Sunday, November 29, 2009

1st Sunday in Advent Jeremiah 23:5-8

"Look, days come", says Yahweh, and I will raise up to David a Branch–a righteous One, and He will reign–a King, and He will act wisely, and He will enact judgment and righteousness in the land. In His days will be good tidings for Judah, and Israel will live in safety. And this–His name, which He will be called: ‘Yahweh, our righteousness.' Therefore, look, days come" says Yahweh, "and they will not say any longer, ‘Of the life of Yahweh which brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt.' Indeed, ‘Of the life of Yahweh which brought up and which led forth the Seed of the house of Israel from the land, at midnight, and from all the lands which I had driven them, and they will live in their land.

What's with all the branches? Today we hear the familiar Palm Sunday story as the residents of Jerusalem greet their Savior, Jesus, with branches from palm trees in their hands, and spread along the road. As a child, I had always assumed that they didn't have any flags or pom-pons, so they substituted these branches for waving purposes. But in reality, this whole *branch* thing had to so with something the Israelites were expecting from the promises of old. That a Branch would come!

We know that Branch to be Jesus, just as the Jerusalemites hoped this coming would be the one foretold by prophets like Jeremiah. But they were very disappointed. They expected Jesus to take charge of the capital and establish his throne there from which to rule a new Israelite kingdom. But He didn't. This first arrival of Jesus simply didn't fit the prophecy of the Branch of David. In fact, Jesus makes that clear when He weeps over the destruction of earthly Jerusalem which soon would occur.

Perhaps you share a bit in the frustrations of Jerusalem's residents. Jesus indeed did come to rule His people as that righteous Branch, but you, like they, may not always like the way He does things in His church. Just as they wanted the earthly problems fixed immediately, perhaps you are tempted to view the church of God as part of this world. You may find it easier to see the church as an earthly entity over which you can have at least some control. But God's kingdom is, for now, other-worldly.

That's why one of Jesus' jobs is to enact judgment in the land. His Law convicts us sinners of our unrighteousness, so that we will stop being navel-gazers and begin to look outside of ourselves for the help we need. That's when Jesus proclaims you to be forgiven in His Name. The command of your King declares all your sin & it's consequences--removed. This gospel message for you becomes good tidings, that you won't die for your sins, but live in safety from God's wrath forevermore! +

You may be impatient like the Jerusalemites because you want the fullness of the King's reign over you now! This "already, but not yet" is not an easy thing to live with. Yes, you know you are residents of heaven, for that is your new address, but to wait so long for *moving day* can be frustrating. You may begin to forget that the "days are coming" soon for Christ's return, and let your mind and heart begin to drift toward those worldly temptations which will distract you from your coming King.

Remember that Jesus reigns over you now, even as you await the new earth paradise which He will restore on the last day. Jesus gives you a foretaste of that feast to come of the heavenly banquet when He gives you holy communion. Jesus comes with His body in the bread, and He comes down with His blood in the cup for your forgiveness from the cross of Calvary. But He also comes down, again and again in the Lord's Supper as a reminder of that final arrival whose days are coming.

What may bother you still is that things seem left *unfinished* by Jesus. Sure, He came to do all the earthly work that was needed to save you, but He has not taken you to heaven yet. The work of His first arrival is complete, but it seems to be taking a long time for Him to finish His prep work for our heavenly home. (Is he busy installing cable tv in your room of the heavenly mansion, or what?) Alright, already, it's time for Jesus to get a move-on, so we think, and come back again!.

Remember the heavenly work of Jesus continues down here on earth. He is not finished yet bringing subjects into His kingdom. Oh, He fulfilled all righteousness (like He told John at His baptism) by living a completely perfect life on earth in our place. But His work continues to deliver that righteousness of His to others. At the baptismal font He did that for you, exchanging your sins which He bore on the cross unto death for His righteousness credited to your account by faith for life eternal!

The days are coming when the Seed of Israel returns as the Righteous Branch at the midnight hour!

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