Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parable: The Wicked Tenants

Let’s begin with a little framing.  Think back to the religious leaders challenging the authority of this man called Jesus.  They wanted to know by whose authority was he teaching and preaching and doing all of these things that had stirred up quite a following.

Jesus said to them that if they would answer his question then he would respond in kind.  Jesus asked them to get off the fence and state whether John the Baptist’s authority and the baptisms that he performed were from God or from human authority.  Simple enough, right?

If they said from God, then Jesus would chastise them for not getting with the program.  If they said from people, the people might form a lynch mob because they believed John to be a prophet.  So they told Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus replied by telling them that he would not answer their question either; but that was only the beginning of this encounter.  Jesus had the religious leaders squarely in his sights and offered them the Parable of the Two Sons.  At the end of this parable, he told these self-righteous leaders that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of them.

Apparently, Jesus launched immediately into another parable focused mainly at the Pharisees and other religious leaders. 

Next, we need to note that we might make an exception to the general rule of trying not to be allegorical in our interpretation of parables.  This parable makes that task nearly impossible.  It seems that most things in the parable directly represent something else, though not all scholars agree exactly what all is represented.

The third piece of framing is that this is another parable about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It seems to be talking about things on earth but the Kingdom of Heaven is in play here once again.

So Jesus is teaching—and maybe chastising the Pharisees in parable, he is perhaps allegorical, and we are again keeping company without our old parable friend—the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s get allegorical. 

The vineyard is Israel.  Isaiah 5 and the fact that it is set apart from the rest of the world by a wall helps here.  The landowner is God the Father.  The tenants are the Jews—especially the Pharisees.  The servants are the prophets and the Son is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Other items include the tower being the theocracy of Israel and the winepress being the priesthood, though these items don’t seem to be as universally accepted as the previous ones, and perhaps don’t bear much on the message of the parable.

So what happens in this parable?

The tenants seem to be a rebellious and selfish lot of individuals.  They have no regard for the landowner.  They don’t want to give him what he is due.

The landowner sends his servants to collect what is rightfully his and the tenants reject them.  Some were beaten, others stoned, and some were killed. 

The landowner sent his son.  Surely the tenants will have some regard for his own son.  The tenants kill the son.

This isn’t an arbitrary murder.  It is motivated by wanting what the son had—what was rightfully his.  The tenants wanted his inheritance.

“If we kill him, then what was his will be ours.  We can keep this sweet deal that we have.”

But Jesus asks, “What do you think the landowner will do now?  What will he do when he comes in person?”

Those listening replied, “He will give those wicked men exactly what they deserve, and it is not going to be a pretty sight.  Then he will rent the vineyard out to other tenants who will give him what is due.”

On the allegorical side, we have been introduced to new shepherds for Israel and opened the gates for the Gentiles to be in a good relationship with the landowner.

Now consider how Jesus homes in on the religious leaders.  This is from The Message.

Jesus said, “Right—and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles:

The stone the masons threw out
    is now the cornerstone.
This is God’s work;
    we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!

“This is the way it is with you. God’s kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed.”

It is at this point that the Pharisees and other religious leaders were sure that Jesus was talking about them.  This part you didn’t have to figure out.  God’s kingdom will be taken from you and given to people who will live as God’s people.

Ouch!  If they could have arrested Jesus right then they would have done it but the people would not stand for it.  Jesus taught with authority.  The people considered him a prophet.  Some were already hailing him as the Messiah.  They were stuck having to listen to him.

Before we move beyond this point, we should not that all manuscripts do not have that last verse.  It is the one that reads:

And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.

That sounds like bad news across the board.  It might be the ultimate lose-lose scenario, or not.  For there is an interpretation on the first part of this phrase which is very much good news and is in sync with the audience to whom this parable was delivered.

Whoever falls on this stone will be broken.  What does that mean?  It could mean that this is the stone that breaks hardened hearts.  It could be the only way that the self-righteous could come to accept Jesus as Lord.  Brokenness prepares the heart for redemption. 

On the other hand, it could be that it is just typical Hebrew parallelism.  That is say something one way and then say something that means the same thing another way.  It’s the walk on the right side of the road; do now walk on the left sort of syntax that we see frequently in the Psalms and other Old Testament writings.  We see it very clearly in verses 16 & 17 of John’s gospel.

