- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Donald L. Smedley at Mount Pisgah AME Church in Columbia.

The church fathers set apart this day as Palm Sunday, when we make these little crosses out of palm branches. We do it out of tradition, but do you understand why it is done?
I want to focus on the agony of the cross so that we don't turn this day into a relic, but seek to have God in our heart. We put the cross, like a relic, around our neck and on the wall. But do you know what God did for us?
We are often more interested in tradition than in God's word; His people have always been this way. In Jesus' time, they said "Alleluia" one day, and "crucify Him" the next. We do this because of our greed. We forget about what God has done for us, and when He does not bless us in the way we want, we holler, "Crucify Him."
We rely on traditions and on people rather than trusting God. We read this morning of how in Moses' day [Numbers 21:5] the people "spake against God and Moses." God brought them out of slavery, showed them miracles, but their greed and comfort zone made them complain. They wanted an easy route to heaven. Sometimes God must break us down to build us back up again.
Today we do the same by not following God's dictates. We follow our intellect instead. We went to school and received our degrees. But we must also be in God's spirit to understand His word. He has brought us out of the darkness into the light.
In the wilderness, Moses' people turned to idols and God told him to lift up the bronze serpent so those who gazed upon it were saved. Now, what is going on here? In Hebrews 13:9 we read, "Be not carried about with various and strange doctrine." We get onto a bandwagon of strange doctrine. The doctrine of Christ is fellowship and encouragement, but man's doctrine says, "I've got my rights."
Without God, Jesus' sacrifice and the Holy Spirit, what rights do we really have? Hebrews goes on, "For it is good that the heart be established by grace." Unless you have the grace of God, you have your own religion. You will think you know more about God than God Himself. He knows us from our head to our feet. He knows what you go through.
Even with Jesus' agony on the cross, people in this age don't know what God did for them. He shed His blood for us. Jesus tells Mary, "Don't touch Me yet, for I must go to my Father." He must deliver the blood to God before man touched Him, and the blood has come down and covered us. When we are covered, God blesses us, not because we are worthy, but because He now sees us as His children. God wants to pick us up out of the muck with His grace.
So it is important to have the grace of Jesus Christ in our lives. The agony of the cross is every day. We live in sin every day. And some of us think we live righteously. Church, it is not good enough to just consider the cross. We are good at that. We have holy weeks. We wear crosses around our necks, and carry big Bibles with crosses.
But the cross is not about relics, but how we live and how people see the joy in your life. You should have a smile on your face, and even when abused, you can say, "Alleluia." It is not enough to believe in the historical reality of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must be transformed by that. In John 12 we read, "And Jesus said unto them, 'Yet, in a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have this light.'" You must understand that it is only the light of Jesus Christ that people can see in our lives, not what you tell them. It's not because you come to church on Sunday. It's about your life.
Jesus called us to walk in that light. He didn't say let your Bible and your cross shine. He said let your disposition and your life "so shine" and give God the glory.

Next week: an Easter sermon in Virginia

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