Palm Sunday – What are our barriers??

Last week, I participated in the Run for the Kids. As I signed up,ng I would have three other adults there, running beside me, with myself and Morgan. However, as the weeks went by, one by one, they dropped out – injuries, not confident to run five ks, busy, not enough time to train etc. So on the day, it turned out to be just Morgan and I.

So many thoughts ran through my head – it’s too scary: maybe I could just pretend to go… It’s too uncomfortable; maybe I could just say I’m feeling sick… What if I lose Morgan, what if I don’t know where to go, what if we get lost… But the day came and so we got up early, nervous as anything, donned our clothes and our running bibs, and went to the train station to catch the train. Sitting on the platform, I realised that I hadn’t written my name and number on his skin which I normally do in case he gets lost in a big crowd. So I asked a nice lady beside us if she happened to have a pen. She ruffled around in her bag, searching, and I guiltily said “Oh, if you can’t find it, don’t worry…” She smiled and kept searching, eventually finding one and passing it over. I quickly wrote my name and number on his arm and hopped on the train, thanking the nice lady. When we got into the city, it was chaotic. 40, 000 people in one reasonably small place is terrifying for me. But, Morgan was loving it. We found our starting spot, found a clear space and waited…

Then we were off and running. It was so much fun. Morgan had freedom he had only dreamed of – chatting to people around him, overtaking people as he raced ahead, encouraging me as he waited patiently for me to jog up and watch him again race off with my encouragement. And then I couldn’t see him. I kept searching as I looked ahead, looked behind, looked around – and couldn’t see him. Eventually I stopped, imagining him sitting on his own, crying, scared… I stood as tall as I could to see him but couldn’t stop him. A nearby police officer came over and asked if I was ok, and I explained to him what had happened. He said he’d look out for Morgan and call if he saw him. I thanked him and kept running. I pulled my phone out and held it in my hand, willing it to ring, willing for someone to find him and return him to me. I sped up, searching, I slowed down, looking everywhere, but I couldn’t see him. Suddenly my phone rang, and seeing the unfamiliar number I answered it by saying “Have you got Morgan?” The man on the other line chuckled, saying, “Yes we do, he’s safe with us and he’s ok.” He described where he was and I raced ahead to catch up – it turns out they were only about 300 metres ahead of me.

Everything was ok.

And for me, the day was amazing. I lost Morgan, yes, but that was a small part of the day. This was me, facing one of my fears – taking my boy in to a busy place, with so many people – and one of my fears eventuated. He got lost – quite considerably. It would have been for about 15 minutes. If you don’t think that’s a long time, you must never have lost a child. But although I lost him, we had the best day. It was so much fun, so exhilarating, so amazing. For me, it was a day where I saw the best of people. Everyone was running for a reason that day. I met some phenomenal people. People were running for daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, school mates who had spent time in the Royal Children’s Hospital. Everywhere you looked you could see pictures of children, and names on people’s shirts, inspiring people – young and old, amazing stories and journeys. We were there for our friends Regi and Jack, raising funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital because as most of you know, Jack has spent a lot of time there. There were so many others there making a difference, sharing their stories, running for others. And if we hadn’t gone, we wouldn’t have been part of that amazing story – the story of something much larger than ourselves.

We wouldn’t have experienced humanity at its best – a beautiful family putting their run on hold to ensure the safety and comfort of a little boy called Morgan who got lost. And the gracious help of a lovely lady who helped us in the morning by ruffling around in her bag to find a pen so I could write my name and number on my boy’s arm. Very luckily. If we hadn’t done this, we wouldn’t have realised how important it is to be part of something much wider than ourselves. If we hadn’t stepped out of our comfort zones, we would have been shutting ourselves off from something huge and wonderful and inspiring and Good. And I think we do this more often than not. We get very comfortable in our homes, in our lives, in our communities, that we are afraid to step out into something that can be so life giving, so enriching and nourishing.

We heard today in the readings about crowds going to gather, laying down clothes and palms, as the children did this morning. A people excited and hopeful, looking towards something brighter, something more. So, where do we fit in to this? What does it mean for us in today’s society to step outside of ourselves into something that is much wider, and more profound than just our little bubble? The Isaiah reading for today speaks about interacting with people. It speaks about listening, really listening to others, hearing what they have to say, and acting on it. It speaks about thinking about how you respond to people – encouraging one another. It speaks about how you view the world – do you see it through your own, closed eyes, or do you see it through the multi-coloured kaleidoscope of other’s? Do you take risks, step outside of your comfort zone once in a while, or do you keep yourself closed up and insular?