Realize in this interpretation at the end of the Parable of the Tenants, that this is the lose-lose scenario.  Fall on the stone or let it fall on you and you are toast either way.  That could be it.

I think for this age, it leans more towards be broken in human spirit so that we can receive God’s Holy Spirit by acknowledging Christ as Lord.  That is exactly what the Pharisees needed.  They needed to give up their self-righteousness and come to Jesus as the broken men that they truly were.

The good news is that Jesus receives the broken.  He calls out to the weary and heavily burdened.  He came not to condemn but to save.  But some reject.  Some rebel.  Some want God and Jesus out of the way and out of their lives.

There is a concept that I call anchoring.  An anchor is set so that we do not drift away.  Anchors can be good things. We sing, On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.  That’s a good anchor.

But sometimes we adopt a position or strategy or even a doctrine.  It may have developed in a moment or over the course of years.  We may have heard a fantastic sermon or done a biblical study that hit home.  It could be anything, but it is something that we believe.  It may or may not be true and if we continue to learn, we may update our doctrine or outright have a change of heart and mind so long as we have a teachable spirit. 

God wants us to grow and grow in his grace, where we may fail time and time again; yet, through confession and an absolute assurance of his pardon, we get back in our race of faith.

But sometimes, we find ourselves defending a position, or a mindset, or a doctrine.  The more we defend it, the more we become anchored to it.  Logic and emotion combined and produce anchoring.   The more we become anchored to it, the less we want to learn, because learning may invite change—and we don’t want to change.

We are comfortable in our way of thinking.  Sometimes, that is a great thing.  There are some thoughts and beliefs that I am anchored to and will not change.  For instance:
God is good!  I’m not giving that up.

God loves me.  Sometimes that seems hard to believe, but in the worst of times, I will hold fast to this.  I am anchored to it.

How about, God created.  It didn’t all just happen.  It didn’t all just come out of nowhere without something divine kicking it off.  Now how long it took—how long a day in Genesis was—well I am not anchored to a 24-hour day.

The Pharisees were smart people.  They memorized much of the Old Testament.  They knew the law and where it seemed that there were gaps in the law, they came up with their own rules and regulations and made the people comply with them as if God was the author.

They defended their rules and regulations and their way of life and became anchored to them.  God told them to have no other gods, but what if your own version of godly living becomes your god.

Why did the religious leaders want to kill Jesus?  He was taking away their god.  He was busting up this whole religion business and bringing people to right standing through relationship.  The whole story of how we would come to this right relationship was unfolding before their eyes—not yet complete—but already sending tremors through the comfort zones of those anchored to religion.

The religious leaders did not want the one true God because he was not made in their own image.  The Pharisees and the Sanhedrin did not want to be the tenants in the vineyard; they felt like they were the owners.  And if the son of the landowner came to set things right, they would kill him.

Make no mistake about it, this was an in-your-face parable for the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law.  The son had not only come in the parable, but he was the one delivering the parable and he was messing with the establishment.

The religious leaders were looking at Jesus as a rebel when all the while they were the rebels.  They are the ones rebelling against God.  They are the wicked tenants.

Jesus will hit them with another parable where they are the primary target audience, but we will keep that for another time.  

Today, I ask that we examine how many rules and regulations and personal preferences are creeping into our relationship with God.  How many things are there that we are comfortable with and that we give equal status with God?

Of course our initial answer is that there is nothing, notta, no thing or practice that we hold in equal status with God.  Good!  Are we willing to confirm that?

How many people have left one congregation for another because they didn’t like the pastor, or the color of the carpet, or that newfangled music, or words on the wall.  Sometimes people leave because the words are projected on the wall instead of transmitted onto huge video screens.

We are people who are supposed to worship God, serve God, and grow in grace.  A whole bunch of this gets wrapped up in loving one another.  That’s where the rubber meets the road.

But sometimes, we let things get in the way of worshiping God and serving God and when we continue down this path, we surely are not growing in God’s grace. 

