Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sermon: Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1) - 2018

2 December 2018

Text: Matt 21:1-9 (Jer 23:5-8, Rom 13:8-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Jesus is drawing near to Jerusalem. 

But this advent, this coming, this arrival, is different than the previous times when our Lord came to the Holy City.  This time, He is not on foot, but rather on a donkey.  And the crowds understand the symbolism.  This is the entrance of a king, but not just any king.  For the last such royal entrance into David’s Royal City was a thousand years earlier when David’s son Solomon rode in, similarly “humble and mounted on a donkey,” actually the donkey of his father David.  It was a statement that Solomon was humbly acting as his father David’s son, but at the same time, it was David’s donkey.  He was asserting his rightful place on the throne in the face of the claims of others.  This was not a statement of his own personal greatness, but rather his greatness because he is David’s son, the rightful heir.

And although this was happening a thousand years after Solomon’s anointing, the crowds knew what was happening.  They were seeing David’s Son riding in to take the throne as the Anointed One, the Christ.  So what did this mean?  Was Jesus going to overthrow the impostor puppet King Herod?  Was he going to expel the hated Roman occupation governor Pontius Pilate?  Was he going to raise a mighty army and restore the independence of Israel?

Of course, the kingdom of Jesus was none of these things, and many would be disappointed.  And just as this crowd “spread their cloaks on the road” and waved branches as a royal welcome, in five days, the crowds would be yelling “crucify” and Jesus would be in the custody of Pilate, have a hearing before Herod, and the only mighty military presence would be Caesar’s execution team carrying out Jesus’ crucifixion.  

But on the top of this cross was to be a confession of sorts – written by Pilate, and offensive and scandalous to the Jewish church and state, saying officially: “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”

For Jesus had testified before Pilate (who actually found Him innocent, acting as judge, but ordered Him executed, acting as politician): “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Pilate himself seems to understand that Jesus is truly a king, and yet does not seem to understand the full meaning of this kingdom.

The meaning of this kingdom, and the reign of this King, this Son of David, is found in a single word that the crowds cried out to Jesus on that Palm Sunday advent into Jerusalem: “Hosanna!”  What does “Hosanna” mean?  There are other Hebrew words that we use often in English, like “Hallelujah,” which means, “Praise the Lord,” or “Amen,” which means “May it be so!”  But we don’t say this word “Hosanna” in our day to day life, although we do sing it during the Divine Service every week, when we sing the very same song sung by the people of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”

“Hosanna” is a praise, but it has a specific meaning: “Save us, we pray!”  It is a cry for help.  It is like the desperate shout of a person who is drowning, or trapped in a burning building.  And this word is the same in every language.  You can attend a Christian liturgy anywhere on the globe, and you will hear this same word “Hosanna” being said or sung as part of the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper.  That, dear friends, is the kingdom of Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God.  It is not of this world, as it transcends every border, both in space and in time.  “Hosanna” is our prayer, and Jesus is the answer to that prayer.  Like the Israelites, of old we are asking for a King, but our prayer “Hosanna” is fulfilled not by a wicked king who taxes us and conscripts our children, but rather a divine King who saves us: from sin, from death, and from the devil.

Our Savior King comes to us “humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” – the Son of David, the Son of God, the only one who can answer our cries of “Hosanna.”  Our Savior King comes us humiliated and mounted on a cross, suffering and bleeding as a sacrifice to pay the price of our sins, a King who dies for His people in order to save us.  Our Savior King comes to us, humble and in the forms of bread and wine that are truly His body and blood, given to us to eat and drink into our bodies to restore us to perfect life.  Our Savior King is coming again, in a second Advent, but this advent, this coming, this arrival, will be different than the previous times, for there will be no humility or humiliation, but rather victory and vindication.

Pontius Pilate was right: Jesus is a King.  The crowds were right: Jesus is the Savior.  We are right in recognizing that we need to be rescued, and joining in the cry of the millennia: “Hosanna!  Save us, we pray you!  Hosanna in the highest!”

Our Palm Sunday prayer of Hosanna was answered by our Lord’s Good Friday cry of “It is finished!”  And just as Easter was a glorious and victorious resurrection, so too will be the Lord’s return.  For it will be our glorious and victorious resurrection, made possible, and made inevitable, by that “It is finished!” as Jesus bled and died at the cross.  

And while we yet live in the flesh, in the world, and in militancy against the devil, we continue to pray “Hosanna.”  We continue to cry out to our Savior King.  We continue to pray and sing “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest” just before the ongoing Advent of the Eucharist.  We continue to wait – even as did the children of Israel, waiting under occupation, waiting in the midst of corruption, waiting surrounded by violence, waiting expectantly and joyfully for the coming, the Second Advent, of our King.  

For “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”  We have begun a new church year, and we approach a new calendar year, Anno Domini, a new year of our Lord and King.  We are another year closer to our victory and vindication.  We reflect on the cross, the blood shed by our Lord for our sins and for our forgiveness; we remember our baptism; we resist the trials and temptations of the devil; we gather around the Holy Word; we gratefully receive the words of Absolution from our Lord as the answer to our “Hosanna,” – and we join with our brothers and sisters, week in and week out, both here in this parish and around the world. 

We wait for His Advent, waiting for our King, waiting for the end of our trials and tribulations in this fallen world with our faces turned toward the New Jerusalem, the new world, the new heaven, the new life that will never end!

Let us pray our Hosannas fervently, hopefully, and faithfully!  Let us pray our Hosannas joyfully and victoriously!  Let us pray our Hosannas in expectation! 

For Jesus is drawing near to Jerusalem.


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

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