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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Nov 27, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord ans Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this 1st Sunday in Advent, Matthew 21:1-11. There we read these words:

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 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." This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, "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.’" The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Dear Christian friends, Hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell: of your five senses, which would you feel most afraid of losing? Most people think that their eyesight is the most important of their senses. They would prefer to give up any other their other senses before they lose their eyesight.

In today’s Gospel, God would like you to change your mind about that. God would rather that you prefer hearing to sight. In today’s Gospel, God wants you to know that your eyesight really does not matter unless your hearing first explains to you the meaning of what you see. That is why the Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in today’s Gospel began with the Word SAY.

"SAY to the daughter of Zion."

First, let’s take a minute to get that phrase "daughter of Zion" out of the way. Who is the daughter of Zion? You are. The phrase "daughter of Zion" is simply an Old Testament description of God’s Church. In the prophecy recorded in today’s Gospel, "daughter of Zion" indicates those who wait for their Coming King.

God’s people of the Old Testament waited for their Coming King, born of the Virgin Mary, now riding into Jerusalem to suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die, and get buried.

Even after these monumental events took place, "the daughter of Zion" still waits for her King. That is to say, we still wait for our King, for we believe that He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

In today’s Gospel, the daughter of Zion was also standing alongside that road outside Jerusalem. The daughter of Zion—that is, the holy Church—was watching a dusty peasant bounce comically along on the back of "a donkey… and a colt with her."

This might have been a somewhat comical scene: Did our Lord somehow straddle between the two, clinging with both hands and both heels in order to stay in place? Was He fully seated upon a tiny animal, but holding His feet up in the air so they did not drag upon the ground? Either way, this is not a customary portrait of a king. No one could look at Jesus riding along on a donkey and immediately conclude, based on what they could see, "That guy is our King."

Stained Glass Baptism Window

The scene in today’s Gospel needed to be explained. That is why God spoke through the prophet and declared, "SAY to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your king is coming to you.’" In other words, the prophet needed explain to the daughter of Zion that Jesus is your King because Jesus did not look like a king as He entered into Jerusalem to suffer and die.

Jesus looked like a peasant. Jesus looked like a wanderer. Jesus looked like He might be suffering from delusions of grandeur. Not long after today’s Gospel, Jesus would look like a condemned criminal.

You and I and the entire world must be told by the prophet, "Behold, your king." That is why I tell you that, in today’s Gospel, God wants you to know that your eyesight really does not matter unless your hearing first explains to you the meaning of what you see.

In other words, God wants you to distinguish between ...The thing that you see, and ...What He tells you about that thing you see. This distinction between the thing that you see and what He tells you about that thing is vitally important for your life and salvation.

First, this distinction is important for Palm Sunday, when a man straddled a donkey while voluntarily riding toward a horrible death. Nothing about that man would let you know that He is your King, except for the divine Word declared concerning Him, "Behold your King!" Nothing about that man’s death would let you know all your sins are now forgiven, except for the divine Word declared concerning His death, "My blood is for your forgiveness."

Yet this distinction—between the thing you see and what God tells you about the thing you see—this distinction is not merely important for Palm Sunday. This distinction is also immensely important for the Advent season, which begins today. Advent is all about Christ’s coming, but His coming cannot be perceived by what you see with your eyes. The coming of your Christ must be perceived by what you see with your ears, so to speak.

What I mean is this: Christ came, born of Mary. God the almighty and the uncontainable entered into His creation by reducing Himself into an infantile form. This is a crude analogy, but perhaps it will help: any hunter will tell you that the hole a bullet makes coming out of a deer is much larger than the hole going into the deer. A tuft of hair might even conceal the bullet’s entry point, so that the hunter might search for a moment before finding it.

I know it’s a bad analogy, but perhaps it will help you think about God’s entry into His creation. God’s entry point was so small, so discrete, so hidden under frailty and weakness, no one could see it to know about it. Everyone needed to be told the meaning of what their eyes were seeing.

Even Mary needed to look at Jesus with her ears, so to speak. Mary could only know that her Child is the Son God because of the Word preached to her: "the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God." So with Joseph, to whom God declared, "Call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins;" so, too, the shepherds:

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:11-12)

Jesus also makes Himself advent among you in His body and blood of the Holy Communion. When we speak about the Lord’s Supper, we are talking about the presence of the living Christ, knowing that death no longer has mastery over Him.

But you would never know these things by looking at the sacrament with your eyes. Just as the people in today’s Gospel needed God’s prophet to explain the meaning of a man on a donkey, you also need God’s Words to explain the meaning of what you eat and drink at the altar.

For what do you see? You see a cup of economically-purchased wine and you see bread of pressed wafers purchased in bulk and sent in the mail.

But God wants you to see these things with your ears, so to speak. God wants you to distinguish between the thing you see and what He tells you about those things. God wants you to know that your eyesight really does not matter unless your hearing first explains the meaning of what you see.

What is the cup? "This cup is the new covenant in Jesus’ blood" (1 Corinthians 11:25), "shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins" (Matthew 26:28). "This bread is Jesus’ body, which is for you" (1 Corinthians 11:24). No one can see these things with the eye. They must be seen with the ear.

Jesus promises that He shall yet again make Himself advent among yoiu on the Last Day. Very few people believe this to be true. No one outside the church can believe this, because they see with their eyes no evidence for our Lord’s return. "Where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers have died, things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:4).

Many of your fellow Christians have fallen into the same doubt, even though they would scarcely admit. If they believed Christ is coming again, would they not be here, waiting with you, "not neglecting to meet together… but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day draw near?" (Hebrews 10:25). They do not see the Last Day drawing near, and that is because they look at the world only with their eyes, and not with their ears.

God does not want you to do that. God would rather that you prefer hearing to sight. Rather than watching the seasons rise and fall in endless repetition, look at the world by hearing the promises of God. Here is just one example: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise, as some count slowness, but He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9).

Look with your ears, and not with your eyes, Daughter of Zion! See the world and its future according to God’s promises in Christ. Receive the forgiveness of your sins in the sacrament, not based upon what you see in the cup, but based upon what God promises is in the cup.

Know that the divine Word spoken to you is a miraculous Word, creating faith and trust in a man who took the peasant’s part, bumping along the road on a donkey’s back. This is what the Lord says: Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you.’"

Christ is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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