Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent 1 Sermon

On Matthew 21L1-9

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
          So, what kind of Jesus do you want?  That seems to be the question that most Churches ask of people today – what kind of Jesus do you want?  I was in Tulsa earlier this week, and there were two kinds of billboards that I saw most frequently – there were ads for great shopping sales for Christmas, and then there were ads for Churches.  What sort of holiday sales are you looking for; what sort of Jesus do you want?  Come to Best Buy, this cheap laptop is for everyone – come to Church X, our Jesus is a Healing Jesus.  The classy, elegant gifts are at Woodland Hills – come to Church Y, our Jesus will see that you are so blessed you can afford to wear classy, elegant clothes.  That seems to be the approach that infests American Christianity – to treat the Church like you would a store selling Jesus, trying to find a niche market to draw in consumers, to draw in church goers.  And thus, so often we end up focusing upon ourselves, our own wants and desires, our own felt needs – what sort of Jesus do you want? 

          The thing is – this is all completely backwards.  Hear the Word of the Lord. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”  Yes, oh daughter of Zion, you children of the house of the Lord, your King is coming to you.  Do you note how this language isn't about your choice, your wants?  It is not “Come oh shoppers, spend your spiritual money at Jesus' discount salvation shack” - no, you are the daughter of Zion – you are a child.  Not in control.  And it is no peddler of goods who is coming, no merchant.  No.  Your King is coming.  There's a word to rile Americans – we as Americans tend not to like having kings – we took up arms and rebelled against our last one.  When it comes to our leaders, we'd still much rather take a vote, thank you very much.  Even as we Americans cherish our choice, our vote, even as we have TV shows that encourage us to vote for our idol, call in for our favorite contestant while the commercials call for us to chose brand X instead of brand Y – over and against all of that, we hear these words today.  Behold your King is coming.  It's not a question of what sort of Jesus you want – the question we should be asking is what sort of Jesus, what sort of King is it that is coming to us?

          “Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” ”  Our King is one who is in charge and knows what He is doing.  Oh, that's something that could rile us as Americans, isn't it?  Look at what Jesus does here – just sends people off to do errands.  Just run into town and go bring some animals to Me.  Oh, that sort of thing was one of the reasons we rebelled back in the Revolution – it's why we have it in our Constitution that troops cannot be forcefully quartered in our homes – that's the 3rd Amendment.  But Jesus speaks, and He speaks with authority.  Go and get the animals, and if anyone asks why, give them My Name.  Use My authority, and get what is needed.  We have a King is who coming, a King who has authority. 
          And what is the purpose of this authority?  Why does Jesus wield it?  To His own fame, to His own credit – to fulfill His own wants and desires?  That's what we think of when we think of power and authority – the ability to satisfy our wants, to buy what we want to buy, to do what we want to do and no one can say otherwise.  Nope.  That's not why Jesus has authority, that's not what He uses it for.  Listen to how St. Matthew explains what is happening: “This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.” It didn't take place because Jesus wanted a donkey.  It didn't take place because of a whim.  It wasn't a random, capricious act.  No, it was done to fulfill prophecy.  It was done so that the people then, so that we today might know who Christ Jesus is.  God had sent His people the prophets so that they would know, that they would know, would recognize the Messiah when He came.  This King who is coming is not some arrogant jerk who just does what He wants to do – He isn't some brash and bold dictator satisfying His every whim at our expense.  No, He is a good and gracious King who uses His authority to serve us, to serve us with what we need, even if it isn't what we would want.

