Palm Sunday / March 20,  2005 / Rev. Carol Kniseley

Title:  Three People I’d Like to Meet in Heaven


Mitch Albom has written an enormously popular book that has caught the attention of many folks.   In fact, Hallmark has already made a movie out of the book which aired just a month or so ago on national TV.     Perhaps you have heard of it:  ‘the five people you meet in heaven’.      Without giving too much of the story line away, the basic underlying premise is that nothing we do in this life should ever be considered  ordinary” or taken for granted.   The truth is, each one of our lives impacts one another in ways that we can not even begin to imagine.   A timely word spoken here…a kind gesture given there…a hand extended in servitude when it would have been far more convenient to simply turn and walk away.   


Today…as we approach the holiest week of the entire year…it occurs to me that there are at least three folks that I would like to meet in heaven.      Three ordinary folks whose actions during the last week of Jesus’ life were anything but “ordinary.”    The first person I want to meet can be found in the crowd on what we have come to call “Palm Sunday”.     Not that I know his name or even the slightest idea as to what he looks like.    I only know what he gave.   He is the  guy who gave a donkey to Jesus on the Sunday he entered Jerusalem.


If he were sitting here right now, I would want to ask several questions.     How did you know?   How did you know that it was Jesus who needed a donkey?      Did an angel appear from out of nowhere and say, “This is the one…give it to him?”     Or did you simply have a gut feeling when the disciples dropped by and said that “the Lord needs them”?       


Was it hard to give?    Not knowing whether you could trust these guys or not with your animals…was it hard to simply hand them over and watch them walk away?         How did it feel?   Watching Jesus go by on your donkey?    Were you proud?   Were you embarrassed?   Or were you irritated that all of this hoopla was for the birds and now you were stuck here…regretting your decision to be generous.  


Did  you have any idea that God would one day come riding through the streets of Jerusalem on the back of one of your donkeys?     And that some 2000 years later, folks would be reading all about your generous act…and pondering what made you do it.      The more I think about your story, the more I begin to think about our own.     And to understand…that we all have a donkey to give to Jesus.    We all have “something” that if simply given back to God could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further on down the road.    


Things like having the ability to sing, to bake a delicious pie, to program a computer, to teach a class of 1st Graders, to offer someone a ride or to simply take the time to write a card and tell someone they were missed.      Whatever that “something” is…that is your donkey.     If only we could learn to give to God…as freely as the guy with the donkey.


The next person I would want to meet is the man who opened his home to Jesus and his disciples…on the night of our Lord’s Last Supper.   To him I would like to ask:   “What did you think?    When you heard that Jesus was coming over to your house that night?”    Did your heart begin to beat a step quicker?    Did you even have time to run home and fluff up the pillows?    Of all the homes he could have chosen…he had to go and choose yours.    


Was it difficult to simply hand over the key and get out of the way?    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall that night.    Did you overhear Jesus give to his disciples a whole new understanding of what it means to receive God’s Grace?    Grace unleashed…as the bread is torn and the wine is poured.  Grace overflowing…as the water is used to wash the dirt from each one of his disciples feet.     Did it ever occur to you…that because of your generosity…Jesus was able to share with his disciples a lesson that is still being taught today?      All because you said “yes”…and welcomed Jesus into your home.    


The third person I would like to meet…is probably the hardest one to imagine.    In my mind’s eye, he was simply a carpenter by trade.   Chosen by the Romans to fashion from wood, as he did so well, an instrument that not only paid for his family’s food…but was used to inflict immeasurable pain.     The instrument he was so good at crafting was the cross…and it is to him that I would like to ask: 
What did you feel…as you watched Jesus carry your cross…all the way to Calvary?     Couldn’t you have said…”NO!   I won’t do it!”    But then again, the Romans weren’t exactly asking…were they?  


The truth be told…we all could have said no on a number of different occasions.    No…to temptation.   No…to putting ourselves first.    No…to bad thoughts, bad attitudes, and bad behavior.    All stemming from such a high opinion of our own self worth.    And such a low opinion of everyone else.     Have we forgotten who we are dealing with here?     Your story reminds us that even in the worst of circumstances…God can take whatever it is that we have to offer Him and turn it to the good.      God can take our “ordinary” everyday excuses for not following him and even then use us as instruments of his unrelenting grace.


Why?    Because if God can use a donkey…a piece of ordinary bread…a cup of ordinary wine…a bowl of tap water…and an instrument of torture to carry Jesus and His story even a step further down this road…then God can do absolutely anything with what you and I have to offer today.      Three ordinary people…whom I hope to meet in heaven some day.    Folks like you and like me…who when given the opportunity gave something back to God.   May we learn from their example.   And…may God grace each one of us…this Holy Week…with opportunities to do the same.       Amen