Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1), November 30, 2008
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Way of the Lord”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on the words from Zechariah, Behold, your King is coming to you. He is just and having salvation.
In Psalm 24, which we prayed after the Old Testament reading, we hear the following:
“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalms 24:3-5 ESV)
Who indeed? Who can come into God’s presence? God’s holiness, His mighty presence in the world isn’t worshipped much today. In our world today, God is analyzed, critiqued, discussed in court, put on bumper stickers or coffee table books, and generally kept some place private and out of the way, like those pictures from when you are a kid. You’re glad you have them still, but you don’t really want people knowing about them all that much. But worshipped? No. That’s not what we do today. We don’t worship. We play. We worry. We work. We get stressed. But we don’t worship.
But our God reminds us through the Psalmist that only those with clean hands and a clean heart are able to stand in His holy presence. We sort of assume that God will always be there when we get around to him. I’ll come back to him later, when I’m done living my life. I’ll come back another time, when I’m not so busy. I’ll come back when I’m good and ready. And he’ll be waiting for me, like the girlfriend left behind while her man goes off to war. He’ll be waiting. Won’t he? St. Paul, however, tells us this:
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12 ESV)
God knows that your heart isn’t pure. God knows that you will never come to Him on your own. He knows your weaknesses. He knows your rebellion. He knows the anger in your heart, the bitterness, the shame, the sorrow, the hurt, the fear that is within you. He knows these things better than you know them yourself. He knows that you cannot go to Him. You are dead in sins. You are blind to the light of His truth, deaf to His Word, and that you cannot sing or speak His praises.
God knows all these things and more. So He comes to you, lowly and riding a donkey. He comes to you, just and having salvation. He comes to you humble, riding only His Holy Word. He comes to you know meek and mild, not arrogant and proud. He comes to you as the God who loves you with every fiber of His being. He comes to you know in peace, bringing healing in His wings, and having the mighty gift of salvation upon His holy lips.
He comes to you now, and what does He want? One church father put it this way:
Let us spread before the Lord’s feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in His grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before Him. Let us show him honor, not with olive branches but with the splendor of merciful deeds to one another. Let us spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that entering us with the whole of His being, He may draw the whole of our being into Himself and place the whole of His in us. (St. Andrew of Crete)
Now that’s a lot of beautiful language and fancy words, but what he is getting at is this. Jesus does not want your money. He doesn’t want your house. He doesn’t want your job. He wants you. All of you. This is essentially the theme of Advent. Our King is coming. He is just and having salvation. He is coming, and He is coming for you. He comes to reign in your heart, not by fear and trembling. He comes to give you Himself. He comes so that He may use you to show His love to a dying world.
This king of ours is not like the kings of this world. His motivation is not fear, but love. Paul Gerhardt put it this way:
Love caused your incarnation; Love brought you down to me
Your thirst for my salvation, Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling! That led you to embrace
In love all love excelling, Our lost and fallen race. (LSB 334: 4)
Our God is always coming. He is coming to you even now, in Word and Meal. He comes again and again with words of forgiveness, love and hope. When things are dark, when your future is unsure, when you don’t know what is coming next this you can know: God is here for you. God’s thirst for your salvation will not be slaked by anything less than your peace and joy in Him. He enters into Jerusalem on a donkey, He goes to the cross in sorrow, and He comes forth out of the empty tomb in light eternal. All for you. All for you. All for you.
So rejoice this day, as we await the coming King! Rejoice and remember His mercy. It is everlasting. It is rich and deep. And it is for you. Let us pray:
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to rescue us from the threatening perils of our sins, and save us by Your promised deliverance; for You now live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.