Monday, March 21, 2016

Sermon March 19-20, 2016 Psalm Sunday

Title: Christ lays down His life for you willingly!
Text: Deut. 32:36-39 Alt. Gospel reading: Matt 21:1-11

36 For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
let them be your protection!
39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

There is a story that’s told about several cotton farmers were whiling away a winter afternoon around the potbellied stove. They soon became entangled in a heated discussion on the merits of their respective religions. The eldest of the farmers had been sitting quietly, just listening, when the group turned to him and demanded, "Who's right, old Jim? Which one of these religions is the right one?"

"Well," said Jim thoughtfully, "you know there are three ways to get from here to the cotton gin. You can go right over the big hill. That's shorter but it's a powerful climb. You can go around the east side of the hill. That's not too far, but the road is rougher'n tarnation. Or you can go around the west side of the hill, which is the longest way, but the easiest.”

"But you know," he said, looking them squarely in the eye, "when you get there, the man minding the cotton gin don't ask you how you come. He just asks, 'Man, how good is your cotton?'"

Los Angeles Times Syndicate - Beulah Collins

Or in that day … who is you savior? Where did you place you trust?

On this Psalm Sunday weekend we rejoice in the truth that we have a savior where we can truly place our trust. And that the very Son of God will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, being just and possessing the requirement of our freedom from sin, death and the devil by bearing and carrying our salvation with Him which the Lord had planned.

This humble servant who came down from heaven was not in the form of your everyday earthly King. This King and Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, would rise through lowliness and suffering to the strength and glory which was hidden in Him in the state of His humiliation, and which now is leading, in one short week, to His trial and crucifixion at the cross.

37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.

The ways of the world and its Kingdoms are built by the power of the sword. The reach of man’s conquests is stretched into territories of his choosing. The rulers of the world come down on the unsuspecting to the glory of the one wielding power. Power in might is brought to bear over people places and things by the gods, Kings and rulers of our earthly Kingdoms…

… Hugo Chavez, the now deceased President of Venezuela, comes to mind, who will now forever be embalmed and kept for his subjects to see and worship in a glass case … and many of the world’s religions have hope in their false gods where they mistakenly place their trust.

In our day and age we too see the power of the sword wielded upon others. Most recently the religious liberty of a free people has come under attack and in a real sense the Christian church in all it denominational or non-denominational forms is the target. Real persecution comes to the Christian church daily around the world but with many of us its inactivity, non-involvement and quietly keeping our Christian worldview to ourselves. To profess and publicly acknowledge God - is fine and encouraged - as long as He doesn't have a name; and that name better not be Jesus – or you’ll be branded intolerant! Once His name is mentioned you are politically incorrect because you proclaim with all Christians from all time:

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10)

The truth is that words can be manipulated.”

Eric Metaxas, in his speech given on religious freedom, brought this point out clearly.


“Okay, so where are the threats to Religious Freedom in America today? Well, for one thing, understand we are not talking about Freedom of Worship. In a speech - Hilary Clinton replaced the phrase Freedom of Religion with Freedom of Worship — and my friend noticed and was disturbed by it. Why? Because these are radically different things. They have Freedom of Worship in China. But what exactly is Freedom of Worship?

In [his] book Bonhoeffer I talk about a meeting between Bonhoeffer’s friend, the Rev. Martin Niemoller, who early on in the Third Reich was one of those fooled by Hitler. And in that meeting he says something to Hitler about how he, Niemoller, cares about Germany and Third Reich — and Hitler cuts him off and says “I built the Third Reich. You just worry about your sermons!”

There in a few words you have the idea of Freedom of Worship. Freedom of Worship says you can have your little strange rituals and say whatever you like in your little religious buildings for an hour or two on Sundays, but once you leave that building you will bow to the secular orthodoxy of the state! We will tell you what to think on the big and important questions. Questions like when life begins and who gets to decide when to end it and what marriage is… And if you don’t like it, tough luck! That’s Freedom of Worship and they have that in China and they had it in Germany in Bonhoeffer’s day…

But we who worship the true God Jesus Christ know that:

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand

This humble King, Jesus Christ, by his very death and resurrection will bring peace, He kills sin and makes us alive through Baptism, He wounds and heals and though we are dead he gives us life and the peace that passes all human understanding to the very ends on the Earth.

The reaction to this message of peace for many is the catalyst for anger and an erosion of religious distinctions. Recently I read an article about an interfaith service planned in Fort Wayne where my Seminary is located.

The headline read: Mayor endorses event to celebrate all faiths

The idea of gathering all faith to pray is not new but has become more accepted in the civic realm. It reminds me of the secular orthodoxy that has become so prevalent in our culture. But Jesus said that:

6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Peace only comes by the way of truth and Jesus Christ is the way the truth and the life.

C.S. Lewis has said:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort; if you look for comfort you will find neither, and in the end you will only find despair.

C. S. Lewis

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

It’s not that Christianity and our beliefs have changed but our culture’s tolerance and understanding of them certainly has.

Our Gospel text for today reminds us:

9 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!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
God has set you free from the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. As our triumphant King Jesus Christ rides today into Jerusalem. His path to the cross from His baptism, where He was marked as the chief of sinners for you, also points to His ride today as a triumphant ride that is unique and different from every other faith tradition because in a short while Jesus Christ will accomplish the true freedom at the cross for you and for all sinners of all time.

You are set free from your sin because Jesus came for sinners! He came to set you free. He came for you! He gave His life at the cross to pay the price God demands to satisfy His justice and you are free. You are truly free!

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

“Man,” the man at the cotton gin asks, “How good is your cotton?”

Or, Man, who is your God and in whom do you trust? Our God is Jesus Christ the spotless Lamb of God who did no sin, being pure and holy and bringing salvation to sinners who trust in Him.

Christ lays down His life willingly for you!

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


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