Sunday, November 28, 2021

Luke.19.28-40; First Sunday in Advent, November 28, 2021;

Luke.19.28-40; First Sunday in Advent, November 28, 2021;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” (Luke 19:28-40, ESV)
(from an outline by Rev. Harold Senkbeil, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol 17, 2006)
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Oops! Is that right? That sounds like the reading for Palm Sunday not Advent. That sounds like preparation for Good Friday not Christmas. We seem to have skipped right over Christmas and dropped into Lent and Easter. Are you sure pastor you’ve got the readings, right? Well, yes, I do. The lectionary this text for the beginning of Advent. It is set before Jesus going into Jerusalem to give his life on the cross for our forgiveness. It makes sure we have all our ducks in the right row as we approach Christmas. You see, the cross and the cradle are connected together. Christmas isn’t just a story about the birth of a baby; it’s the story of the birth of a particular baby. He is born for a certain specific task: to die for the sins of the world. But you don’t have to take my word for it, just listen to what the angels tell the shepherds:
And the angel said to them,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11, ESV) You see, the whole story of the birth of Jesus Christ is told for the purpose of telling us about what He did to be Savior of the whole world. It links together the cross and the cradle.
The birth of Jesus tells us a very important thing about Jesus. It tells us that he is completely human, completely flesh and blood. He was born just as every human being is born. He was a helpless infant just like every human being. It tells us that God didn’t just make some far out way of salvation for us, but He came to us in human flesh. That very same human flesh hung and bled and died on the cross. But to do that God had to take on human flesh, being born of a virgin, in a stable, in diapers, so that the law would actually apply to him. St. Paul says it like this:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV)
So, we have the wood of the cradle on one end of the story, and the wood of the cross on the other. So today with the cradle in mind we look ahead to the whole point of the story, Jesus purposely going to the cross to give us peace.
First be clear that what Jesus does is not an accident. He knows where he is going. It’s his plan from the very beginning. That is just what he tells his disciples. They don’t like it. They don’t understand it. But Jesus makes his plan clear. And along the way the way he spends time with sinners in Jericho. These were the folks other folks only want to avoid, like blind people that he gave their sight, and Zacchaeus the tax collector who Luke tells us received faith in Jesus. You remember Zacchaeus hanging up in the tree to see Jesus, and Jesus telling him to get down because he was going to see him at his house. Along the way to die Jesus spends time with those he came to “seek and to save.” (Luke 19:10, ESV) And in our reading today he sets the dramatic stage for it all. He sends the disciples ahead to arrange things. You remember a colt “on which no one has ever ridden” you know the one that Jesus said would be there. The disciples find it just as Jesus said they would, and they bring it and say exactly what they are told to say. “The Lord has need of it.”
It is all dramatic and on purpose. Luke wants us to be clear about what Jesus is doing and who he claims to be. The donkey was an important symbol. By riding into town on it, Jesus is claiming to be the new true king of Israel; the one King Herod was really afraid of; the one he tried to kill by killing every child under two years old in Bethlehem. And not only that but Jesus is saying by this very action that he is God come to do what God has promised to do all along, save his people. The prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9, ESV)
And yet, riding a donkey is a very humble pose for God to enter a city.
And not only does Jesus know where he’s going, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He didn’t die by accident. The folks around him didn’t see it coming, but Jesus knows. They couldn’t understand why he would have to die, why (from their perspective everything he had done would end). But Jesus knows it all. He sets his whole being toward the cross. He knew he had to suffer and die and rise again according to God, the Father’s plan. He knew he was the sacrifice for the sins of the world, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)
The baby in the manger is headed for glory. And yet, it goes away that we don’t necessarily like or understand. Did you hear on the news the other day about the Church that got in trouble for building a Christmas float with a crucified Jesus on it? People what to see the baby, you and I want to see the baby, but we like to put the cross out of our minds. Even if it is just for Christmas, we think that we can put aside Christ’s sacrifice. It’s just as St. Paul said the cross is a public offense. But Jesus glory, his victory over sin, death and Satan only comes through the blood of the cross. We can never hear about it enough.
The disciples didn’t understand it either. Even though Jesus told them what was going to happen, they thought that march into Jerusalem was the beginning of Jesus sitting on the throne right there in their capitol city. Just like the crowds, listen again to what they were shouting:
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38, ESV)
It must have been a surprise to all of them (and a letdown) when he when straight to the temple instead of the palace. Jesus told his disciples that his kingdom was coming in full only on his return. That’s what we sang about that in the new hymn we learned today. Jesus’ road to glory passes through the cross. As his followers our road passes that way too. We enter the glory that Jesus has set aside for us only through much trouble, pain, and death. St. Paul preached that very thing to the young churches he started “saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22, ESV) By the end of the week the king who rode into the city with cheers has other voices mocking him as he dies on the cross. Jesus is the sacrifice for their sin. Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn king; Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled."
