April 13, 2014: Honoring the King Who Honors Us With His Grace!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how awesome it is to be able to worship you and honor you. How awesome it is to have you honor us with your presence here at worship. Please accept our praises today, just as you did on that first Palm Sunday. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE KING OF ALL CREATION!

Text: Matthew 21: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ the King:

What comes to your mind when you hear the word: worship? In the Bible the word has the meaning of: to bow down, esteem, or hold in high honor. It also encompasses sacrifice and service. So, what fits that definition today in America? What altar do the masses bow down at? What temple do they throng into in order to give honor? What place do they sacrifice a lot of hard earned money in order to enter? I’ll give you a clue: it isn’t a church. The modern American temple is the sports stadium. That’s where the masses roar their approval. That’s where people give glory to their heroes. All of us have heard how Fenway Ballpark is a temple, or a cathedral to baseball. It’s sold out for every game. People make pilgrimages to Fenway from around the globe, don’t they? Need I say more?

Some of us can remember when Palm Sunday was a really big deal for people. Attendance at church on Palm Sunday almost rivaled Easter. But with the packing of schedules with youth sports on Sunday and the early opening of the other great American cathedral: the mall, church attendance on this special day is but another ho-hum affair to most. Like Jacob of old, many have sold their birthright for a mess of potage, a social stew that gives no real sustenance.

Palm Sunday is all about worship. It is about honoring the Lord of creation, Who made you, watches over you, blesses you, and honors you with His loving presence in your life. It is about worshiping the One Who gives you the ability to play sports, to see players in action, to buy tickets to a game, and to come home afterwards safe and sound. Is He worth it? Obviously, you and I think so, that’s why we’re here. Yes, today we join with those saints of old in:

HONORING THE KING WHO HONORS US WITH HIS GRACE!

I

Whenever I watch a Patriot’s game on TV, the opening of the game is very instructive. The players come bursting onto the field amid cheerleaders, guns firing salvos, and loud music pumped throughout the stadium. The crowd roars their worship, don’t they? They’re jacked, they’re pumped, they’re ready with anticipation for the coming spectacle. But here we see almost the opposite. First, it’s dawn and everyone is either asleep or wiping sleep from their eyes. Jesus quietly tells a couple of disciples to go and find a donkey colt never ridden, in the village just ahead. He even informs them exactly what to say when the owner confronts them. And it all plays out just as Jesus foretold. Yes, this Godly King knows and controls everything. And an important part of that everything was to fulfill an ancient prophesy about Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, “gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” No war-horses for Christ. No fancy saddle or armor, either. No, this King comes in peace and love. He comes to win hearts with the gentle touch of His grace. Think about that the next time a Pastor gives you absolution, or you witness a baptism, or you communion. Christ isn’t about coercion or pumping up your adrenaline. He’s about quiet humility.

II

I read once that the normal population of Jerusalem was under 100,000. But during the Passover time it would double or triple. To accommodate all those pilgrims and make their stay “real” (they had to stay “in” Jerusalem) they would rope off boundaries outside the city limits and thus extend the city limits. The pilgrims would camp within those areas. So now Jesus starts riding down the slope of the Mount of Olives amid these tent cities. Did everyone recognize Him? Of course not. Some were pilgrims totally new to the area. Yet, the Holy Spirit pushed them along and inflamed their souls. Word spread like wild-fire. “The Great Prophet, perhaps the Messiah, is riding into the city! This is the One Who just this past week raised Lazarus from the grave. This the One Who just might kick the accursed Romans out and restore Israel to the honor she deserves!” Some spread their cloaks along the road to cushion the footfalls of that little colt and Christ’s ride. Others climbed palm trees, cut branches and waved them gaily in the air.–Just as God had told them to do in the OT when they celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles. And they all picked up the chant: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” In our language that means: “God save and Help us!” And since Christ wasn’t just a relative of David, but the promised Savior from his lineage, they certainly got it right, didn’t they?

In St. Luke’s account of this, we hear that some Pharisees thought it was all a bit much and informed Christ through the disciples to tell the people to pipe down. To that Jesus gives that immortal answer: “If they keep silent, even the stones will cry out.” Yes, whenever God comes to His people with salvation, worship isn’t an option. It’s a must. God demands our respect and honor. He demands and commands our sacrifice of soul and self to Him alone. Why? Because He’s our God Who put His life on the line to save our souls. He’s our God Who died our death and rose from our graves to give us the greatest gift there is: eternal life. Without Him we’re no better than a bunch of rocks.

Why do people worship God at church on Sunday morning? Isn’t it because they know they need it? Isn’t it because they know they are nothing without Him? Isn’t it because they have felt the cold grip of sin and need God’s help to escape its icy grasp? What better antidote to this than worship?! Praising God uplifts our spirits and renews our souls. It makes each day easier to take on. It fills you with uplifting heavenly thoughts instead of depressing earthly ones. Worship is the ultimate when it comes to coping with life.

One last point you need to always remember. Christ came to them, they didn’t come to Christ. He initiated the interaction. He honored them first with His presence. That is exactly what happens at church each week. Christ comes and honors us sacramentally, with heavenly soul food, and then we, in turn, sacrificially honor Him in return. Every worship service is really the special joy of Thanksgiving Day on heavenly steroids. Because not only are you singing His praises, so is the whole company of saints and angels in glory! Keep that in mind the next time you view a game in a stadium. Those crowds are loud, but our voices are louder because we’re always backed up by the unseen army of saints in glory. Yes, there is nothing better in life than worshiping God’s glorious Son, our beloved Savior. Amen