Sunday, April 5, 2009

“Thinking of you” (Philippians 2:6-8)

S-1113 4/01/09 Palm Sunday/3B Hymns: (O) #160; (S) # 445 LSB; (C) #162, OR 161

Texts Zechariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 15:1-45

Theme: “Thinking of you” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Question: “Have you received a card telling you they care about you?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for Palm Sunday is the from the Epistle lesson: “who, though He [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Saints in Christ, there is not a family in this house of faith that is not going through some pain, difficulties, trials, and hardships. Some of your families are struggling with health issues, jobs, financial difficulties, not getting along with their children and still others are contemplating divorce or separation. As you look around you know of some of these situations. Your heart goes out to them and you pray to the Lord to guide them in these challenging time.

When you and I discover that one of our own is in the hospital, ill, dealing with death, loss of job, or challenged in one way or another, we send a card or a note (show card) saying: “Thinking of You” In your message, you write a statement like this: Just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you today and praying that the Lord will make you feel better and hope you will be out of the hospital soon, or something similar to that. Often we don’t know what else to do or say as we watch the one we care about struggle. So we send this card as a way of saying, WE CARE! WE WOULD LIKE TO HELP. WE ARE HERE FOR YOU. These cards are nice. When we receive them, our hearts are gladdened. Our spirits are raised. And, at least for a moment, our burden doesn’t seem so, well, burdensome.

Today, you and I receive from the pen of the great theologian Paul, the same kind of encouraging card. But this card is not from a friend; instead, this card is from the Holy Spirit. With this card, St. Paul wants those of us who are struggling with many issues in our daily walk of faith to know that someone cares, someone wants to remove that burden, and someone is here to help. In essence, Paul was saying JESUS, IS THINKING OF YOU. With these words before us today, the author of our text engages us with the events and activities of the Savior who thought so much of us that He came to earth from the glory of heaven, and died the death of the criminal for us.

Can you believe it, Jesus is thinking of you—yes you (point at different locations). He is thinking of you so much that Paul tells us in so many words of the mission of the Savior, on this Palm Sunday. Listen to Paul as he shares the card from the lips of God to you: “who, though He [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’” Here it is in black and white, Jesus is thinking of you. That is why He came to earth.

Why, you might ask? The answer is very simple indeed, because we all have a terminal disease. All of us in this room have a time limit on earth because of the disease that is within us. This disease is going to take our lives away. Some of us may know when that time will come as you deal with a specific disease that appears so immanent; but others don’t know. Regardless if we do or don’t know the end result is the same—the disease is going to get us—death will come calling on us. PAUSE.

Luther said: “God’s wonderful power, wisdom and goodness guide us. Only as we look back do we fully recognize how often God was with us thought about us when we neither saw His hand nor felt His presence at the time it was happening. Accordingly, Peter said, ‘He CARES FOR YOU’” (1 Peter 5:7)

Even if there were no books or sermons to tell us about God, simply looking back on our own lives would prove that He [God] tenderly carries us in His arms. When we look back on how God has led us and brought us through so much evil, adversity and danger, we can clearly see the ever-present goodness of God, which is far above our thoughts, mind and perception.” (Through Faith Alone, A daily Devotion by Martin Luther 4-2 CPH).

As we study the love letter to the Church at Philippi by Paul, he points US to the great sacrifice the Savior did. He left all of the glory, majesty and beauty of heaven and came to earth in the form of man and “humbled” (Greek = emptied) Himself all the while He was thinking of YOU. He came to earth for you. He suffered for you. He was nailed to the cross for you. He died for you. He rose for you. He ascended for you. He gave His Word for you. And He is coming back for you.

Historically, the church has called this day Palm Sunday. As you saw at the beginning of the service, we read of God’s people singing their Hosannas as they celebrated the coming of the One who would save them. They thought it was time for the Romans to go, the oppression to end, troubles disappear and the glory days of Israel was about to be restored. They thought that the battle was about to begin and that victory would be won.

They were right. But they had the wrong enemy. The battle was about to begin between this great One riding on the back of a donkey and death. In meekness, Jesus came as a conquering hero. It is the conquering hero that sends you the very love letter that we read as our text for today. It was His thinking of you that sent Him to Jerusalem that day. It was His love for you that brought Him to the point where He would battle death all the while thinking of you. As we read this “thinking of you” text on this Palm Sunday, you and I know where this will lead. It will lead to His being obedient to death, even death on a cross.

The Passion of our Lord and the Cross are a sign of just how much our Lord cares for us and how highly He thinks of us. It was there on the cross, as the nails are being driven into His flesh that He shows how much He cares. What was it He said? “Father forgive them!” He was thinking of YOU! Can you believe that? When we, in the same spot, would be screaming in terror, whimpering in pain or hurling insults and even cursing those who would be inflicting pain and death on us, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, GOD HIMSELF, was thinking of US! Thinking of us, He spoke the words of absolution, FORGIVENESS that gives us life.

Beloved in Christ, God is able to make us all love Him and force us to do His will BUT He doesn’t. Christianity is the story of a God who doesn’t follow the rules that humans follow: We tend to look out for our own interests; our own desires; our own needs; whereas God is only interested in our wellbeing. He only wants us to be with Him forever. The Gospel is the story of God fulfilling this desire for us to be with Him forever.

You have heard the slogan of Hallmark regarding their “Cards”: “When you care enough to send the very best.” God has. He has sent us the best card we can ever get. And this card is not made in china, or printed in the U.S. but fashioned and formed in heaven and sent our way by the Holy Spirit. In this card we see how much the Lord cares for us and thinks about us.

And what is our response? At times, we leave the very card that delivers this message unopened. It sits on our desk, our end table or our on a shelf and does nothing other than gather dust. Or when we read this love letter once in a while and we are left unmoved. And still other times, we yawn and stretch and simply say, “that’s nice” as we head back into a life that is so full of what we want to do that we have no time for the One who would think of us with such a love. Still others open the card, shake it out and when money, or prosperity, or earthly deliverance doesn’t fall out, we thoughtlessly toss it aside thinking that this was just some other junk mail.

This message from Paul is not junk mail, but a joy-filled message of hope and help. And during this Palm Sunday we see this message being fulfilled by Jesus the heaven-sent messenger who said yes to the great rescue plan of the Father—plans to deliver us by serving us to the point of death—death on a cross.

Today, hear, better yet know and read the heavenly card that tells you, Jesus is thinking of you. Don’t worry about your problems. Instead by the Spirit’s power begin to think of others, as Jesus thought of you and serve them in love—His love.

Remember children of God, why you serve and how you are able to serve—because God sent His Son, because He was thinking of You. Jesus came to be a servant and to humble Himself and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross. He served you and frees you to serve others, now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…

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