Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Undoing the Powers that Be

Advent I
Sermon Text — Luke 19:28-40
Audio —

 

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN!  Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 19th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

The Seat of Power

SermonGraphic_300x200Jerusalem is the seat of power in the land of Canaan.  Herod resides there. Pilate has his quarters there.  The Sanhedrin gather there.  The temple with her priests are there in its midst.  Whoever controls Jerusalem controls Canaan.  Whoever controls Canaan controls the trade routes.  As with all things where there is money to be had there is power to be exercised.  Power and money govern Jerusalem, her temple and her people.  And power and money require more power and money to maintain themselves.  There is always someone vying for more of each.  Herod, Pilate, the Sanhedrin, the Herodians, the scribes, priests, zealots, the pilgrims all struggle against each other each looking for an advantage against the others, each plotting, planning, maneuvering, manipulating.  Wherever there is power there is conflict and struggle.  And wherever there is conflict and struggle there is fear and anxiety.

There is little difference between the world then and the world today.  Everything is all about power and money.  Who among us can say they are without fear and anxiety about the days ahead?  Nations are plotting their next move in the Middle East.  Terrorists who threaten to down a single flight have effectually threatened every flight.  Foreigners are gathering at the gates of our nation, crossing our borders, settling in our communities.  Who can be trusted?  Who can see the big picture?  Who knows what will happen?  Old Adam assumes the worst.  Whatever is coming won’t be good.  Who can truly say “I am not afraid, though the earth gives way and mountains tumble into the heart of sea.”?  Who can say they are strong enough to withstand the flaming arrows of our adversaries?  Who can be brave in the face of uncertainty, depressions, cancer, . . . death?

Our text is all about Jesus coming to Jerusalem.  He approaches the seat of power.  God’s plan of salvation moves quickly towards completion.  Jesus advances to finish it once and for all.  The crowds of disciples gather ‘round about Him as we do this morning singing the praises of the One who walked on water, stilled the storm fed the hungry, healed the sick, loosed those bound in sin and death.  Yes, they gather to welcome Jesus – but they gather with false expectations.  They line the streets to welcome their king.  But they are hoping for a very different kind of king than Jesus has come to be.  What sort of king do you gather before this morning?  Are you here because you hope for more power, or money, or security?

Hoping for More Power

Though much of our fear and anxiety are the result of what’s happening all around us Old Adam is not without his self-doubts.  We know our hearts . . . better than we’re willing to confess.  We may put on a brave face but inside we’re full of doubt.  We know our bodies.  We feel the frailty of our flesh.  We’re not a strong as we’d like to be.  We’re always wondering when we’ll get sick again.  We’re always fearing the test results, we’re always anxious about what the MRI will show.  When were afraid we hope for more strength.  Hoping for more strength is really hoping for more power.  Old Adam always hopes for more power.  We hope for a more powerful anti-biotic, a more powerful vaccine, a more powerful antiseptic, a more powerful treatment, a more powerful food, diet, program that will help us overcome our weakness.

The same is true when we think on our sin.  All of our weakness has its roots in sin.  Thus to overcome our sin we plot, and plan, and strategize, and seek after new methods and alternative disciplines.  We follow the ones who teach us about becoming a more “powerful” you.  All of the self-help industry is geared toward appeasing Old Adam’s quest for power.

And we apply the same to our spirituality.  We want Jesus to ride into our lives and fight, to exercise power, to be our wing man.  We want Jesus to fight with us . . . but not so much for us.  Old Adam refuses to be passive.  There is no power is passivity.  Power is exercised.  Power is executed.  Power is the aggressive use of force.  So we call on God to use His power, to force our adversaries into Submission.  This was the view of many Jews that fateful Sunday.  They hoped Jesus would come in power and force the Romans out and usher in a new era of Jewish glory.  In reality they wanted Jesus to be more like a Mohammed acting on behalf of Allah, than the Son of Mary fulfilling His Father’s will.

The Meekness of the Messiah

Jesus is nothing like Mohammed.  His Father’s will has nothing in common with the will of Allah.  Christianity is nothing like Islam.  Jesus does not enter Jerusalem, the seat of all power in Canaan, in order to forcibly submit her inhabitants.  Nor does do that today.  Jesus approaches Jerusalem not on a stallion, not with armies in tow, not with swords or spears, to chants of victory or death to the enemy.  NO!  CERTAINTLY NOT! He approaches in humility.  He rides a donkey, a colt upon which no one has ever sat.  Nothing like this has ever happened.  He is alone in His purpose and alone in His mission.  No one can do, no one has ever done, what Jesus does in Jerusalem.

