March 28, 2021 Sermon

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Mar 282021

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Psalm 24

It’s very fitting that Luke records Jesus’ parable of the ten minas right before his account of Palm Sunday. You might remember that, in that parable, Jesus pictures himself as a nobleman who travels to a distant country to be made king and then return. But some of his workers don’t want him to be made king. They even send a delegation to state their objection. But the objection is overruled, and he is made king anyway. When he returns, he has his servants give an account of how they managed his possessions while he was gone. Then he says, as for those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and kill them in front of me.

  What a strong warning for those among the crowds on Palm Sunday who called on Jesus to tell the children who welcomed him with songs of praise to be quiet. What a strong warning for those among the crowds on Palm Sunday who later said to Pilate, we have no king but Caesar, and who asked him to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus, who objected to Pilate’s placard on the cross that called Jesus the King of the Jews.

In one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, he says to the people, when you hear that there was no room for Jesus in the inn, you are quick to say, ‘If I had been there, I would have welcomed him.’ You say that so confidently, but how do you welcome him now? The temptation is the same for us as we think about Palm Sunday and Holy Week. We are quick to say “If I had been there, I would have welcomed Jesus. I would never have called for Barabbas or the crucifixion of Jesus. But it’s good for us to ask ourselves the question Luther asked. How do we welcome him now?

David begins by reminding us, The earth is the LORD’s and everything that fills it, the world and all who live in it, because he founded it on the seas, and he established it on the rivers.

As you hear those words, the one and only Triune God is knocking at your door. Do you acknowledge him as your king? Do you open the gates and let him in?

Unfortunately, many, not just out there in the world, but in the church, shut the door on the one and only king of the universe. They join the servants of the nobleman and say, “we don’t want him to be our king.” And it’s not just by rejecting what the Bible clearly says, that everything is the Lord’s because he made it. It’s what everyone does by nature. Ever since Adam and Eve tried to be like God everyone wants to be their own god. Everyone wants to do their own thing without consequences. That’s really where evolution comes from. Not science, but man’s original sin; man’s desire to be his own god. You see, if God is not the creator and owner of everything then we don’t have to answer to him, there is no such thing as sin and no such thing as eternal punishment or eternal glory. Sinful humans want to be their own king.

  Lift up your heads, you gates. Lift up, you ancient doors, and the King of Glory will come in. Who is he, this King of Glory? The LORD of Armies—he is the King of Glory.  Acknowledge that the one and only Triune God, the Lord of Armies, of the heavenly hosts of angels, the maker of the stars and galaxies, is the King. Acknowledge that he is your king. Acknowledge that he made you and all that exists, that he gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, everything you are and have. Recognize that he will return and that you will have to give an account for the way that you have used your body, your time, and all the possessions he allowed you to take care of for him.

Acknowledging that the one and only Triune God is the king of glory, the ruler of heaven and earth, the one who will call you to give an account for the way you manage his property raises some important questions.

  Who may go up to the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, whose soul is not set on what is false, who does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God who saves him.

  When Jesus returns, having been made king because he accomplished his mission, defeated death, and Satan, rose from the dead and is seated on his throne in heaven, who will stand before him? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. Does that describe you? Are you one who never trusts in worthless things or swears by something that isn’t true? Have you ever trusted in your own strength or wisdom? Have you ever trusted in your savings, or in medicine, or the promises of a politician that turned out to be a lie? Have you ever promised on oath to do something and then not done it?

Obviously, we have all sinned. None of us have clean hands and a pure heart. None of us deserve to stand in the holy place of the king of glory. None of us are any better than those on Palm Sunday who didn’t want Jesus to be welcomed as a king and who later called for his crucifixion and objected to the sign that called Jesus their king. When Jesus comes, he should call for our execution, our eternal punishment with Satan and all sinners.

But David gives us hope. He talks about receiving blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God who saves us.

David says, Lift up your heads, you gates. Lift yourselves up, you ancient doors, and the King of Glory will come in. Who is this King of Glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

  What a battle we witness this week! We see Jesus struggling with his emotions as he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. Imagine him washing the feet of Judas knowing what he would do, yet not washing them any differently than the others. Imagine how he must have wanted to shake Peter when he bragged about how he would be the only one who would not forsake him. We see the struggle he faced as he prayed in the garden, praying so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood. Imagine seeing the cup of suffering for sin, not just the sins of a few, but for the sins of every person who ever has or ever will live. Imagine the struggle to keep from calling down fire and brimstone on those who were telling lies and who were making a mockery of their positions as spiritual leaders. Imagine the struggle to keep from cursing those who mocked and cursed him for no reason. We hear the struggle as he calls out from the cross, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.

