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March Madness & The Gospel 

Sometimes, victory looks a lot like defeat!

Is your bracket filled out? If not, it’s too late now.

The NCAA Tournament has started! March Madness is underway! The Big Dance has begun!

Already teams that were supposed to make it to the second round have been sent home. Yesterday, a #5 seeded Baylor team was sent packing by #12 Yale; Purdue was defeated by the University of Arkansas - Little Rock; and Wichita St. ended the dreams of Arizona. My #7 Iowa Hawkeyes (seeded as a #1 in January) don’t play until 2pm today. #UNTIL

By the end of this weekend, the Sweet 16 will be set. However, most of us who have filled out brackets with the hopes of winning the office pool will have suffered unexpected defeats, which will leave our brackets “busted”. The victory that seemed so certain will be a distant memory, and our only hope will be that everyone else will have suffered even more devastating losses than us.  To use as much beloved Chicagoism, we will have to "wait until next year."

Every team enters the tourney with the hope of victory. But their hopes are nothing compared to the expectations and hopes of their fans.

Holy Week must have seemed a lot like that to many of those in Jerusalem.

This Sunday we will celebrate Palm Sunday. The day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the cheers of thousands already caught up in the festivities of the Passover celebration.  Just as teams in the NCAA tournament get to hear the shouts and cheers of their fans surrounding the court, on Sunday, we will wave our Palm Branches and shout, “Hosanna in the Highest!” We will be declaring that our guy is marching to victory! We also know how that ended... or at least appeared to end.

As Jesus entered the city that day, he knew something that the crowd only thought they knew. He was the victor! He was the one who was coming to rescue them. He was the one who would set them free. He was going to his coronation service. He was the king.

He also knew that the cheers of the crowd were empty cheers. He knew that the manner in which he was about to accomplish all of that was going to look like devastating defeat. He knew that the religious leaders had already plotted his destruction. He knew that the political establishment wanted him taken out too. He knew that the crowds were going to abandon him in favor of a violent mercenary. He knew that many were going to think he had failed, and that their hope had once again been replaced by hopelessness.

As the disciples, seekers, and skeptics entered the city that day, Jesus gave them only one thing to hang on to. His promise. His promise that no matter what happened next, no matter what they were about to see and hear, they needed to hang on to the promise which he had given them;

He is the Savior of the world. He is the King. He is making all things new.

Holy Week reminds us that as we go through the ups and downs of our lives, no matter what our circumstance, no matter how much suffering, abandonment, and betrayal we experience, our victory has been secured by Jesus in a way that was as counterintuitive as it was redemptive. Holy Week reminds us that the victory we need, and have been promised, isn’t always confirmed by the shouts of the crowds.

Remember that when you don’t have any teams in the Final Four.

- Pastor Michael (#Go Hawks!)

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