A myHT Fortress

Monday, March 17, 2008

Save Us Now: A Homily for Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” This morning we hear the chants of praise echoing from the streets of Jerusalem, welcoming Jesus. Voices raised singing psalms to the Savior King as He humbly entered the Holy City, riding on a donkey.

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” These words from Psalm 118 were chanted to Jesus then, and they are sung to Him even now. Throughout the centuries the Church has continued to praise the Lord with this beautiful confession of faith.

This morning we hear a confession of faith from nine young people in our midst. They have been baptized. They have been catechized in the faith, as taught by the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Today, they acknowledge that gift and make a serious promise. This morning, they vow that they will endure life’s hardships and society’s persecutions; they will even die, if they must, rather than fall from the faith as taught by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

But what about this confession of faith in the Entrance Gospel for this day? What do these words confess? “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna!” “Hosanna” is a Hebrew word that means, “Save us now, we pray.” It is what David sang in Psalm 118:25 – “Ana’ YHWH hosiah-na’ – Save us, we pray, O LORD!” The crowds gathering around Jesus, trying to get a glimpse of Him, singing for joy, did not take this word lightly. This single word was confessing faith in Christ! The One they shouted to was the One whom they believed could save them!

Granted, even five days before His death, the people still did not understand how Jesus was going to save them. Was He going to incite riots against the Roman garrison in Jerusalem? Was He going to work some miracle that caused the Roman occupation to get up and leave? No one knew. They just knew they were expecting great power and majesty, like one would expect from royalty!

Pastor Tannahill from Gloria Dei in Elizabethtown, Kentucky told a story this week. He was born and raised in Canada. Once as a child, Queen Elizabeth II came to his hometown and Pastor’s mother wanted to be sure he got to see her. They went to the event, and since the queen is not very tall, Mrs. Tannahill lifted her little boy so he could see above the crowd. “Can you see the Queen?” she asked. “No,” he sadly replied.

That evening, they watched the news. “There!” said Mrs. Tannahill, “Didn’t you see the Queen?” she said, pointing to a lady on the television who had a simple spring dress, a pill box hat, and handbag. “Well yeah, I saw her!” he said,… “That’s the queen?”

The portraits in his school, and other pictures he had seen diplayed the Queen in her regal robes, with crown and scepter, opening parliament, or posing for formal occasions. But this woman simply looked like someone’s mother! A regular person. Seeing her in person was not what he expected. She did not look powerful or regal or queenly.

Likewise, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, He did not look powerful, or regal, or kingly. The type of King that He is, is far different from what the common people expected. They wanted the miracle worker who fed thousands, who healed many. They wanted a man who could show great power and get their land back to the glories of David and Solomon.

We follow that pattern too. We want a powerful Jesus. We want the Jesus who can snap His fingers and produce all that we want or desire. We want a Jesus who will make life easy and trouble-free. We want a Jesus who will simply take away any illnesses or accidents or hardships from us and our loved ones. We want a Jesus who will bless our parish, school, and day care with lots of money, business saavy, and the envy of all the other churches around. We want a Jesus who will answer our self-centered prayers with a big house, expensive cars, HD TV’s, and all the latest things that our friends have. We want a Jesus who will place us in an easy job that we love, and surround us with others who appreciate the work we are doing. We want a Jesus who – plain and simple – is not Jesus!

Repent, dear friends. The people of Jerusalem may not have known any better. But you do. Lusting after the power, and glory of God in the image that we want Him to be, and trying to make that power and glory our own, has been a favorite sin ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. And imitating the ways of the world, as if its wisdom and ways were desired more than God’s, only leads to pain and judgment for the church.

Yet the Lord does not manipulate and remove trials from you. He does not wave a royal scepter like a wand and make you a force to be reckoned with, in the ways of the world. Instead, He surrounds you with His love and grace and forgiveness, as He bears your burdens and carries you through every trial and valley.