I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.
I can’t believe in a God who would not send people to hell.
I can’t believe in a God who would let homosexuals in the church.
I can’t believe in a God who would not let homosexuals in the church.
I can’t believe in a God who lets his church host an Easter Egg Hunt.
I can’t believe in a God who would not let his church host an Easter Egg Hunt.
I can’t believe in a God who lets people raise their hands in worship.
I can’t believe in a God who won’t let his people raise their hands in worship.
I can’t believe in a God who ministers to prostitutes and drug addicts.
I can’t believe in a God who does not minister to prostitutes and drug addicts.
I can’t believe in a God who lets his people smoke cigarettes and watch Captain Kangaroo.
I can’t believe in a God who won’t let his people smoke cigarettes and watch Captain Kangaroo.

I am intentionally including the mundane and the absurd on this lengthy litany because any of these things can get in the way of our relationship with God.  Any of these beliefs can become as important as God if we let them.

We all have personal preferences and pet peeves, but when they become more important than loving one another or having ears to hear when God is speaking to us or getting absurd in our behavior—God hit me with lighting if you don’t want me to run Billy Jo Bob out of the church—then we have become the wicked tenants in the vineyard.

We know the truth.  God loves us more than we can imagine.  How will we respond?  Will we respond by loving God in every way that we can or will some of our pet peeves, personal doctrines, pious policies get in the way?

Our human nature often gets in the way of enjoying the relationship with God.  Sometimes we want to be the landowner even if only in a small way or in a few things; but we are the tenants.  We are the stewards.  Everything in this world was created by God and belongs to God.  We put things to use, govern resources, practice stewardship but we are the tenants.

We wrestle sometimes with being a friend of God and being the tenant, but this is not a dichotomy.  This should cause no dissonance.  God is almighty, holy, righteous, good, forgiving, redemptive, and his primal nature is love.  I am glad that he is the landowner.  I am not up to the job just yet.  I have not been made for that job.

I am being shaped in the image and likeness of his Son.  I am a joint heir with his Son.  I am a friend of God.  But I am not God and neither are my pet peeves or personal doctrines or my pious policies.  My religion is not my God.  God wants a relationship with me where we are friends not in competition for sovereignty. 

This week, do some personal inventory. See what thinking or beliefs or thoughts or attitudes that we have that get in the way of our relationship with the one true God.

See where religion is getting in the way of relationship.

See if we are producing the good fruit that God desires.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Do not be afraid!

It’s another Easter morning.  What can we say about the day and its significance?

He is risen.

He is risen indeed!

Death is destroyed.

By his stripes we are healed.

Despair has no home here.  We will have trials and tribulation but despair gets kicked to the curb.

I am crucified with Christ.  Christ lives in me.

He lives!  Maybe we should just give our answers in song.  He lives. He lives.  Christ Jesus lives today.

Up from the grave he arose, with a might triumph o’er his foes.  He arose the victor from the dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign.

Let’s get a little more current.  My chains are gone.  I’ve been set free.  My God my Savior has ransomed me.

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  Jesus spoke those words to Martha at Bethany shortly before he healed Lazarus, but they should hit home with us this morning.

“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” Isaiah’s words should ring true this morning.

What else can we say?  What can we add to these words of victory.  Is there anything to add to up from the grave he arose?

How about, “Fear not!”  How about, “Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid!

Comparing gospel accounts of this morning’s activities, Mark’s version has women receiving this same message of not being afraid.  So the women left the tomb excited and bewildered because they were afraid.

In Matthew’s gospel, the angel told the women not to be afraid and a very short time later, the resurrected Jesus told them the same thing.

Do not be afraid.

Let’s give the women and the disciples a little slack.  Their world had just fallen apart.  Their leader was arrested, convicted, verbally abused, physically abused, and nailed to a cross until he died.  These followers had been in some tough spots before and lived to tell about it, but Jesus had always been there.  Now he was gone.

They were afraid.  Was this special thing that they had been a part of over now?  What came next?  Would they even have time to find out what happened next or were they next in line for the cross?

The man who had preached that the Kingdom of God is near—and had sent these disciples out with the same message—was gone.  The empire of Rome and those religious leaders that Jesus put on the spot so many times seemed to have emerged victorious.

In similar circumstances, we too might have been a little afraid.  We might not have been on our “A-Game.”  Being in the presence of an angel always seems to evoke the words, “Fear not!”

In addition to everything else that goes with this morning’s celebration, let’s make it our goal not to be afraid.  Of all the things that seem to survive the ages, fear is chief among them. 

Jesus lived and died and rose again and that took away the power that sin and death held over us, at least as far as our salvation goes.  That was the once and for all sacrifice that took away our sin.  The Lamb of God took away our sin.

