Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sermon for 3/20/16: Palmarum--Sunday of the Passion

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

One cannot help but be familiar with the old spiritual which asks, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” In a sense, it’s a preposterous question. After all, the crucifixion of Jesus took place nearly two-thousand years ago. But in another sense, we were there. All the dark secrets of our hearts are exposed this week. We are present in the betrayal by Judas; present in Peter's denial; present in the hateful crowd that cried out for Barabbas; present in the priests and elders who screamed for Christ’s blood; present in the cowardice and expediency of Pilate; present in the cruelty of the Roman guard. You were there as certainly as if it had been your own hands that drove the nails into the hands and feet of your Lord. But do not avert your gaze for shame. Instead repent and rejoice, for the Son of Man was lifted up to draw you to Himself. His crucifixion is your salvation, for He prays the wages of sin with His own blood.

Make confession of your sin, lest your faith grow cold and your heart turn to stone. Examine yourself. Ask with the disciples, “Lord, is it I?” And then leave it there. Whatever sins you carry with you as you approach the cross this week, whatever regrets haunt you from this past year, whatever you've done wrong or left undone or unsaid, whatever shame you know, leave it all at the foot of the cross. Rejoice in the death of Jesus, in the harrowing of Hell, the destruction of the tempter, and the prophecy fulfilled. Rejoice in the will of God to make you His, the obedience of the Son, and the coming of the Resurrection.

His faithfulness is not derived from your obedience or loyalty. You were not worthy of His love, but He loves you anyway. It was His will to suffer your betrayal and abuse so that you would be spared. You ask: “Is it I, Lord?” And He says, “No. It is not. It is I. You are innocent. In my blood, you are righteous and well-pleasing to the Father. The burden of all your past, present, and future guilt has been carried to my cross and buried in the ground. Your sins are gone. The thorns, the scourge, and the nails have bled them out of Me, and you are clean. You are not accountable in heaven for sins on earth. You do not pay for what you have done, what you have thought or dreamed, or what you have said. I paid it all. There is no more. I welcome you back again. I love you, and I love you here with Me. I did it all for you so that you would be Mine. Be at peace.”

Is it too easy? Is it so simple that you find it hard to believe? Is it too good to be true? Think on Barabbas, who was guilty of vile crimes, of treachery and betrayal. He took advantage of his own people. He was not trusted or respected. He ruined everything good he'd ever known. Yet he went free, pardoned of his crimes, restored to his people, given another chance, a new future. The mob chose him, a murderer, in their hatred over the Lord of Life who had healed their sick, driven off the demons, and given back their dead. But the Father was not sad. He would not have it any other way. What they chose in their hatred, what they meant for evil, He meant for good. In the end, it is not they who chose Barabbas, but God. God rescued him from his guilt and penalty. Jesus switched places with him. It could not be any other way. For in this way, by the condemnation, the forsaking, the bitter sufferings and death of Our Lord, God won back His creation from the Fall. He made all things new and rose again for your justification. Is it so simple that it is hard to believe? That’s possible. But accepting the truth of God’s goodness is not nearly as hard as going to Hell. Barabbas was spared. So, too, are you.

Let this week heal your sin-sick soul. Let it bind up your broken heart and restore your courage and your faith. Do not weep for your Lord; rejoice and sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The will of the Father is seen on the cross. The Name of the Father is glorified there. The Passover is done. The New Testament in His Blood is begun. And you are His once again, now and forevermore. “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” “His mercy endureth forever.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.        

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.  

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