The wrong idea of Jesus? Even so, in this single word, “Hosanna,” we know that they looked to Jesus as Savior. We join them in this desire to adore our God and King. The people of Jerusalem needed a Savior. Adam and Eve needed a Savior. Those of us gathered here this morning, both now, and every day of our lives, need our Savior!

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” With these words, the people of Jerusalem also confessed that Jesus is the Son of David. Not only is He Savior, but He is King! This Descendant of King David was recognized for who He was, again, even if not completely understood. He is a Savior. And as a descendant of David, He is One who could claim the throne. He is Messiah – the Anointed One – the Christ who is the Promised King. This Royal Heir had Divine right to rule over them, and they welcomed the Anointed One!

Yes, Jesus is King. He does rule over all. But His kingdom is not of this world. He is, as many Hebrew prayers state, “King of the Universe.” Yet He has no geographic realm. His rule is spiritual, godly, and eternal – far surpassing any worldly ideas or ideals of what a king is to be or do. He goes beyond any limits of our imaginations for our ultimate King.

Why? Because the Son of David is also the Son of God! He IS the LORD, God Almighty in the flesh. Jesus Christ, our Savior and King is our God!

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” With the Name of God invoked, He brings His presence to His people. When two or three are gathered in His Name – “The Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” – God blesses and bestows His presence.

Jesus, being God, brought the presence of the Lord wherever He was. Riding into Jerusalem, Jesus was (and is) God in the flesh! They were blessed to behold their King and to see and hear God – Jesus – coming in the Name of the Lord! But they were not alone!

Every Lord’s Day, we are blessed to behold and hear Him too. We hear Jesus Christ as He speaks through the lips of our pastors, reading and proclaiming His Word. We recall His promise to the apostles and pastors “He who hears you, hears Me.” We behold and hear Him as He uses the pastors’ hands to pour water on people “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” transforming them into new creatures and rescuing them from death and the devil. We behold and hear Him as we approach His altar, tasting Christ and the forgiveness, life, and salvation that He gives. Miraculously, our Savior-King enters our bodies with His own Body and Blood, feeding our bodies and souls to give us life!

These nine youth have a lot on their minds this morning. My fervent prayer is that they are ever-mindful of one thing: Jesus bringing His presence in the Divine Service. We hear Him and receive Him week after week in His Word and in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus DOES come to us. And every Sunday – every Lord’s Day – is a celebration of that presence.

That is why the Divine Service is the most important thing in any Christian’s life, whether they realize it or not. It is central to our faith. It is where God comes and gives Himself as a Gift! It is where the Lord feeds us so we have the strength and nourishment to continue in life. When people truly understand this, they desire to come to the Divine Service.

Dear youth, this morning you are swearing to the Lord God Almighty that you will be faithful and regular in coming to His House, receiving His preaching, confessing your sin, and partaking of His Holy Eucharist. This is a solemn vow that there is nothing more important to you than coming to the Divine Service in Christ’s Church!

The devil and the world will tempt you. They will try to convince you how boring it is to come to the Divine Service. Your friends and even family may try to persuade you that it is better to sleep in, play sports, watch a movie, or to go somewhere else that is supposedly more fun. It is a tough battle, and Satan will try hard to harass you. Even when you do come, the devil will try to convince you to let your heart and mind drift from the Holy Gifts that our Savior gives.

But our dear and blessed Savior is there. The same Jesus who hears our “Hosannas” and “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” is still there. He continues to forgive us, even as we drift during the Divine Service. When we confess to our pastor and hear Holy Absolution, He forgives us. When we hear His Gospel preached, He forgives us. When we receive His Holy Body and Blood, He forgives us.

Forgiven and strengthened, Jesus our Savior-King makes you bold to confront His enemies, and unapologetic for your need of and dedication to His Divine Service. He brings you to cherish the very Gifts that have delivered His forgiveness; and gives you the wisdom to know the wonder and amazement of receiving more and more of Jesus!

And with joy, we respond to that forgiveness, singing as His redeemed saints, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

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