So why do we still deal with fear in this century?  

Specifically, why do Christians fear?

We as followers of Jesus have been told that we will probably do some suffering because we follow him.  We have been told that we will have some trouble in the world because we belong to him and not to the world. 

But fear?  We are people who don’t do fear.  Yes, we fear the Lord.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and as it turns out, wisdom as well.  But we need to understand this fear as a starting point not the ultimate destination. 

The fear of the Lord gets us pointed in the right direction but it is not the destination.  It should, however, release us from all other fear.

See if these words don’t ring a bell.  Perfect love casts out fear.  Fear has to do with punishment and condemnation.  Jesus paid the price for us.  We stood condemned but Jesus paid the price not out of a sense of duty but out of love.  

Should we not respond in love and not fear.

Perfect love casts out fear.

God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Here’s one that always gets me motivated.  Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous?  Do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged for the Lord, your God will be with you wherever you go.

Fear is real but living in fear is a choice.  God says choose courage over fear.

Here is the rhetorical question for the ages.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

Why is that a rhetorical question?  Because God is for us.  Nothing can stand against us.  No weapon formed against us shall prevail.  Nothing in heaven or on earth or anywhere else can separate us from the love of God that we know in Christ Jesus!

What do we have to fear?  What are we afraid of?

There are 613 commands in the Old Testament.  Jesus added one more while he was here walking the earth in the flesh.  He told those who would follow him that we must love each other.  In so doing people would know that we are his disciples.

That makes 614 commands.  That’s a lot.  Now if we abide in the last one, the others will take care of themselves, but I wish that there were 615 commands.  I so wish that Jesus had added “Fear not” to the list of commands required for those who love God and want to follow him.

We celebrate Easter every year.  We are reminded that the blood of Jesus took way sin’s power over our life.  It took away death being final.  These clay vessels may wear out but our life goes on because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and in his resurrection, is the promise of ours.

Sin and death have been defeated.  Now it’s time to defeat fear.

Today we celebrate the victory that Jesus gave us over sin—as the Lamb of God sacrificed in our place.  Today we celebrate our victory over death.  When Jesus rose on that third day, this was our victory as well.

Today, let’s not only celebrate victory over sin and death, let’s make our response to the love that gave us these victories loving one another and living without fear.

Today we celebrate the resurrection.  Tomorrow we pick up our own cross, take the yoke of our Master, and we go fearlessly proclaiming the love of God in the world.

May you have a blessed Easter Day!

May you celebrate the victories won.

May you live in strength and courage, not being afraid or discouraged.  The Lord, you God, your resurrected Savior, is with you wherever you go!


Wanna get away?

When I consider these scriptures, I am sure that you think about the same thing that I do.  What’s that?

Southwest Airlines!

You have seen the commercials.  The most recent, I think, is one where a man an eloquent party picks up a champagne for himself and for the beautiful blonde sitting on the sofa.  All he can see is the back of her head but she’s got to be hot, so he heads her way only to discover a long haired Afghan Hound.  The polite chuckles make their way around the room.

Oops or in the vernacular of the airline, Wanna get away?

It is one of those moments where you just want to disappear off the face of the earth.  Why?

In the case of Matthew’s account, about noon the day turned to darkness for 3 hours.  You don’t see that too often.  I have been in Iraq and Kuwait when the sky was dark for miles and miles and for several months, but everyone knew what happened there.  You set a bunch of oil wells on fire and the sky turns black.

But on Golgotha, the sky was black for another reason, one the Romans might not pick up on right away but the religious leaders should have known.

Now at about 3 in the afternoon, Jesus calls it good.  Matthew records that Jesus cried out in a loud voice and gave up his spirit.  If you compare this account with John’s gospel, we see that what Jesus said was, “It is finished!”

It seems that the 3 hours of darkness has lapsed because there is a great earthquake and people can see the curtain of the temple was torn.  This was not just a little tear that could be mended by the Sabbath.  It was torn in two from top to bottom.

We like our modern-day symbolism that tells us that nothing stands between us and God now.  We don’t have to go to a priest or bring a sacrifice.  Jesus made a way—he is the way—to the Father.  The torn curtain is a fantastic symbol.

But for the moment, just consider all of this in the moment.  People are not standing around thinking, “Wow!  That’s surely a symbol that now I have direct access to God.” 