We witness the battle. We hear the struggle. But then we hear the proclamation of victory. It is finished. Next Sunday we celebrate that Jesus is indeed the king of glory. He is the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. He is the one who was delivered to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification. He is the one who took on Satan and crushed his head. He is the one who defeated the last enemy, death itself. He rose from the dead. He ascended back to heaven as the conquering hero. He has been made king. All things have been placed under his feet. He is the redeemer king, the God who saves us, the one who graciously gives us the righteousness we need to stand before God. He is the one who enables us to cleanse our sin-stained hands with his blood, and who creates a pure heart within us. Welcome him as your king, your conquering hero.

Your king comes to you, meek and lowly. He comes to you in a way that is despised by the world. He comes to you as one who was crucified. He comes to you, not with fantastic signs and miracles, but with a simple proclamation. He proclaims his victory in the Word. He offers righteousness and forgiveness in words, gracious promises attached to water, and bread, and wine. As Scripture says, Today, as you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts. Lift up your heads, your redemption has come. Welcome the king of glory as your Lord, your creator and your redeemer, the God who Saves You. Welcome him by reading, hearing, and learning his word daily, and by receiving his sacrament often. Have him enter your heart in the only way he promises he will, through the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament.

Jesus is one with the Father from eternity. He is the creator and king of the universe. He chose to come down to earth and fight our battle with sin, death, and the devil for us. He won the victory. He lived a perfectly righteous life in our place. His heart was always pure, and his hands were always clean. He went to the cross as the spotless lamb of God and took on himself the punishment we deserve. His resurrection proves his victory. Like the nobleman in his parable, he has gone to heaven as God and man to be declared our Redeemer king, our king of glory. On a day no one knows he will return in the clouds of heaven and everyone will bow before him, even those who pierced him. Be watchful. Eagerly await his return. Serve him as your king now as you look forward to welcoming him when he returns in glory.

March 21, 2021

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Mar 212021

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Psalm 143

David knew what it was like to be pursued by enemies. When Saul heard the people celebrating Israel’s victories by singing “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten-thousands”, he was filled with jealousy. His jealousy turned to rage, and one day, he picked up his spear and threw it at David while he was playing his harp. Later his son Jonathan talked some sense into him and Saul let David alone for a while, but his rage eventually returned, and Saul threw his spear at David again. After that David was on the run, hiding in caves, even living among the Philistines for a while. With God’s help he managed to always stay one step ahead of Saul and escape. On one occasion Saul was chasing him around a mountain. It looked like there was no escape for him. But just as Saul was getting close to capturing David, word came that the Philistines were attacking, and Saul had to stop his pursuit and to go to fight the Philistines. David must have wondered if his life of running from Saul would ever end.

When Saul was killed in battle David’s life changed. He was made king. He didn’t have to run for his life from Saul anymore. But his enemies didn’t completely disappear. He still had to fight the Philistines and others who attacked Israel. And just when it seemed that he had defeated all the nations around him and would not have to be constantly fighting wars, he faced another enemy. Temptation. He wasn’t looking to see it, he was just out walking on the roof of his palace and accidently happened to see Bathsheba bathing and the enemy won a victory. As James says, each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. David entertained his evil desire, he acted on it and then had Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, killed to cover up what he had done.

Thankfully, when Nathan confronted him with his sin, he confessed, and Nathan assured him of God’s forgiveness. But there were consequences. He faced troubles in his family for the rest of his life.

David’s life story reminds us that the struggle is relentless. We are surrounded by enemies who pursue us. The sinful world around us is constantly trying to convince us that this life is all there is so forget about all this god stuff. Let your hair down and live it up while you can. Just when you quiet the voices of the world for a while, something pops up on your screen, not something you were looking for or wanted to see, but there it is, stirring up all kinds of desires you know are wrong. Then, as Peter reminds us, there is Satan, the roaring lion who is constantly prowling, looking for any opportunity he can find to devour us.