What do I mean by that?  Hear what the prophet said again. “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”  Christ comes to fulfill prophecy.  Christ comes to be the King, to take up the throne of David.  When Solomon entered Jerusalem, he entered on a Donkey – this is proclaiming that Jesus is indeed the King, is indeed the Son of David.  But what sort of King is He going to be?  Is He going to be the sort of king we want?  What characteristic will sum up this King?  Is it boldness, or brashness, or self-aggrandizing arrogance?  Nope, it is humility.  Consider this.  The hopes in Christ's day were that a fierce, warrior leader would arise and drive out the Romans, a mighty man of Valor who would win Israel her freedom  -- like one of the Judges of old.  Not even like Gideon (he wasn't brash enough) – maybe someone like Samson, all big and buff.  Someone who would come riding into town on a big white horse, someone who would be leading armies behind him.  And yet – there's Jesus.  On a... donkey.  Now, I don't know how many of you have ever studied ancient warfare – but have you ever heard of a warrior riding... a donkey?  Even the Polish cavalry rode horses, not donkeys.  Donkeys might work for a supply train – the cook could come leading a donkey – but no glorious warrior would be caught dead on a Donkey, because if said glorious leader was caught on a donkey, he would be killed dead by the enemy very quickly.  No, Jesus, while being obvious about who He is, remains humble.  There He is, Christ Jesus, God of power and mighty, He who is in charge of the heavenly host, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Sabbaoth – legions of angels at His disposal – and there He is.  Riding a donkey.  Coming as not a great and victorious champion, but a humble and lowly servant.

          For that is what our King is.  Our King, Christ Jesus, does not come to conquer and hammer us into submission.  He doesn’t come trying to meet our expectations that we might set today; He doesn’t try to butter us up.  No, He comes humbly, He comes humbly to win us salvation.  He's not going to be killing anyone when He gets to Jerusalem; He's not going to be slaying anyone.  Instead, He Himself will be put to death, He Himself will suffer and die, all so that salvation may come to us.  He comes on a beast of burden because He comes to bear the burden of the sins of the world.  Our King comes with all authority on heaven and earth – and He takes it up in perfect and wondrous humility so that He can come and give you not the things your sinful flesh craves, but so that He can forgive you your sins because of His death, so that He can raise you to new life because of His resurrection.  He has come to be your head, to make you part of His own body, to give you His own life so that you have life abundantly.

          Jesus still works in the same way today.  Say to the daughter of Zion, see your King is coming to you today, humble.  What happened (is happening) today at Zion?  Ciara is baptized.  Christ Jesus the King comes as He always does – He comes and by water and the Word He declared Ciara to be His own daughter, to be a daughter of Zion.  And He comes to her humbly, comes not in expensive, lavish goods, He comes not demanding some difficult set up or requirements – no, see your King comes to you humbly and simply in water and the Word.  No, there will be nothing to keep Jesus from coming to His child – water and the Word, and now there is a forgiven child, a new creation, one given life everlasting and all the benefits of Jesus' own death and resurrection.  And why?  Because Christ Jesus our King has authority – all authority in heaven on earth has been given to Him – make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit.  That's what Jesus uses His authority for – to bring people salvation, to seek and save the lost, to suffer the little children to come to Him – to give His blessings of life and salvation to ever more and more people, even before they could think to ask, even before they could think to choose Him, even before they could listen too all the ads telling them what they should want.  Because that is who Jesus is – He is your King, Your King who will come to you, not because of what you want or what you desire – but because He is your King who loves you, and will stop at nothing to win you salvation.  Or do you not realize that this is what Advent is about.  Behold, your King is coming – and how did He first come?  Christ Jesus, the Word by Whom all things were made comes down from heaven – as a Child.  Weak.  Helpless.  His power cast aside so as to save the powerless.  The King always takes up humility – His birth, His entry into Jerusalem, His death – and all for your salvation.  This is the God, this is the King who has chosen you, called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, who has made you His child in the waters of Holy Baptism.  This is what He has taught you to pray for when you pray both “Thy Kingdom Come” as well as “Thy Will Be Done” - that we would learn ever more to trust not our wants and desires but His good and gracious will, that we would see His authority have full reign in our lives. 

          Behold, daughter of Zion, your King is coming.  That is what we see and learn this Advent season again.  Remembering how Christ came, we remember how He Himself has come to us through His Word, through His gift of Baptism.  We rejoice and give thanks in that He comes to us today for forgiveness in His Word, in, with, and under Bread and Wine.  And we also remember and pray that He would quickly come again, that He would show Himself to be our true and eternal King who will give us for all eternity that which we truly need – the resurrection of our bodies and the life everlasting with Him.  This may not be the sort of God or Spirituality that our sinful flesh wants – but Christ Jesus has drowned and put to death your sinful flesh and has given you forgiveness and life now, and indeed, even for all eternity.  Thanks be to God that our King is humble and loves us so.   In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +

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