People are in the middle of unprecedented darkness—finally lifting, an earthquake, and off all the things that are notable in Jerusalem, the curtain of the temple is torn.

If that were not enough, rocks split open.  It does not say that rocks rolled down a mountain and split when they hit the ground.  It says they split.  Imagine the vibration that it took to split rocks.

On top of that, dead people are coming out of their graves.  I am not talking about a Poltergeist movie moment where coffins are popping up everywhere because the new housing development was built on an old cemetery.

People are coming back to life.  This is not a bizarre first century version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.  These are holy people coming back to life.

Now at this point, you have to admit that this is not your ordinary Sabbath Preparation Day.  Just imagine being a faithful Jew.  Father and sons are out working hard to get everything done by sundown.  Mom and the girls are preparing meals for the next day, and low and behold, Uncle Bob—who has been dead for a decade—pops in and asks, “What’s for supper?  I haven’t eaten in years.”

You would think that the religious leaders might have wanted to have called a meeting to consider all of this; you would think.

But it is the Roman centurion—the captain and probably the senior officer or among the senior officers in Judea—that has the epiphany that should have come to the religious leaders.  This was an officer surely seasoned by several campaigns that extraordinary events would not rattled; yet, he was terrified.  He was terrified, but the truth did not escape him.  What was the truth?

Surely, he was the Son of God.

So we come back to Southwest Airlines.  I am in command and we just killed the Son of God.  Wanna get away?

Surely, he was the Son of God.  The only thing that the centurion missed was the tense of the verb, for the story was far from over.  We know the rest of the story.

He would be pierced by the spear but not a single bone was broken.  He would be put in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea and with a little help from a Pharisee named Nicodemus, some hasty burial preparations were made.  The body of Jesus was wrapped in some cloth and the stone placed over the entrance.  

Worried about the disciples coming to take the body, the religious leaders convinced the Roman governor to place guards on the tomb.  They even sealed it shut.

Dead is dead and nobody was going to pull off some resurrection charade now.

But the words of the centurion would prevail over the desires of the Sanhedrin.  Surely, this is the Son of God for on the third day he was not in the tomb.

He was risen from the dead.  He is risen from the dead.

Surely, he is the Son of God.

He is risen from the dead and he is Lord!

For 20 centuries now, men and women have come to the realization that Jesus is the Son of God.  Today, we celebrate not only that he is the Son of God, but that in demonstration of God’s great love, Jesus became the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

He became the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Our sin had sentenced us to death but he died in our place so we could once again be in right standing with God.  Long ago, Adam and Eve had unencumbered fellowship with God.  For a very long time, sin interfered with that communion, but sin has no such power now.

And death is defeated as well.  When Jesus rose from the grave, he conquered death not only for himself, but for us as well.

Surely, he is the Son of God!


Friday, April 7, 2017

Hosanna to the Son of David

Jesus has been baptized by John, an event witnessed by heaven and earth.  He was tempted by physical weakness and by Satan himself and emerged victorious ready for his mission to kick into gear.

He has been welcomed, given the cold shoulder, praised, and challenged.  He taught, healed, rebuked, comforted, and rescued a wedding from disaster.  He dined with Pharisees and tax collectors.  He retreated from the crowds into houses and went up mountains to pray and just get away from the crowds so he could be with his Father.  He needed a place to be still.

He has even had his body prepared for burial in advance with some pricy fragrances. The disciples might have thought that such a high-priced perfume might be sold to feed the poor, but they were yet to understand the magnitude of what was to come.

Jesus wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus even though he would bring him back from the dead.  Jesus had told his closest friends that he must die.  They did not want to accept this, but Jesus told them that it must happen.  They must set aside their own expectations for the plan of God.

Jesus walked from place to place as any man would but he was also transfigured into the glory that awaited him.  This took place before three of his disciples.  Elijah and Moses appeared with him.  It was sort of like a final timeout to make sure that everything required by the law and the prophets would be accomplished in these final days.

Jesus still had a few more things to check off his bucket list before he went to the cross.  One of them was to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey—and a young donkey at that.  The logistics for this were already in place. 