Unlike those who came before Him, unlike all who came after Him, and unlike all who come to us today,

Jesus does not come to exercise power.  He comes to surrender.

He does not come to be strong.  He approaches in weakness.

He does not come to strike and kill but to be struck by those whom he loves.

His advent is not one of war but of peace.

He draws near not to plunder but to redeem.

He rides into death, the Lamb seated upon a colt, to take away the power of sin, the strength of the law and the grave’s lien against every one of us.  He comes to finish it once and for all by dying on the cross and rising on the third day.

Such is the Messiah’s labors for you.  God is our refuge and strength says the Psalmist.  An ever present help in trouble.  It is not power that wins the day for you but weakness.    For the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men.  It is not wisdom that thwarts the plans of the enemy, but the folly of God’s Son shedding His blood for humanity, once and for all.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.  For God’s power is manifested in the coming of His Son.  Yet the coming of His Son is revealed to the world in weakness.  He is the firstborn of a virgin, laid in a manger and adored by shepherds.  He enters Jerusalem on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey upon which no one has ever sat welcomed by pilgrims.  And in His death He is laid in an unused tomb, borrowed from a friend, borrowed for three days, making all of our tombs temporary.

Receiving the King in His Means of Grace

To this day His advent is no different.  Jesus is for us the coming One.  The manifestation of His advent to us is no different now than it was then.  He still comes in humility.  Though we would desire power and strength, He approaches in water and Word.  Though we would be inspired to work out our own salvation, have Jesus as our co-pilot, He defeats sin in us through the folly of the cross proclaimed by the voice of His sent ones.  Though we would have Him shield us from death’s portal, He shows Himself to be our Good Shepherd, walking with us through valley of death, nourishing us along the way with a bit of fleshly bread and bloodied wine loosing us from the pangs of death.  Through these He fights for us and in us not so much with power as we understand power, but with love, heavenly love that forgives our sins and steals away all threats of the grave.

Therefore we Christians are given to hope in these His means of grace.  Through these Jesus, the ever coming one, is present to act on our behalf and draw near to us and us to Him.  No guns at our head.  No scimitars on our necks.  No laws compelling us to submit.  His is not a kingdom of power as the world understands power, but of mercy as revealed to us by our crucified and risen savior.  His kingdom is not one that is seen in the exercise of aggressive force nor is it beheld as a company of soldiers wielding swords and spears.  His kingdom is one is that is heard.  Jesus has not come to force Himself on the world, on us, or on our neighbors, but to woo us with Words and Sacraments, with gentleness and humility, with mercy and love.

Approaching the Seat of Mercy

Beloved in the Lord, the world is all about the exercise of power as the sons of men fight to advance their agendas.  Chaos seems to rule our days as the future swells with uncertainty.  With uncertainty comes fear and anxiety.  No man, woman, or child is exempt from Old Adam’s worldview.  But our God has given us another image to behold – His Son.  This morning He approaches Jerusalem and so also her temple.  He comes to the seat of power in the land of Canann.  But that power is no more.  Jerusalem is undone by the death of Her King and a New Jerusalem rises with His resurrection.  No longer is God’s throne bound by geography but all the earth is the Lord’s.  Wherever the Word is preached in its purity and the sacraments are gifted as Jesus taught, there is the New Jerusalem.  No longer is she the seat of power, but rather the seat of divine mercy.  Here is the New Jerusalem.  Here is Christ’s Church.  Here is Jesus in all of His humility and meekness drawing near to us today.  Here is the fount of all mercy and love, the mercy and love that defeats sin, destroys the power of our adversaries, and promises the resurrection from the dead.  It is not with destructive power that God saves but the power of God unto salvation is made manifest for you in the gospel of His Son.  Therefore, confident of His heart toward us let us approach the seat of mercy with faith toward Him and depart with fervent love toward one another.  Let us draw near the One who first drew near to us.  Let us feast and let us sing and let us rejoice.  Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord.  There is peace in heaven, peace in the New Jerusalem, peace with God and with one another.  Glory in the highest.  AMEN!

 


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