It is not your job to worry whether or not people will wake up in time or whatever. It is each of our jobs to live this day and bear witness.”

We are to bear witness. That is what Jesus did. Others have as well. They spoke their truth and spoke it clearly and were killed for it. They knew that would happen. They did it because it was a way to communicate to future generations, perhaps to this present day that we must not fear death. When we do not fear death, when we live each day prepared to die, we can think more clearly about what is happening. Jesus sacrificed himself for that. We shouldn’t waste it.

What does the Gospel story of Jesus, particularly, the parade and the passion we are contemplating this week, have to do with our situation?

First of all, something isn’t right. We need to know who we are engaging. I think that this entire thing is a Problem-Reaction-Solution as David Icke calls it. All kinds of bad things are coming with a so-called pandemic as an excuse. We need to research this and expand our consciousness regarding what is happening. We may get out of lockdown. We may not. Even if we do, life will not be the same. We have allowed our governments (ultimately, those who control them) to have complete control over us. Those forces who control our governments are evil. They have been plotting our demise. Search out guides that have been proven to be trustworthy to you. David Icke is a person who I have found to be that. He is not at all surprised at what is happening. First, know what we are facing. Do the work.

Second, we need to be courageous and speak about what we know to be true and not allow others to bully us with their fear. The view by the established media and all the authorities do not allow for any other view except theirs. That view is, “Shut up and do what you are told.” Instead, we follow in the spirit of Jesus. We say what we see. We disobey when necessary, and face the consequences of that. I am thanking the citizen journalists, and citizen scientists, and citizen truth-tellers and asking you to keep going. This is called bearing witness.

Third, we need to know and be prepared that bearing witness could lead to sacrifice. Each day we must live as those who are prepared to die and know that when we die, we die as those who go forth to live. That is our spiritual bedrock. Do whatever practice you need to do, prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, spiritual writing, whatever, to reinforce that. Upon it we can do what we must.

Finally, we must trust that which is worthy of trust. Worrying over whether the world will awaken or trying to calculate how God will defeat evil is not our job. God is using us. As I understand it, God is saying, bear witness to what is true, to what is just, to what is real. Trust that you will know what you need to do when you need to know.

Godspeed, my friends.
And God bless.

I am John Shuck. My website is www.johnshuck.com
Find my videos at “What’s Real?” on Brighteon.

Be well. Be safe. Be attentive.