Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. . .

Sermon preached for Palm/Passion Sunday, March 29, 2015.

   Today we recall how our Lord entered Jerusalem.  It was the Sunday before His betrayal at the hands of Judas, before a crown of thorns was placed on His head, and before the nails would pierce His hands and feet.  He entered the city as its King. No, He did not come in kingly garb as head of state nor did He enter as triumphant hero from the battlefield carrying the colors of victory.  He did not enter His city for temple or castle or for accolades and thrones. 
    He said it.  My Kingdom is not of this world.  His entry into Jerusalem could not have better portrayed His words.  For He was a humble King, mounted on a humble beast of burden, to the humility of betrayal, suffering, and death.  He was the innocent One who died for the guilty, the victim of the scheme of His enemies, and the last person on earth whom most would claim as King.  But He did this to keep the prophet’s promise and deliver His Father’s world to Him clean and holy.
    The law was not made for kings and queens.  At least that is what earthly kings and queens and presidents have claimed.  They are above it.  But not this King.  King Jesus came as one who was born under the Law in order to fulfill it – even when that meant the innocent dying for the guilty, the righteous for the evil, and the Lord of life for a people captive to death.  For a people like us, who refused the Law, who gave ourselves to very sin and vice, to every shame and evil, to lust and lies, to envy and thievery, to porn and pride...  What kind of King would suffer for the sins of His people?  For sins not His own?

    This King has come for sinners such as you and I.  And it is good that He came – for without Him we have no virtue and no hope of paying the mountain of debt our sins incurred.  This is His story but He has made us the beneficiaries of all that He came to do.  His tortured death releases us from the torture of our sin and death, from the living agony of waiting to die.  His lonely suffering has forged us together in unity as a people whose common baptism into His death and whose new life born of His resurrection embrace the lonely and lost.  He entered the city of His own will and desire.  He is our King and He has earned the right to claim us by suffering in our place and dying for us the death that was ours to die.
    Yet His Kingly love refuses to order us or compel us against our will.  He woos and wins us with the love that forgives the sins of guilty sinners, that pays our every shameful debt to sin we owe, that carries every burden we refuse to bear, and that pays the ransom none of us are worth paying for.  And not with silver or gold but with His holy and precious body and blood.  He is King like no other.  They called Him “King” as joke but the joke was on them.  He is the one and only man born of woman who has the right to this title and whose life is worthy of the name above every other name by which any would be saved.
    He claims no glory but the cross and He calls us to no other glory than the cross-shaped glory of that death.  He does not ask for our pity but has pitied us enough to save us at the cost of Himself.  He does not ask for our respect but has respected us who were like garbage to be discarded and forgotten. 
    He does not ask for our admiration but refuses to be idealized or His cross romanticized.  He asks us only to look upon that cross and see the suffering that releases us from suffering, the death that kills death, and the life that no one could take but He willingly offers.  And this cross is our glory.  We are determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.  Lord, where else can we go?  You have the words of eternal life. 
    Jesus calls us not to regret but repentance, not to sorrow but contrition, not to lament but to hopeful faith. This is His victory painted in blood.  This is His life surrendered for the higher purpose of our own redemption.  This is His love not in words but in actions that have marked history even for those who refuse to be blest by that love. 
    And so we come.  We come to hear again the King who dies for His undeserving and rebellious subjects... to meet again in the shadow of the cross where our redemption was born... to recall again the water that cleanses us from all sin... to eat again His flesh for the life of the world and His blood shed for you and for me.   So today we say and sing, as we do each Divine Service:  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.  Amen.

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