Monday, December 6, 2010

Sermon for 28 November 2010, Advent 1A

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 21:1-11
Your King Is Coming to You
First Sunday in Advent (A)
28 November 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Your King is coming to you. That’s what Advent is all about. When we hear the word “king,” many pictures fill our heads. We may wonder if Charles will ascend to England’s throne one day or if he will bow out and let his now-engaged eldest son be king instead. Or, maybe we think of medieval times and Henry VIII. We may think of the legendary King Arthur and his knights of the round table.
Going before a king is a big deal. People wore the best they had in order to make a good impression. They usually needed all the good will they could get from their monarch as they brought a request or a problem. There was some element of risk. The king could pretty much do as he wanted in the days before documents like the American Bill of Rights or England’s Magna Carta.
Going before a king is a big deal. Even more stressful would be one of those rare occasions when the king came to you. There were two main things that could happen. The king could be mad on his visit. He may be upset that not enough taxes or crops were coming his way. And he usually brought his sword to the discussion. You can get more with a sword and a nice word than just a nice word alone. Or, the king could be in a good, generous mood, ready to toss coins to the people on the street like a parade float throwing candy today. In either situation, the same line would be of benefit to you, the peasant: “Lord, have mercy.”
At Matins, we pray “Lord, have mercy” near the end of the service, as the prayers begin. At Divine Service, the Kyrie, or “Lord, have mercy” is sung near the beginning. Since the Christmas angels have not yet sung to the shepherds watching their flocks by night, the Gloria, “Glory Be to God on High” is omitted in Advent. Instead, the Kyrie will take a fuller form. We will sing “Lord, have mercy” according to music we already know with short prayers in between. As forgiven sinners, it is appropriate to pray “Lord, have mercy” in good times as in bad. We want to share thanks and praise with our Lord who can hear our prayers and have mercy upon us.
This is not a medieval village and we don’t have a political king, but we do owe our very lives and salvation to He who reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. He comes to you. And not just on Palm Sunday.

1Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
Your King is coming to you. How? The Gospel text (and the introit) confess(es) the answer: humbly and mounted on donkey. No white stallion. No festive robes. No sword and no armor. No army behind him. Only a crowd of humble peasants crying out!
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden. No white stallion. No festive robes. No sword and no armor. No army behind him. Only a crowd of humble peasants crying out! Yes, but what did they cry out? Save Us Now! Did you hear that in the text? Perhaps not, for the people were Jewish and said some of the words in Hebrew.
“Hosanna to the Son of David!” That means, “Save Us Now, you who are the Son of David!” Jesus is physically descended from King David through His mother Mary. The crowds rightly recognized that Jesus was the king that God promised who would reign on David’s throne forever. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The crowds also recognized that Jesus was a prophet who came from God. They did not all recognize yet that Jesus was the Son of God. “Hosanna in the highest!” confesses that because the crowd saw Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises, they could rejoice in Him and make requests to God in highest heaven saying, “Save us now!”

Your King comes to you—not just on Palm Sunday. That’s what the season of Advent is about. We prepare for the coming of He who is born the King of the Jews, Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. When company comes over for Thanksgiving Dinner or to celebrate Christmas, do you do anything special as a host to prepare? Of course! To not do so would be rude, or inconsiderate at best. We tidy the place up, get out the good dishes, decorate, and make sure bedding is changed and enough clean towels are available. Food is a necessity! And then there are Christmas gifts.
Advent is similar to our other preparations, yet unique in many ways. Over the four Sundays (and weeks) of Advent, prepare your heart, mind, and life for the arrival of a King. Going before a king or having a king come to you—both are a big deal, even today. Lent is not the only time of year for some spiritual house cleaning. Advent is also a time of repentant preparation. Presents and time of from work or school are not really the big deal—Christ is. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving long after the trees are mulch and the toys break or run down their first set of batteries.
Your King comes to you. That’s Christmas. The end of the world sounds very similar: Your King comes to you. We can find December 25th and “The Last Sunday in the Church Year” on secular and religious calendars, but no one will ever be able to predict when the Last Day will be. And so we are to be always prepared and always faithful. We receive the Lord’s good gifts, we watch, we pray, and we serve. Ultimately, our Christian life is one of serving anyone in need, whether their physical needs as fellow human beings, or their spiritual needs as fellow sinners in need of hearing the same Good News About Jesus.
Someone cared about your eternal salvation enough to make sure you made it to Church. From there, your personal stories may be different. Some of you were baptized as children, brought to Church, Sunday School, and VBS, confirmation class, too, and often someone was there also to make sure you knew where a sister LCMS congregation was when you had your first home away from home. Or, someone cared about your eternal salvation enough to invite you to church for the first time. Perhaps you were their neighbor or friend. Maybe you were just dating or were newly married.
We are blessed at Immanuel with a large, warm sanctuary on a cold wintry day. At times some could worry more about numbers than we do about people. Truly we should heed Jesus words to “love one another.” Never let mere numbers discourage you. The Lord is still here for you with His good gifts. Yet, the Lord is preparing you to work toward filling in our pews with people to hear of Jesus, our king who comes to us. Inviting someone to church costs you nothing. It could give them eternal life. Giving an invitation doesn’t mean that will automatically be accepted. As we saw with the two thieves crucified with Jesus in last week’s Holy Gospel, some will come to faith and believe. Others will reject Jesus outright, or come to faith and then fall away, or never hear of Him at all. We’re not responsible for results: the Lord is. We are called to be faithful to the pure message He has given and to the mission He has given to share that pure message.
Your King comes to you. That’s Christmas. The end of the world sounds very similar: Your King comes to you. We live in-between. And still our king comes. He comes to us in the Word He gave us and in the Visible Word, too: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion. You will hear more about how and when Jesus comes to you, His people on Wednesday at 7 for Advent Evening Prayer. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.