Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent I Matthew 21:1-9

And when they came near unto Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany to the mountain, the one of olives, He (Jesus) sent two of His disciples on a mission and He says to them, "You go into the town, the one across from you, and immediately entering into it, you will find there a colt, upon which no person has yet ridden; You untie and bring it. And if ever someone says to you, ‘Why do you do this?' you say, ‘the Lord has need of it." and immediately he sends it again here." And they went and found a colt tied to a door, outside, upon the road, and they free it. And some of those standing there were saying to them, "What are you doing, freeing the colt?" And they spoke to them just what Jesus spoke, and they permitted it. And they bring the colt to Jesus and they throw upon it their clothes and He sat on it. And many spread their garments onto the road, and others branches they cut out of the fields. And the ones led before and the ones following were crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed-the One coming in the Lord's name. Blessed–the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna on the highest! And He entered into Jerusalem, into the Temple, and having looked around at everything, since it was already being the hour, He departed unto Bethany with the twelve.  

Arrivals are happy times! Going to the airport to watch someone's plane come in, or to the station to see somebody's train arrive are exciting times. There's a certain anticipation as you await your loved one's return. A hopeful expectation in your heart for the one coming to visit. That's just how Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with garments strewn, palm branches waving and shouts of praise.

The first shout notes that Jesus comes "in the Lord's name". Yet you don't always like the focus to be on God's name instead of yours. It's all about you, right? I thought that at my narcissists' anonymous meeting when nobody else showed up but me. But it isn't about you and your good name. Your name is mud. For you have sullied your own name, your reputation tainted by your rebellious way.

So God, knowing your bad name gives you a brand new one. Jesus comes in the name of the Lord to you in your Baptism, giving you a brand new name–the name of the Lord. You are truly blessed in baptism as the name of Father, Son & Holy Ghost forgives your sins, delivers you from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to you. You are named now with the Lord's own name, baptized into Christ, now a part of God's Own Royal family, each of you a prince, a son of God by the Son of God!

The next thing the people shout is about the coming kingdom of their father, King David. Israel was in its hey-day when David reigned as king. Many people hoped Jesus would establish an even greater Israelite kingdom in the holy land. He didn't. You likewise fall into this same trap, with so many of your prayers about making your life in this world better, instead of realizing that Jesus' kingdom is of a world yet to come. There is no "heaven on earth" that you may seek. Yet you search for it all the same

When you pray, "Thy Kingdom come" as Jesus taught, you are really asking God to give you His Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit Who called you to faith in the first place in the Gospel. The blessings of being in God's Kingdom now are that you keep believing God's holy word which proclaims to you, "You are redeemed from sin, death & the devil for Jesus sake, since He gave His life to ransom you on the +." Filled with faith in your Savior, your new life in Christ has begun, here in time and hereafter eternally.

The final shout of the crowds was "Hosanna on the highest!" Most people misunderstand this as being loud boisterous praising which is able to reach way up high all the way to heaven. You are tempted to think this way yourselves, wrongly assuming that you have to do enough, with sufficient oomph to get God's attention so He will bless you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hosanna on high is not about what you are doing for God at all. It's actually a humble pleeding which relies on Jesus alone.

"Hosanna" means "save us, we pray". It's a desperate plea of people who are helpless & hopeless to help themselves. And "on high" is simply the description of Who God is and where He is. He is the highest, and reigns over us from heaven above. So you sing "hosanna in the highest" right before communion, realizing that Jesus will answer your prayer by coming down from heaven with His ever-living body in the bread, and with His life-giving blood in the cup for your forgiveness & saving.

So it is fitting to begin this Advent season with the story of Jesus arrival in Jerusalem. For He Who once came to the shouts of Hosannas and blessed is Hes, is the one who comes to us today in word & sacrament, and Who promises to come again in glory on the last day to establish paradise.

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