March 20, 2016: Praising God takes the hurt away

Let us pray: Dear Savior, perhaps the most uplifting and calming thing about praising You is that we’re not focused on ourselves and our problems. Praising You takes all the baggage of this life away and replaces it with pure, noble, and glorious thoughts and emotions. Since Palm Sunday is one of Your great days of praise, lift our minds heavenward once again while we are still earthbound. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR GLORIOUS LORD MOST WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE AND THANKS!

TEXT: Luke 19: 28-40

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

I’ll bet you’ve come to church, more than once, with something weighing upon you. Some personal problem, some work upset, something was tearing you up inside during the weekend and come Sunday morning you really didn’t want to face anyone. But, church called and you went anyway. You sang the hymns half-heartedly. You half-listened to the lessons. When it was time for the confession of sins some word or phrase struck you in the heart. The absolution seemed to relieve the pain a bit. Then came the sermon and you were left wondering if the Pastor had a secret pipeline into your psyche. After that it was on to prayers and the final benediction and hymn. When you left, quickly that day, you found yourself driving home and thinking: “I feel better now than I did an hour ago.” Why is that? Because God the Holy Spirit came into your heart via His Word and did exactly what He is famous for: providing you with comfort amid pain. Yes, praising God uplifts hurting sinners. Praising God takes the hurt away.

I

We see a lot of examples of God’s people praising Him throughout the Bible. But perhaps the most striking example of such praise takes place on Palm Sunday. It began rather innocuously. Jesus and His disciples had been staying overnight at the home of Mary, Martha, and the recently risen-from-the-dead Lazarus. It was located in Bethany, about 6 miles out from Jerusalem. As they walked along early that Sunday morning toward the Mt. of Olives, Jesus gives 2 of His disciples a directive. Go up to that little village ahead and find Me the donkey tied there along with her foal. Bring them to Me. Moreover, if the owner asks Why? Tell him: “The Lord needs them.” These two men do exactly that and it works out exactly as predicted. This humble act of Christian service on their part was really an act of worship and praise. They obeyed their Lord. They didn’t question or dither or decide it was silly. They obeyed. Praise is about obeying God and giving Him His due. It is about focusing on and acting on His thoughts rather than our own good intentions. And, as the old saw goes: “Actions do speak louder than mere words.” Yes, true praise is always active not passive.

II

Every Christian loves to actively praise God. As Lutherans, “Praise To The Lord, the Almighty” rivals “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” doesn’t it? We sing our hymns with fervor and vigor. But, I wonder if we would do what the disciples did next—unbidden and unasked. That is, they pulled off their cloaks, threw them on that colt, and had Christ sit on this make-shift saddle. Would we have pondered instead: “They’ll get dirty and how will I get the stain out?” Yes, true praise gives to God freely from the heart.

By this time, they’ve started to reach some of the camped pilgrims there for the Passover outside the city walls. Unbidden, these people also throw their cloaks on the dirty road to cushion the colt’s footfalls and Christ’s ride. Apparently, they have no second thoughts.—More heart-felt praise. Then came the palm branches, stripped off the trees, to mark this triumphal entry of God’s Son into God’s city. Of course, what it really marked was His entrance into their hearts via the Spirit’s power. For the City of God in reality is nothing more or less than the Holy Christian Church. None of these pilgrims is thinking anymore about the commotion, the hassle of the day, where are my children?, or worried about the pain of sleeping on hard ground or worried about not having breakfast. Praise and worship displace all other thoughts, don’t they? Praise centers on higher things. It centers on God Almighty sending His Son of save us. And save us He did on Good Friday with His death for our sins and on Easter, one week later, with His resurrection from our graves. That day, praise took their hurts away.

III

This was an open-air worship service, wasn’t it? Now coming down from the Mt. of Olives road, the disciples (the 12 and others) start to shout songs of joy over Christ and the crowd picks up the chant and it builds and builds. They had all seen miracles. By now everyone had heard of His miracles such as raising Lazarus from the grave a few weeks before. Maybe even Lazarus was among that group—and he had a lot to praise God for, didn’t he? “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Those phrases harken back to the angel choirs over Bethlehem 33 years before. But now it’s not angels singing His praises but men, humans, souls who need Him to take away the pain of sin from their lives—and He does! Praising God heals a hurting heart every single time.

Even amid such joy over God’s blessings, we find naysayers. I guess like the poor, the naysayer will always be with us—until heaven comes. “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” They’re making too much noise. Maybe the Romans will think we’re revolting against them! The praise is hurting my head.” Such people are always more concerned with themselves than with God. The absence of a praising spirit shows that they love and care more for themselves than for God. Non-praise shows a selfish nature. But, Christ will have none of that! “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” On that Palm Sunday, the sole point of all creation was about praising its Creator.

Do you think anyone who engaged in that praise on that day regretted it later that afternoon? Do you think it gave any one of them indigestion when they ate their noon meal? Do you think any of them fell asleep that night thinking: “I wish I hadn’t been a part of all that hoopla?” Praising God is a wonderful antidote to the pain and suffering caused by sin. It takes our minds off of us and focuses us on Christ alone, instead. And since He is the healer of body, soul, and the victor over death—well, Praise really does take away our hurts! Amen