Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Sermon: Wednesday of Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1)

2 December 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 19:28-40 (Jer 33:14-16, 1 Thess 3:9-13)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

To the world’s way of thinking, being out of control is a scary and terrible place to be. And even for us Christians, we are sorely tempted to strive to be in command of everything. We lay plans, we take charge, we are proactive, and we demand results.

And it is not a bad thing to be prepared, to use the minds and reason that our Lord God gave to us to do our best to meet potential trouble down the road through wisdom and prudence.

But sometimes the desire to control goes beyond prudence. It can often be a mask that conceals a lack of faith in the Lord’s mercy and goodness. We see some of this faithless mindset in the Pharisees’ desire to gag the followers of Jesus as they welcome their King to Jerusalem. Some of them, thanks to a weak faith, were almost certainly honestly frightened of stirring up the Roman government. But we know from our Lord’s numerous encounters with them that many of them were venal and jealous of our Blessed Lord’s ability to not only control His conversations with them, but to control wind and waves, matter and the elements, and even life and death.

They just wanted everyone to shut up.

But our Lord rebukes the rebukers with the stunning reply: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem and the outbreak of joyful worship by His creatures cannot be legislated or muffled with threats and mockery. Indeed, even if the people could have been cowed into silence, the very molecules and atoms of the expectant universe itself would resonate with excitement and radiate energy.

What an utterly remarkable thing our Lord says!

The entry into Jerusalem is bigger than this small crowd of palm-wavers. Indeed, this holy procession involves all of us Christians of every time and place. Including us, we who add our liturgical “Hosanna” here in this gate of heaven as our Blessed Lord makes His triumphant entrance among us: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And the Lord’s royal entry involves the saints who were long departed, saints covered by the blood of the Lamb about to be shed a week after this royal parade. And, this universal Hosanna also includes the angels, who serve in the presence of the Holy Trinity, singing their praises of the Word made flesh. It also involves the demons who cry out in anguish as the Lord expels them and removes their parasitic spirits from His beloved people. And yes, even the stones would cry out if no other voices of praise would have been raised on the day of this holy advent of our King.

And all of this demonstrates that as much as we like to think we are in control, we aren’t. And far from being distressing, this is a source of comfort to us. For our Bridegroom loves us and lays down His life for us. This is how it is that we sing: “O Bride of Christ, Rejoice!” For our Bridegroom is fashioning us into living stones, a holy house built on the Cornerstone and founded upon the apostles. And these stones do cry out our Hosannas and grateful praises of our King.

We are not in control, and what comfort that is, dear brothers and sisters! For with Blessed Martin Luther, we can pray: “If I had lacked your help, I would have ruined everything long ago.” The stones left to themselves in our fallen universe only grind away into dust. And we, apart from the Lord’s merciful providence, only make things worse by our sinful meddling and rebellion against the Lord’s good and perfect will.

But thanks be to God that our King comes into our midst, in the flesh of a helpless baby, on the back of a little colt, hanging from a shameful cross, and attached through His mighty Word to simple bread and wine. He comes to us, and He is in control. He commands the demons to flee from us. He compels the angels to watch over us. He declares our sins forgiven. He imparts His holiness into us. He stays with us, for it is evening, and the day is almost over.

God our Father is the one who fulfills His promise “to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” He is the one who causes “a righteous Branch to spring up.” He executes “justice and righteousness in the land.” For “the Lord is our righteousness.”

And it is our Triune God Himself that “supplies what is lacking in our faith.”

No indeed, we are not in control, and thanks be to God that we aren’t!

“For what thanksgiving can we return to God… for all the joy that we feel?” We pray that the Lord “make [us] increase and abound in love for one another and for all,” so that He Himself may “establish [our] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” And these prayers rise before our Lord as incense, “the lifting up of [our] hands as the evening sacrifice.”

This sacrifice is one of thanksgiving, in response to the sacrifice of the Atonement that was made by our God and Priest Himself five days after the creation rang out her praises and Hosannas to her King.

For this sacrifice was also beyond our control. It was the Lord Himself who willingly drank the cup, shouldered the cross, absorbed the blows, and breathed out His holy absolution and cry of victory over Satan. And it is our lowly King who presents this sacrifice to the Father on our behalf, a happy exchange, His righteousness for our wretchedness. And this is why the crowd refused to be silenced and the stones resonated with the “peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”

For while our best-laid plans will ultimately crumble and turn to dust, the Creator is in command of every molecule of our universe, and it is He who has forgiven all our sins, recreated us anew through water and the Spirit, and who leads the way into the Holy City as all creation responds with eternal joy. And in joyful response, our prayer rises as incense:

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,

Hast found the healing, full of grace,

To cure and save our ruined race.


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

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