Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homily for Palmarum (Palm Sunday)


Matthew 21:1-9; Matthew 26:1 – 27:66; Philippians 2:5-11; Zechariah 9:9-12

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

The last time you heard read the text of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem it was the First Sunday in Advent, last year. Then the text served to prepare you for the annual celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Indeed, today’s hearing stands in stark contrast to that of November past. And yet, it is the same story, describing the same event, and even for the same purpose – to prepare you for the Parousia of Our Lord, His coming and real and abiding presence amongst us.

Following the rebellion of our First Parents, the Parousia, the real presence of the LORD, was a fearful thing: Adam and Eve hid themselves in fear from the presence of the LORD. Moses and Isaiah were afraid to look upon the presence of the LORD. Even in the New Testament, whenever an angel of the LORD appeared before men they were sore afraid. Such fear, even genuine terror, before the presence of the LORD, was a right and proper response from sinful men prior to the Parousia of the LORD in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, when Isaiah beheld the glory of the LORD in a vision he was right to confess, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Yet, it was always the LORD’s will that He would dwell with His people in communion and peace, not in a relationship of fear and distrust. So the LORD visited His people through various means which served to veil His presence that men might enter into His presence and live. Indeed, the entire sacrificial program of the Tabernacle and the Temple served in this capacity as the LORD covered over men’s sin for a time that they might abide in His presence. Yet, though rivers flowed with the blood of sacrificed bulls, goats, and lambs, the true communion of presence that the LORD willed for His people was only hinted at. But then, when time was full, the LORD sent forth His Son to enter into human flesh, to become a man, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

The LORD came in His presence, His Parousia, not in might and power, that men would cower in terror and run away from His presence, but in lowliness and humility, even weakness, as a helpless and poor child, that men might be drawn to Him and receive Him as a gift. In Jesus, the Son and Word of God became flesh and made His Parousia, His real and abiding presence and dwelling, amongst men. He came to His own as one of His own, but His own people did not receive Him. But, to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Isaiah described the humility of the LORD’s Messiah in this way, “He grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

It was in this way, humble and lowly, that Jesus entered the Holy City Jerusalem. He did not come in might and power on a war horse with soldiers to subdue and domineer over men, but He came in meekness and humility as a Servant King riding upon a donkey, a beast of burden, with His ragtag band of disciples. Though the people received Him at first, laying down their cloaks and palms, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” how quickly their shouts of joy and praise turned to shouts of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” when it became apparent that He was not the kind of king they desired.

What corrupted and sin-twisted minds and hearts men have! We run and hide in terror from the holy presence of the LORD and we reject and crucify His Son when He visited us in His gracious Parousia. Ironically, the very power and might that men so fear, they also crave and desire for themselves. The people wanted a king and a savior that would fight for them against the Romans, a king that would come in warfare and terror against Israel’s enemies and would restore the glory and power and wealth and throne of King David. Men want a tyrant for a god and king, someone who will lay down the law for them to obey and who will enforce it with strength, even brutality. For then we can self-righteously claim that we do it, that we keep the law ourselves, or, if we fail, we can feel justified in disparaging such an unjust ruler.

But, your God knows this about you. He knows the double-mindedness of your hearts. He knows your lust for control and power and the admiration of others. He knows the murder in your hearts and how you view others as obstacles to your own success and pleasure. He knows your greed, your lust, and all your insatiable desires and passions. He knows how you care only for yourself and for your selfish wants and desires. He knows all this, yet He loves you; still, He loves you. And so, He comes to you, He brings His real and abiding presence to you, His Parousia, in lowliness and humility, and He lets you have your way with Him that, ultimately, He will have His way with you.

And so, Jesus rides into that mob-like crowd with their sin-warped hopes, desires, and expectations, humble and mounted on a donkey, in lowliness, to be crowned their King. He entered the Holy City Jerusalem, not to be served but to serve, and to lay down His life for the world. His throne was not bedecked with gold and jewels, but of wood and nails. His royal crown was made of twisted, savage thorns, His robe a torn, muddied, and bloodied shroud. He was the Son of David, but He was also David’s Lord. He was sinless, but He was condemned and executed as a sinner. He was the Son of God the Father, but He died that we Barabbases, the sons and daughters of sinful human fathers, might live and be free. The LORD’s passion is for you; it has only and ever been for you. Behold, your King comes to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted upon donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

His is a real and abiding presence – His Parousia – then, now, and always. He is the LORD who is present, present for you, always for you, present to serve. Receive Him now as He comes to you, riding in lowliness and humility in bread and wine, that you may be forgiven, refreshed, strengthened, and restored. The LORD who has created you has also redeemed you, and He wills, not to be worshipped by you as an object, but to commune with you in a relationship of intimacy and unity such that His relationship with our First Parents was but a shadow.

As we together reflect upon His Passion this Holy Week, may we remember that it was in divine and holy love that the LORD has visited His people. He came to His own, who could not and would not come to Him, to restore them to Himself. Even though they rejected Him, mocked Him, scourged Him, and crucified Him, He came to them to lay down His life for them, to die for them, that they might live through Him, in Him, and with Him. In His dying Words He plead the Father’s forgiveness, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and through Jesus, they, and we, are forgiven. All this He gladly suffered.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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