The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
Blessed Is He
Second Sunday in Lent, 28 February 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
For a Lay Reader
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Jesus is present with us according to His promise. There are many more than two or three gathered in His Name. At other times a husband and wife—two friends—two siblings—these all count as two. Gathered in Jesus’ Name, we are confident in Jesus’ presence.
God is everywhere. This is true. But it is not yet a complete thought (or a Gospel one). God is good to a sinner only in Jesus Christ. Modern Judaism rejects Jesus as Messiah. Islam says that God cannot have a Son. Many say, “I am with God out in nature—hunting, fishing, etc.” Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” God is present everywhere, but He is not present everywhere in a way that is beneficial for you.
Where is God present for you, in the way of the Gospel, for your benefit? In a place like this where God delivers His forgiveness in Baptism, His Word, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. Forgiveness of sins was won on a rugged cross on a hill far away, but we don’t get that forgiveness by finding that hill, a bloody piece of old wood, or by making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The cross is where forgiveness was won. God the Holy Spirit delivers what Jesus won there and then / here and now at the font, pulpit, and altar. God’s Gospel Gifts enable us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. And then, in life everlasting, we will no longer carry that cross, but wear a crown instead.
Worship is all about the presence of Jesus—Jesus present for us in order to bless us. We dare not despise opportunities to receive Jesus’ gifts. That would be spiritually deadly.
In this morning’s Holy Gospel, Jesus has been threatened with death, and of all people, the Pharisees let Him know: 31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." 32And he said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.'
The plans of men and demons do not matter. Jesus has set His face toward Jerusalem. Jesus is doing His name—saving His people—and not even death will stand in His way. He preaches, teaches, heals, exorcises demons… And…
Did you hear the “and” in the text? “And the third day I finish my course.” We commonly say, “And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures…” Jesus does not fear death. The fact that people were threatening His life was no surprise. He knew that He was going to be given over into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and, on the third day, rise. “And the third day I finish my course.” Indeed. Jesus speaks here of His own Resurrection from the dead.
Recently the Resurrection has come under fire again. In recent years the attacks have come in the form of The DaVinci Code, and the so-called Gospel according to Judas and the so-called “Jesus Family Tomb.”
“It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus knows how His people of old treated the prophets of old. When the prophet preached something different than what their itching ears wanted to hear, they responded with ridicule, persecution, and murder of the prophets of the Lord. God’s own Word was proclaimed by God’s own men on the scene. They remained faithful even to death. Again, not a surprise to Jesus. So he laments for His people and their capital city: 34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' "
“You would not.” St. Stephen, the first martyr, would say it similarly in Acts: “You are just like your fathers. You always resist the Holy Spirit.”
We look at the Jewish people in the time of Jesus and we feel so smug. “We wouldn’t have rejected Jesus!” Oh, really?
We’re all aware of the true emergencies that take us away from Sunday morning. What about the other 99% of your Sundays? Think back to that Sunday morning when you slept in and stayed home. You weren’t sick and you weren’t staying home to take care of an ill family member, either. It used to be that Wednesday evenings were kept free for church activities. No longer! Now even Sundays are fair game. Has a ball ever been a Baal, an idol, a false god to you?
Remember that vacation that wasn’t just a vacation from home, but a vacation from giving your offerings for the Lord’s work, and also a vacation from the Lord and His Word, even though there was a sister LCMS congregation in town?
Remember that time you were sitting in the sanctuary here, yet you let your mind wander away during the sermon?
There was also that time when the Lord’s Word was being studied while you decided to do something else in the very next room.
In Luke 10, Martha was distracted with pots and pans. Mary simply sat at the foot of Jesus. There is a time for everything under heaven, but God’s Word comes first.
In all these cases—and many more—there is a danger of rejecting Jesus. No, we don’t think of our other activities using those words, but they apply. Scaer: “Absence from church is a clear statement that what is happening elsewhere is more important that what is here.” And the uncomfortable truth is this: that something or somewhere else has become an idol, a false, substitute god for you. “often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Ouch. That’s the law getting to you. And suddenly, we’re a lot less smug. We’re sinners just like the people in Jesus’ day. Contrition and repentance should be kicking in. God forgives sin—even these. Forgiveness for the sin of rejecting God’s gifts comes by receiving forgiveness through God’s gifts.
Yet, some still resist the work of the Spirit. They simply will not let the Lord’s love have its way with them. There might even be anger toward a preacher for pointing out a favorite sin or even a loved one’s sin. Such a one may wish to hold onto a grudge, and even insist he or she is right. Hardening of the heart has begun. Danger! Danger! To such a one Jesus says, “Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
In Lent we pray for repentant faith with eyes always on Jesus, faith that sings, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Today’s Gospel is Luke 13. These words of Jesus are fulfilled in Luke 19:37-40 (ESV), where the Pharisees also make an appearance: 37As he [Jesus] was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives— the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" 39And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." 40He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
The Pharisees understand what is going on. That’s why they’re upset! Jesus’ words have been fulfilled. That means judgment upon unbelief, unfaith—judgment upon all who “would not.” Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to die. “And the third day I finish my course.”
Faith confesses Jesus as Christ and Savior and says, “Blessed Is He.”
Last Sunday, Ash Wednesday, and every Divine Service, we sing an ancient canticle called the Sanctus. Sanctification teaches how the Holy Spirit delivers God’s gifts to make us holy. Sanctus is Latin for “Holy.” It comes from Isaiah’s vision of heaven in Isaiah chapter 6 and Matthew 21, the parallel Gospel text to Luke 19, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—what we call Palm Sunday.
Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Sabaoth; heav'n and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He, blessed is He, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest.
We sing with angels to the thrice-holy Triune God, the Lord God of Sabaoth, God of heavenly hosts, God of angel armies. We sing “hosanna, a Hebrew word of praise meaning, “Save us now.” That is a prayer to a Savior, One who can and does save. Jesus saves His people. He has saved you. Blessed Is He.
And then we sing “Blessed Is He,” not just once but three times, to parallel the “Holy, holy, holy.”
This morning we pray Matins. Lent is a season of fasting, and that applies to the liturgy, too. In the Divine Service, we give up “Glory Be to God on High” and “Alleluia” for Lent. It is also appropriate that Matins adjusts to the season, too. We sang, “Praise to You, O Christ, Lamb of our salvation.” The Lenten Responsory after the readings was on page 222: “He was delivered up to death; He was delivered for the sins of the people.” The Te Deum we’re used to singing right after the sermon will be waiting for us at the Easter Sunrise service. This Lent, we turn to page 226 for the Benedictus, the Song of Zechariah from Luke 1:68-79.
The Benedictus is the appropriate canticle at Matins for Lent and Advent. John the Baptist prepares the way for the Lord, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Zechariah sings about the Lord’s work for His people through salvation history and in John the Baptist, his son, the forerunner of the Lord, and in Christ Himself.
We may not sing the Sanctus this morning, but we do sing of Jesus’ presence for us as our savior and redeemer. Here, Jesus is present with you to bless you. Blessed Is He!
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David…” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.