“Peace on earth.” We sing. Jesus does all this to bring peace on earth. He breaks the bonds of sin to reconcile sinners to God. Just ask Zacchaeus! Jesus came down from heaven as a human being, born in a lowly stable. He did that to bring peace by joining God to man. He brought peace “on earth” by shedding his blood on the cross. He returns to heave to join man to God. He sits at the right hand of God declaring that human beings are now at peace with God again. In his Word he proclaims to you and me that we are released from the slavery of our sin.
Well, that’s fine, Pastor. Peace on earth that’s what everyone wants. But how can I have peace? What about me? When do I get peace? Life isn’t easy you know, Pastor. It seems to be for everyone else but not me. I don’t have what I need to live. Everything I do turns sour and worthless. The holiday stress only puts my family at each other’s throats. I doesn’t seem like I get to slow down and enjoy the good things in life? When does the ‘holiday spirit’ return for me since my father / mother / sister / brother / child died? The empty space at the table seems to suck up all the joy that should be here. What about some peace to wipe away the memories of the shameful things I’ve done that plague me at three in the morning? At least the baby in the manger story is a happy one. What you are telling me today, though Pastor isn’t a happy story. It’s the story of blood and pain. It’s a story of suffering and death. I get enough of that in my life without smearing the good feelings of Christmas with it.
When you look on the baby in the cradle and see also there the cross that is the best picture, I can paint for you of God’s peace. It is God coming because you lie awake in sweaty guilt; exactly because you suffer the loss of love in death and struggle with living every day, because sin makes life a burden. That’s the problems that Jesus comes among us to resolve.
He brings peace from God, and he brings it right here where you can so easily find it. We hear Jesus speaking words of peace right here. We call it the Gospel. The word means “Good News.” It’s not just good news because it tells us a sweet story, it tells us the good thing about Jesus, who came to our Savior; Jesus who was born into human flesh. That very same Jesus enters our hearts and minds through his Word and the water of Baptism and the bread and wine. He comes to you and me through faith and He comes to hold them us up when life is difficult. From the words he speaks into your heart He reminds you that even though things are hard, he makes sure it all works out for your good. He reminds us that God is in control of everything he even counts the hairs on your head. And that nothing can separate you from his love, even down feelings that seem to pop up this time of year. And He whispers in your heart the truth about love and death. That it isn’t the end it is only a temporary separation for those who live in faith. When we approach this altar and feast with Jesus, we join in a heavenly feast that our missing loved ones are celebrating already, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. And when Satan reminds you that you’ve failed, usually while you lay sleepless in your bed, Jesus is here (in your heart) to calm your fears and remind you that he suffered and died to put away your guilt forever. That’s the peace that Jesus brings. That’s the peace that comes by his cross and cradle. That’s the peace that comes in the name of the Lord.
That’s the peace that we have through God’s Word working in us, and it’s a peace we joyously proclaim. And it’s not just lip service either. We do it by taking time during our busy holiday schedule to serve, and there’s lots to do this time of year isn’t there. We got trees to decorate with mittens, Christmas baking to deliver, and toys for tots to purchase. Not to mention just giving a helping hand and a cheerful word to our neighbors. But Jesus in us isn’t just for this season either. Actually, we serve all year round. We do it every day as we work the work that has been given us to do, like planting crops, baking bread, making pizza, delivering housing materials, teaching children, or whatever it is that you do for work. That too is the peace that Jesus brings through his cross and cradle. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Psalm.149; All Saints Day; November 7, 2021;

Psalm.149; All Saints Day; November 7, 2021;
Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD a | new song,*
his praise in the assembly of the | godly!
Let Israel be glad in his | Maker;*
let the children of Zion rejoice | in their King!
Let them praise his name with | dancing,*
making melody to him with tambou- | rine and lyre!
For the LORD takes pleasure in his | people;*
he adorns the humble with sal- | vation.
Let the godly exult in | glory;*
let them sing for joy | on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be | in their throats*
and two-edged swords | in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the | nations*
and punishments on the | peoples,
to bind their | kings with chains*
and their nobles with fet- | ters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment | written!*
This is honor for all his godly ones. |
Praise the LORD!
Glory be to the Father and | to the Son*
and to the Holy | Spirit;
as it was in the be- | ginning,*
is now, and will be forever. | Amen.
Grace and peace to you from Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Now let's be honest. This psalm makes you a bit uncomfortable, doesn't it? I mean, you agree with it at first, then toward the middle it gets a bit rough. I mean praising God with a two-edged sword isn't quite the image we have of church. I forgot my saber at home, what about you? And that "executing vengeance" and “punishments on the peoples" is a bit strong. Does God really mean to slap kings in irons? All of that just doesn't seem to fit with "Sing to the LORD a new song". Well, at the very least it's not a NEW song. It sounds like this is one of those things in the bible that's just a bit outdated, one of those embarrassing things we push under the carpet with a broom when no one is looking. I guess pastor wasn't paying attention when this one was picked for today’s sermon... maybe we should have stopped it with "Let the godly exult in glory let them sing for joy on their beds."