The Isaiah reading also says that if we do open up and make ourselves known and open to the world, not everyone is going to like what we say or do. Not everything we do will be fruitful or profound, and that’s ok. We have to remain steadfast and grounded in what we know to be right – it’s not always easy, but it is Good. To use the example of the run again – I lost Morgan, yes, but I didn’t forget why I was there. I didn’t give everything up when I found him and run home – which I have to admit I did consider. I found him, took his hand and kept running to the finish line, continuously aware of those around me who were also running for a very important purpose. It is very hard in this time to open ourselves to society and the wider community.

A lot of people live in fear after hearing about women being murdered in the streets, about the crime rate rising, about children being taken, so people – including myself – become more insular. It’s easier that way – it’s safer. But is it? If we put ourselves out there – if we crash down what we think are safety barriers, if we cross the line from comfortable into uncomfortable – because I believe that’s what we are called to do –I believe that’s what Jesus continued to do throughout his life – we are rewarded. Not rewarded in the sense of monetary value, or a pat on the back – but by our own growth, by our lives becoming richer, by knowing we are involved in a world much larger and more spacious than our own! Kyra Davis says “Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to break the rules. And we have to discover the sensuality of fear. We need to face it, challenge it, dance with it.” What rules would you be breaking? Hopefully not the laws… But what if you broke your own rules? What if the rule that said, I can’t talk to that person because it’s not what I do; or what about the rule that says, “I can’t do that because that’s not who I am”; or the rule that states that “I can’t do that because it’s not comfortable.” I’m sure all the people standing on the roadside, watching Jesus breaking the rules of society by riding a donkey into town rather than something more glamourous, had to break a few of their own rules by being there that day. They had to break a few of society’s rules by going and celebrating a King’s triumphant return into town. What stands in the way of us speaking to our neighbours, or strangers, or the homeless person sleeping under the bridge you just walked past, or signing up for a run, or celebrating small acheivements with someone? Generally, the answer will be ourselves. It is our own ideas of what is “normal” and “Right” and what society has deemed normal that stands in the way of meaningful and profound interactions with others. Sure, I’m not telling you all to sign up for the next marathon – even I won’t be doing that. But I’m just posing the question, what can you do to step outside of your comfort zone? Because, the reality is, we who are afraid to step outside of the comfort zone we have built around ourselves, are not that different to those who will deny Christ in four days time. Just like those who are screaming in excitement today will – by at the end of the week be screaming for blood.

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hose who will sit down for a meal on Thursday evening, will be struggling an internal battle of “Will I, won’t I.” What are the walls you have built up around yourself? What can you do to dip just one toe outside of that wall? Terrifying? Of course – that’s the point. “Often, stepping outside of your comfort zone is not careless irresponsibility, but a necessary act of obedience.” – Andy Stanley, Fields of Gold. So, what are the walls that can be chipped in to? We all have them? And if we do manage to chip away enough to poke a finger or a toe through a gap in the wall, our lives will become so much richer. We will experience God in a different way. We will hear his Word coming through us in many and varied ways. We will feel his warmth and love in different ways. So – how will you break down your walls? We all do it in different ways. And if you do – celebrate it. It’s a big thing to step outside of your comfort zone. It takes courage. Celebrate it. Live it. Revel in it. Last week, you were invited to spend time thinking about this, and writing down a barrier, perhaps one of the bricks in the metaphorical wall that stops us from seeing things differently, from opening ourselves up to the Goodness and love in the world. I have placed a piece of paper in the messenger today, and I’ll hand around pens and I invite you to take a few minutes thinking about what some of these barriers may be, to write them on the piece of paper, and then during the singing of the next song, or next week, or in the weeks to come, to come up and place them in the pot up here. In a while, your barriers, your uncomfortable moments will become mulch for a lemon tree, so that a tree will flourish and be fed. What a wonderful way for our insecurities and barriers to be fruitful – literally.

May the God continue to surprise and bring awe

May christ jesus celebrate your moments of grace and exciting ventures

May the holy spirit continue to journey with you and breathe with you through all days, now and always. Amen