The struggle, the struggle against the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh is relentless. There are days when we identify with David. The enemy pursues my soul. He crushes my life to the ground. He makes me dwell in dark places like those long dead, so my spirit grows faint inside me. Within me my heart is devastated… My spirit fails. We are ready to throw up our hands and say, “what’s the use? I can’t take it anymore. I can’t win. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. I just can’t keep struggling against these enemies. They are relentless. They are too powerful for me.”

As bad as we might feel in moments like that, times when we feel helpless and overwhelmed, it’s a good thing to realize that we can’t defeat our enemies on our own. It’s a good thing to realize that we need help, and then, like David, to turn to the Lord as our helper.

David says, LORD, hear my prayer. Give ear to my cry for mercy. In your faithfulness, answer me in your righteousness. Do not bring charges against your servant because no one living can be righteous before you.

Like David, we admit that there is no reason in us that God should hear our prayer or help us. No one living is or can be righteous in God’s sight. We have all sinned and fallen short of the righteousness God requires of us. We have not won every battle with our relentless enemies. We have given in to our sinful desires. We have listened to the lies of Satan. We have followed the ways of the world. If God did what he justly could do, hide his face from us because of our unrighteousness, we would be like those who go down to the pit of Hell. So, we come to him crying out for mercy. We come to him because he is faithful to his promises. We come to him, not on the basis of our own reputation for goodness, but for the sake of his name, the LORD, the God of faithful love.

We are moved to turn to the LORD, to spread out our hands to him, because we remember the days of long ago. We meditate on all his works and consider what his hands have done.

We recognize that, as the one who created all that exists simply by speaking a word, he has the power to help. As we review what he did for Israel, dividing the Red Sea, providing food and water in the wilderness, knocking down the walls of Jericho, causing the sun to stand still, slaying in one night 185,000 Assyrians were who laying siege to Jerusalem; as we hear the angel tell Mary that nothing is impossible with God and we see Jesus calming storms, walking on water, casting out demons, healing every sickness and disease, and even raising the dead; as we meditate on all that God has done, we are convinced that he can do whatever we ask. Nothing is impossible for him. No enemy is too powerful for him.

As we see that, when Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them a promise that there would be a seed of the woman who would crush the head of our relentless enemy; as we hear God repeat that promise to Abraham and we are told that righteousness was credited to Abraham through faith in that promise; as we see that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, he was the seed of a woman, and as we are reminded of all the other promises of God that are fulfilled in him– born in Bethlehem, betrayed by a friend, crucified so that his hands and feet were pierced, with the rich in his death, and alive again on the third day; we are convinced of his faithfulness. Not a single promise he has made will ever fail. Hearing about his faithful love, his mercy every morning, moves us to trust in him even when it feels like we are crushed to the ground and our spirit grows faint.

In his revelation, John sees the souls of those who were martyred, who were executed because of their faith in Jesus. He hears them calling out to God, how long, Lord? How long does the struggle of God’s people on earth have to continue? We don’t like the answer. They are told that it would continue until the full number of those who were destined to be martyred as they had been, was reached. The struggle will continue to be relentless until that number, known only to God, is reached. The struggle will continue until the gospel has been preached to all nations. As long as God allows this sinful world to exist, the struggle we have against the devil, the world and our sinful flesh will continue. That’s why, with Peter, we look forward to the time when Jesus will bring this world that his cursed by sin to an end, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth were righteousness dwells.

What do we do in the meantime? We continue to struggle against our enemies as we look to the LORD for help and guidance. With David we pray, teach me the way that I should go, for I lift up my soul to you. Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your good spirit lead me on level ground. As long as you grant me life on this earth, fulfill your promise to be with me. Give me your strength to persevere. Help me see the way out of temptation that you always provide. Continue to give me a humble attitude that is always willing to be taught by you and to gladly and willingly submit to your will.

David asked that that Lord would preserve his life, bring him out of trouble and wipe out all his enemies. We know that that prayer was answered, just as our prayer, deliver us from evil is answered, when God graciously takes us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven. In Jesus he has defeated all our enemies. He defeated every temptation of the devil. He took on himself the punishment we deserve for our sins. He defeated death by his glorious resurrection from the dead. Yes, our struggle seems relentless. It seems that it will never end, but it will. Jesus will come again in glory and, in his mercy, he will take us to live in the new heaven and new earth were there are no struggles, no enemies, only peace and joy forever in the presence of God.

When the struggle gets us down, we can learn to say with David in another Psalm, you guide me with your counsel now, and afterward, you will take me to glory.

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