Service notes and Sermon for Sunday, April 5, 2020
Sunday of the Church Year: Palm Sunday
Overview: Lent draws to a close as the people of God gather at the beginning of Holy Week to celebrate the coming of Jesus to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again. The majesty of the King is veiled by his humility and lowliness, but to the eyes of faith he is recognized as the Lord. The cry must go up in joy, praise, and prayer: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Service: Service of the Word (hymnal p. 38)
Hymns: 130, 370, 131, 133
Prayer of the Day: We praise you, O God, for the great acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son, Jesus Christ. As he was acclaimed by those who scattered their garments and branches of palms in his path, so may we always hail him as our King and follow him with perfect confidence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Readings: Zechariah 9:9-10 The prophet foretells the coming of Zion’s King to his city in humility and lowliness. He enters “righteous and having salvation.” The King’s procession is unlike that of any earthly monarch because he brings peace between God and man.
Psalm 24 (hymnal p. 73) The psalm presents the heraldry of the King: open the doors for him; the King who comes is the Lord Almighty, the King of glory.
Philippians 2:5-11 Paul commends the “attitude… of Christ Jesus” to the Philippians for their imitation. As he does so, the apostle describes the Christ who humbled himself to death on the cross and was exalted to the highest place in the heavens. The Lord Jesus is described in both his humility and his exaltation, in his perfect humanity and his full deity. He is rightly called Lord, and to him all creation must and will bow.
John 11:17-27, 38-45 Just prior to his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus raises Lazarus to life. To the consternation of the Pharisees, the people see the miracle and put their hope in Jesus.
Verse of the Day: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (John 12:23)
Sermon (see below)
Prayer & Lord’s Prayer (p. 42 or 125 & p. 43)
MATTHEW 21:1-11 ASCENSION 4/5/2020
JESUS – A DIFFERENT KIND OF KING PALM SUNDAY
MY DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS,
Some of you might remember the name Charles Colson. If you do remember him, you remember that he served as special counsel to the president during the Nixon administration. You might also remember that Colson served a prison term for his part in the Watergate scandal. While in prison, Colson spent much of his time reading the Bible. Reading the Bible proved to be a turning point in his life. Since his release, Colson has done much for prison ministry.
Colson has also written a book entitled Kingdoms in Conflict. The book is a political insider’s view of the ongoing conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men. Through his Bible reading, Colson discovered that there is a big difference. While man’s kingdoms consist of earthly and territorial boundaries, money and goods, weapons and fighter planes and tanks; the kingdom of God is that of the heart. Nothing dramatizes that age-old conflict more powerfully than what happened on Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday portrays Jesus as a king; yet not a king who wields political power or military power; but a king who penetrates hearts with the power of his love. Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem as a humble man and gentle king. He is riding a donkey. He is not the kind of king the world was used to. His kingdom is different from an earthly kingdom. Yet, he is a king – he is the King. JESUS – A DIFFERENT KIND OF KING. I. Jesus is not what the world wants. II. Jesus is what the world needs.
When it comes to heads of state and rulers of earthly kingdoms, the world loves pomp and a good show – even when those heads of state are mere figure heads like Queen Elizabeth of England or the king of Spain. In a PBS documentary about England’s monarchy, some of the queen’s loyal subjects were asked about their opinion on the monarchy’s future. One commoner suggested that the queen had outlived her usefulness and that she cost taxpayers too much money. He didn’t like the fact that she may well be the richest woman in the world. But he said, she won’t go because she puts on a bloody good show. We do not have a king or queen in our country, but the pomp and circumstance that surround our president would be the envy of any pharaoh or king. All that pomp suggests something about people’s attitudes.
In a biography of President Lincoln, the author suggested that “Lincoln was much too homely ever to have succeeded in today’s television age.” That statement makes one think of what the prophet Isaiah wrote about Jesus: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (53:2). There were none of the trappings of royalty surrounding Jesus, even as he was welcomed and acclaimed as king on Palm Sunday in Jerusalem. Isaiah says: “He was despised and rejected by men…Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (53:3).
What the world wants is a king who can produce, one who can insure an easy life and a good time for all. That’s one reason why Boris Yeltsin had such a rough time of it in Russia. His reforms aimed at putting food on the table, a car in the garage, and a tractor down on the farm were not getting the job done fast enough. His political enemies wanted him out and they succeeded. People want results – they want earthly and material results.