Jesus sent two disciples to a specific place to retrieve these animals.  He said that if anyone says anything, just tell them that the Lord needs them.  They returned without incident with a donkey and its colt in tow. Whether this had been arranged sometime over the past three years of roaming the countryside or had ben coordinated at the foundation of the world is not part of the account, but Jesus would ride into Jerusalem just as Zechariah’s prophecy had foretold.

There were coats and cloaks placed on this donkey.  There were coats placed on the road into Jerusalem.  People cut down branches to line the road.  This was a big event.  This was an array of color and commendation set for Jesus.  The King of kings was coming to town.

How did people know to be on this road before Twitter and Facebook?  How did a crowd form when nobody knew how to send a group text?

This was Jerusalem’s King.  This was the King of kings riding into town just as prophesied.  There was no advertising or advanced billing, but the King was coming.

There was excitement in the air.  Some of the crowd went ahead of Jesus.  Some surely just came to the roadside.  Others followed.  Jesus had just healed two blind men, probably in Jericho or at least on the road from Jericho.  These two men followed.

Even when they were blind, they knew who this man was.  They cried out, “Lord, Son of David, help us!”  They could have cried out, “Prophet from Nazareth would you help us?”
They cried out to the Son of David and asked for mercy. 

Jesus replied, “I do all kinds of mercy.  What exactly do you need?”

Now Jesus knew what they needed but we have been given this exchange so we can witness the reverence for Jesus and the confidence in Jesus and the gratitude of two men who given their sight might have had a list of their own—you know, things to do if we ever got our sight—but they decided to follow Jesus.

Jesus was coming and didn’t need tweets or posts to let people know.  There was an excitement building in and around Jerusalem.  Listen to how the gospel writer personified the city.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

blind men knew that Jesus was the Son of David.  The crowds in Jerusalem knew him as a prophet from Galilee.  The Sanhedrin were not impressed by anything that came out of Nazareth or Galilee, but this wasn’t their day.  This day belonged to the man riding the donkey.

The crowds called out to the Son of David.  The people going ahead or following behind Jesus knew that this man was more than a prophet.  This was the long-promised Messiah from the lineage of King David.

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Hosanna is an exclamation of praise and a request for help all wrapped into one.   It’s save us and praise you squeezed into a single word.  It is excitement and expectation bundled together.  The people were asking for salvation with the expectation that the man on the colt could provide it.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

What a day!  Not everyone knew everything but enough people knew enough to get excited and shout, Hosanna!  They knew enough.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

In 2017 we know much, much more than those who lined the road to Jerusalem.  We know that this was and is the King of kings.  This man is the Messiah.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  We know the story but do we have the excitement?

Or do we think:

“Oh man, Palm Sunday already—I had better get on the ball and buy some eggs for the kids.”

“Holy Toledo!  It’s almost Easter. I don’t know if I am up to another zero dark thirty worship service.”

“I hope they got most of the stickers out of that field for the Easter Egg Hunt.”

“I am so not ready to sing, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.  Could any song have a more depressing melody and lyrics?  Can’t we just skip to He Lives, He Lives!”

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Man, where did the year go?  It’s that time again?”

We need more of “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and less of time passing us by.  We need to generate some excitement about the celebration that is upon us.

We need to embrace the attitude that goes with these words:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever would believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

You have heard these words from me every Sunday since the fall of 2011.  Regardless of what the sermon is, we always proclaim the good news.  If you ever hear me just say these words instead of proclaiming them with enthusiasm and joy, then put the search committee together. 

We should be even more excited about shouting Hosanna—save us—to the Son of David because that is exactly what he did.

There is a whole lot that transpired between that first Palm Sunday and the resurrection.  There is a lot to study and learn and apply, but for today, it’s about excitement.  It is about building up to the biggest celebration of our year. 

As you go through this week, do it with the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

When you pick up your mail, shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”

When you think about something being boring or routine in your life, then proclaim these words:  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

I know that sometimes biblical messages are heavy on the theology and the interpretation of the text and the latest twist on what the Greek or Aramaic might have meant instead of the traditional interpretation.  I know that.  Preacher has to pay the bills, right?  So he throws in a fancy word every now and then so people think that he might have gone to school, but today is about getting worked up for the biggest celebration of the year.

Today is about laying down our coats and palm branches and our selfish desires.  It is for lifting up our spirit for the King of kings is coming to town, and we know that the biggest gift the world has even known is about to bestow life upon the world.

Get ready to celebrate.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”