Actually, there are lots of ways to understand this psalm. First of all, in its historical context it made perfect sense for God's people to rejoice in God doing just what the psalm is talking about. They had enemies all around them that we bent on their destruction. God's promise of a Savior extended to his protection of the people from where the Savior would come. They rejoiced in God's protection. And it was right for them to do so. But why in the world do WE read and sing this psalm? Maybe it would be better just to cut it off in the middle.
Well before we get to that point, I think its a good time to review a bit about the Book of Psalms. First, I want you to remember that the Psalms are the prayer book of the church for all time. In them you'll find every aspect of Christian life described, every emotion, every evil called out, every claim and promise of God. Martin Luther thought very highly of them and used them every day in his daily devotions. The Psalter is a book of poetry. But it is much more than that. It is a prayer book, the prayer book of the church. It you want ample proof that it's ok to pray pre-written prayers you have an example here of 150 of them. The way to understand what the psalms are saying is to understand two things about them. First, they are poetry, Hebrew poetry. They have a specific structure. Each verse (usually) contains one thought. The thought is expressed in the first half of the verse (called a strophe, marked by the *). Then in the second half the thought is repeated and expanded or explained. And so, the psalms are written to sing antiphonally. That is, back and forth, person to person. Each thought is sung and then repeated by the other person. That's why we speak / chant them the way we do on Sunday morning. Hebrew poetry is also known for its compactness. In Hebrew the psalms don't often rhyme, but they do have a meter, and lots of alliteration (that is words that have complementary sounds). It's like a conversation about God, from God. It's confessing (same saying) what God tells us about himself.
But the really important thing to remember about the Psalms, and the best way to get meaning out of them is to read them as World War II Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “the Psalter is the prayer of Christ for his church in which he stands in for us and prays in our behalf…In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ’s own prayer [and] as such is the great school of prayer.”
“In the first place, we learn here what it means to pray on the basis of the word of God, to pray on the basis of promises…In the second place, we learn by praying the Psalter what we should pray for just as surely as the range of the prayers of the Psalms goes far beyond the experience of any individual, we still pray the whole prayer of Christ in faith, the prayer of the one who was the truly human being and who alone has taken into his life the full range of the experiences of this prayer…In the third place, praying the psalms teaches us to pray as a community…the deeper we penetrate into the Psalms and the more often we ourselves have prayed them, the simpler and richer our own prayer will become.”\
Jesus Christ has brought every need, every joy, every gratitude, every hope of men before God. In his mouth the word of man becomes the Word of God, and if we pray this prayer with him, the Word of God becomes once again the word of man. (The Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer) A simple way to remember it is to "put the psalms on the lips of Jesus." He did that all the time in his ministry. He quoted them. He prayed them. All at the most important times in his ministry. The psalms are Jesus’ prayer book.
The best example is Jesus on the cross quoting Psalm 22. It tells us exactly what's going on in Jesus, as he hangs there.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:1–2 (ESV)
Jesus means for us to see him speaking the whole Psalm there. And there He wants us to understand that there on the cross he is suffering the eternal punishment of our sin. That is, he was abandoned by God. He suffered the eternal punishment of hell. Eternal separation from God. It is what you and I earn for our lives of sin. It is what you and I could not avoid because we are "by nature sinful and unclean." Had it not been for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross there; all we could look forward to is dying in our sin and eternity separated from God, in the eternal punishment of hell. You see, if it were not for Jesus, there would indeed be no "new song" to sing. There would be no reason for "dancing" and "melody" to God. In Jesus this psalm rings out in praise to God for saving us from our enemies, from sin, death and hell.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13–15, ESV)
So, the old testament saints sang this psalm in praise for God's deliverance from their enemies, and in light of the Savior who would do the same. And so, we sing it, too, because we have been delivered from our enemies.
And what about those saints whose names we'll read in a moment? Well, they are singing this psalm right now. For them the words of salvation are most poignant. They have passed through death to life.
For the Lord takes pleasure in his | people;*
he adorns the humble with sal- | vation.
Let it be so also for us!
And... there's always one more thing. It's that sword thing:
Let the high praises of God be | in their throats*
and two-edged swords | in their hands,
I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't make the connection here to Jesus himself.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12–13, ESV)
Our message is this Word of God, and it does just what the psalm says. It executes judgment, it binds kings (and all people) to their sin. And that is our proclamation of the Law. Remember the S O S? The Law shows us our sin. It is a necessary part of our message to ourselves and the whole world. So that people see their true place before a holy God, deserving only God's wrath and punishment. Without the proclamation of the Law no one would see their need for Jesus on the cross. But the Sword of Word is also the S O S of the Gospel. It shows us our Savior. Jesus saves us by his life, death and resurrection. The Book of Hebrews continues:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14–16, ESV)
This is our two-edged sword. The Good News of a Savior from sin. And is it ours to wield in the world. Amen. The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.