Sunday, April 1, 2012

“A Letter of Obedience” (Philippians 2:5-8) 6th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1308 Palm Sunday/3B 4/01/12 Hymns: (O) #161; (S) #160; (C) #162

Text: Zechariah 9:9-12; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 15:1-47

Theme: “A Letter of Obedience” (Philippians 2:5-8) 6th of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Question: “Would you rather serve or be the boss?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for Palm Sunday is the Epistle Lesson. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by 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 2:5-8).

You, who are most precious in His sight, it appears that our world has lost its focus and everyone is looking for something better and grander. This is evident with the rise of Reality TV. I am amazed at what people are willing to do on shows like Survivor, endure on shows like the Jerry Springer and share on shows like The Real Housewives, Jon & Kate Plus 8; (which is no longer the case), Sister Wives and Teen Moms. It seems that so many of our neighbors have given in to the temptation to seek out what Andy Warhol called the 15 minutes of fame. They are in search of the cash prizes. But I think even more, they seek the notoriety and the fame. They will do anything, eat anything, say anything and endure anything all in search of being noticed. I am dumbfounded, that so many people don’t consider it a big deal to embarrass themselves. The airwaves are full of these stupid and senseless shows that vie for our attention, and gives the indication that this is the real way to live.

It would be very easy for us to look out there at the world and shake our head and just marvel at how stupid the world is in search of fortune and fame. But on this Palm Sunday, it is important for us to take a long hard look not at the world but at ourselves. How often do we (you and I), do, say, and think things to put us in the spotlight before the world, co-workers or family? When we go the extra mile at work and we get noticed and appreciated, we feel great. When we put in the extra work and no one says a thing, don’t we secretly burn inside? Don’t we fuss and fume because the applause we deserved and secretly craved never came? Parents how often have you slaved and sacrificed for the sake of your children, only to have them not notice and even complain about you in their ingratitude? How does that make you feel? Husbands, how often have we on a rare occasion did something around the house without being asked and when we aren’t thanked for it we feel bruised. And when we bring it to our wife’s attention we get back the fact that we never thanked them for their day to day work? How does that make you feel?

The real truth is this: we long to be the one taking the credit for what we have done! We dream of being the kid who hits the winning shot in the state championship game. We want the lead in the play. We want to be the go-to-guy for the boss. We dream of the dinner in our honor and the accolades that come with it. Our entire existence is driven by our secret need, longing and even lusting for power! It is hard to hear. But it is the truth!

This desire is the root reason that we struggle so much with obedient service. There are just too many things in our lives that paint sacrifice and service as weakness. The world around us practices the theory to take care of yourself first and climb the ladder of success at all cost. But it isn’t just the world that is the problem. The biggest problem we have is the voice inside of us that has never been satisfied with being created beings. Inherited from our first parents Adam and Eve we are beset with the desire to be “like God.” Ever since they reached for what they could not have apart from God, their children, including you and me, have been reaching as well. The reach is driven by our desire for glory, fame, power and position. Again, this was evident this week, with so many people rushing to buy the Mega Lottery. PAUSE.

But on this Palm Sunday, we are not talking about Reality TV, or 15 minutes of fame that the Rabbi Jesus wanted to have. No, we are talking about the Real and True Savior, who obediently came to earth to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. The REAL Deal is this humble Suffering Servant comes riding on a donkey, to make our lives right with God. And this is not something stupid or senseless, but one that brings life and salvation to poor miserable sinners like us.

The Real Deal is to watch in amazement what Jesus is willing to do to win our redemption. He is willing to endure anything the devil throws at Him, anything the Jewish Leaders accuse Him of, anything Pilate dishes out to Him—scourging, flogging, nails, spear, twisted crown of thorns and crucifixion; and the full wrath of God as He is forsaken by the Father of all grace.

Therefore, on this Sunday of the Passion, we join the crowds in Jerusalem as Jesus makes His Triumphal entry to the city of peace to bring about once and for all peace between God and man. We travel along the busy streets to the cheers and waving of Palm branches and the singing of the loud hosanna, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then there is that sweet quote from Zechariah 9:9 that speaks of how He comes humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey - and not on the steed of the conqueror. He conquers in humility, in lowliness, in service and in love. He who holds the Universe in His hands will go so low that you are lifted up by Him.

While the crowds may not understand what is happening, Jesus knows the full plan. In eternity, it was clear that selfless sacrifice was going to be the only way that our death was going to be undone. Palm Sunday and Holy Week are what this obedience is ALL about. It is the very thing that St. Paul writes about in the text, when he shares the ancient song of the Christ that says “Though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by 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 crossIt is this song that gives us the REAL DEAL and the wonderful joy of Holy Week.

In Jesus’ obedience to the will and mission of the Father, we have salvation, we have redemption and we have victory over sin and death. There is no other way. No shortcut. No easy button. Just a cruel, cold cross. Just death. That’s it. Here we behold the true meaning of obedience done for our benefit. PAUSE.

In the 2nd book of Samuel, we see another type of obedience carried out by Uriah. David had slept with his Uriah’s wife and she became pregnant. He asked Uriah to go home to be with his wife so he can hide his sin, but he wouldn’t. Finally, David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter, [David wrote to Joab], “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”

Uriah in obedience carried the King’s letter which was his death sentence without him knowing about it. Yet he obeyed the King. When Joab got the letter he, too, obeyed David and put Uriah to the death.

But Jesus knowing full well that He holds in His hands the Letter of Obedience which was His death sentence He still obeyed. This letter of obedience was discussed around the heavenly Kitchen table, when the Father told Him, “Son, you must go. You must give Your life as a payment for the world’s sin. You must be crucified and pay the price of redemption by shedding Your blood.” And He did. He became obedient even unto death the death of the cross.

In obedience to the will of the Savior, the pastor puts on the stole, to remind Him and His hearers of Christ’s perfect obedience by which He obtains for us the Robe of eternal life. In the waters of Holy Baptism, we are called to this obedience as well. The cross we bear on our foreheads and on our hearts marks us for this service. It is not a service that saves, for Jesus has already done that. No, it is a service that is in willing obedience to the One who had us in mind as He went to the cross for us. It is not deserved and it does not draw attention to us. Instead, that obedience points to another.

Therefore, today, we don’t offer our Lord our palms or our cloaks. No, today by the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we offer our Coming King our bowed knees. We place ourselves under His care. We sacrifice our desire for a false reality of glory for the reality of His salvation won for us on Calvary! We do this knowing that by faith we are trading 15 minutes of fleeting fame, for an eternity with Him in a lasting glory! So sing your hosannas with the crowds. For today that prayer is answered! Today the Lord comes to save His people. Including you and me! Amen.

Now the peace…


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