There were expectations like that in the hearts of the people of Jesus’ day too. When Jesus had fed the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two small fish, the next day there were some who wanted to take Jesus by force and make him their king. They were pleased with the result of Jesus’ miracle. They wanted more. They wanted a full belly and an easy life.
Jesus offers neither a good show nor an easy life. He was not a king of great wealth and he did not offer great wealth. He did not live an easy life nor did he offer an easy life. He did not arrive in Jerusalem on a royal yacht or on the equivalent of Air Force One. He came riding into Jerusalem not on a royal steed, but on a donkey. He came on a donkey. He came in humility. He was not what people wanted.
While the people wanted a successor to King David, a national hero, they got Jesus. He would not be the king they wanted. Days later he would be crowned – not a gold crown of royalty, but a crown of thorns. Jesus was not the king the world wanted.
Even today Jesus still is not the king that people want. He is not the king that people want to submit their lives to. When things in this sinful world are not fair, or when we don’t have everything we want, people are quick to fall away from Jesus and quick to look elsewhere for something to devote their God-given time and talents and efforts to. People want to be the king of their own lives and they want an earthly king or president to fill their pockets with earthly blessings. Jesus is not it. Jesus is not what the world wants. Jesus is a different kind of king.
While Jesus is not what the world wants, he is exactly what the world needs. Jesus is a king like no other king the world has ever known. Jesus stands in sharp contrast to all worldly rulers, past and present. Jesus did not come with power, but he came in humility. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. Jesus did not come so that we might lay down our life for him; but so that he might lay down his life for you and me. In earthly kingdoms, you want what you deserve from your king and from your government. Jesus, on the other hand, Jesus, as our king, gives us greater things than we could ever deserve and what we often have not desired.
It is easy to see the difference in Jesus. Take for example his governing philosophy. One time Jesus encouraged that the little children could come to him. Jesus let people like Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene and Levi taint his public image. Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus showed compassion to the crippled and the diseased.
When Peter tried to defend Jesus in the Garden, as though Jesus needed a bodyguard, Jesus rebuked him and told him to put his sword away. When Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem on the eve of Palm Sunday, he wept for the city. Can you imagine any of the world leaders today acting like Jesus.
With this picture of Jesus in mind, you can sense the sarcasm in the voices of those who asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” The answer is simple. The kingdom of God has already come and continues to come. The kingdom of God is whenever Christ rules in our hearts. It comes whenever someone is baptized, whenever we kneel together at the Lord’s Table, whenever we share the good news of the gospel. The kingdom of God comes in the power of changed hearts and changed lives. It has no earthly boundaries and it promises no material wealth. The kingdom of God is Christ’s rule in our hearts.
No one can say here it is or there it is, because the kingdom of God is within you. The kingdom of God comes in the fellowship of forgiven and forgiving sinners. The kingdom of God comes in a group of caring and loving people who extend their hearts and their hands to help one another. It is a fellowship totally disinterested in reforming the world, but totally absorbed in renewing hearts and lives – beginning with our own heart and life.
When we pray, as we often do in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy kingdom come” we are asking for God’s rule in our hearts. His rule is unlike any earthly or world leader. God does not treat us like peons, or pawns, or taxpaying peasants. Instead, our Savior calls us to a royal priesthood, a holy people, a people belong to God. In God’s kingdom, we are not subjects, but we are lords and priests. Our King, Jesus, died on the cross for us. Our king has set us free from the oppression of sin, and death, and the power of the devil. Our King, Jesus, calls upon you and me to extend that same peace and freedom to our families, to our friends and to our neighbors; and even to our enemies. In the end, Jesus invites you and me and all those who are his to sit with him at the throne in heaven.
No, this is no earthly ruler. Jesus offers no empty political promises. The One who came to serve rather than to be served expects no more of any of us than he expected of himself. The One who gave up all authority and then gave his life on the cross; now offers to you and me a life of peace with God on earth and an eternal life with Jesus in heaven.
It is with this understanding of our Lord and Savior, the King of our hearts and lives, that we join today in saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” May God bless you as you continue to serve Jesus – your different kind of King. AMEN.