Rocklin, California

Tag: Palm Sunday

The Mind of God (Palm/Passion Sunday 2013)

Palm Sunday 2013 (March 24, 2013)
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rocklin, California

palmarum2013.mp3

TITLE: “The Mind of God”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the Epistle just read from Philippians chapter two, as well as the Gospel from St Luke chapter 23.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” So Paul begins this beautiful section of this Epistle. God is His mercy through St. Paul calls us to have the mind of Christ. But what does that really mean?

What St. Paul is talking about is really asking the question first of why God created us, and secondly, of what we are to make of our lives here on earth as His children. As we enter into Holy Week and suffer our Lord’s death with Him, that is a question really worth asking. What is the point of all these readings and celebrations of our Lord’s death and resurrection? Here is what Martin Luther had to say about it in the Large Catechism:

Why did God create us? “For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Spirit, by whom to bring us to Himself.” – Large Catechism (Martin Luther)

Let’s put it this way. God didn’t create us in order to DO something. He created us first in order to BE something. Now don’t get me wrong. We have all kinds of things to do here on earth. But our lives are far more significant than a do-to list for you to check off at the end of each day. We are so easily caught up in this mindset. Productivity and efficiency are very popular words, even in churches.

But that is not why God created you. Hear again those words from St. Paul, “Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Did you catch that? The mind of Christ is yours already. It is what God gave to you in Holy Baptism, when He gave you His Son and the Holy Spirit. What this means is that you ARE God’s child, first and foremost. It is that which shapes what you do in service to your neighbor.

Think of it like this. You don’t start a family and have children so that they will do things for you. If the reason we have children is in order to have cheap servants, well, then it isn’t a very good investment. No, we don’t get married and start families because want want to get something from it. Not finally, at least. The reason we are families is because that is who we are. We have children because, well, because we love them and we want to care for them and give to them as God has given to us.

So our text here from Philippians gives us an important insight into the nature of God. Jesus did not think equality with God is a thing to be grasped. Striving and working toward becoming a better person, even reaching up to god’s divine nature, that’s not the point. The Christian faith isn’t a self-improvement program or a better community service plan. No, God has way, way bigger plans than a little self-help. Rather, our text says, Jesus made himself nothing. Literally it is that he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant or slave. And He was born in the likeness of men.

So when Jesus took on our human form, He because a servant. Even more, He became your servant. And He became obedient, to the point of death itself. The very essence of the Gospel, the very throbbing heart of the Christian faith, is that God serves you, loves you and cares for you above all else.

So because of God’s great love and care for you, He sent His Son, Jesus, who took on this form of a servant and became obedient to the point of death on a cross. When we hear the story of our Lord’s suffering and death, this simple, beautiful reality must always be the motif, the theme that runs through every verse and every hearing of our Lord’s Passion. For you. For you. Always and evermore for you.

Hear Luther’s words again on this:

In the heart of God you will find a divine, good, fatherly heart. As Christ says, you will be drawn to the Father through Christ. Then you will understand what Christ meant when He said, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). This is how we know God as He wants us to know Him. We donʼt know Him by His power and wisdom, which terrify us, but by His goodness and love. There our faith and confidence stand unmovable. This is how a person is truly born again in God. (From Luther’s “How to Meditate on the Passion of Christ”)

This Holy Week we will hear anew God’s great love toward wayward sinners like you and me. We will hear how’s God’s love and service to you goes even unto death. So come now and receive the Testament of His love in His Son’s body and blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Come and find refuge in Him, for He has given His Name and His very life for you, so that you might dwell with Him forever.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

The Joy Set Before Him (Palmarum/Passion Sunday 2011)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Rocklin, California

Palm Sunday (April 1, 2012)

TITLE: “The Joy Set Before Him”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.Amen.Our text is the Gospel lesson for Palm Sunday from St. Matthew.

In the beginning, the Scriptures say, there was nothing but a formless void.That void, that chaos, is what God overcame in creating the world.There was darkness and light, day and night, evening and morning.We confess it together every Sunday: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.His creation was a simple as it was beautiful.It was perfect.No, it was more than perfect.It was filled with the wonder of a new creation.And God gave it to Adam and Eve to tend, to grow, to nurture.He gave them that same creative spark of love that brought forth the world.There was order, but not a rigid order.It was wonderful in its beauty and simplicity and depth.

But that order, that beauty of creation, was lost in the Fall.From that creative beauty came sin and death and chaos and sickness and disease and hatred. Adam and Eve hide from God to cover their shame.Cain murders his brother Abel. We saw the indifference of the people to Noah’s preaching of repentance.We saw the confusion of the tongues at the Tower of Babel.Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.We saw Joseph sold by his brothers and left for dead.

And these stories are only the stories of the Scriptures, the true stories of our forefathers.If we were to look at other cultures and peoples, we would see even more violence and disruption.The Egyptian gods are vindictive and cruel.The gods of the Canaanites would have the people sacrifice their own children upon the altar of worship.The greek gods can only be described as capricious, petty, and often pitted one human against another just for their own amusement.It is sick.It is what we have wrought since the Fall.

This story of humanity is one mess of confusion after another.Sure, there is progress, but with that progress comes more creative ways to hate, more passionate and more efficient ways to reject God and to become our own gods.Stones become knives.Spears become bows.Muskets become machine guns.Dynamite goes nuclear.And that is just the beginning.What could we say about Genghis Kahn, or Ivan the Terrible, or Hiter, or Stalin, or Mao Tse Tung, or Saddam Hussein, or Kim Jong Il?We need not even go beyond our own shores, but simply look at the forty million unborn children murdered these past thirty nine years.Or the increasing spread of euthanasia.Or our inaction about the poor and in need in our country.The list could go one and on.We are all guilty of it, on the small scale or on the grand scale.This is your life, and mine.God have mercy upon us all.

And He did.Into this insanity we call life our Lord steps in.He breathes our poisoned air.He heals. He preaches and gives the forgiveness of sins.He does everything that we cannot because of our sinfulness and pride.He made Himself nothing, took on the form of a servant, and does He ever serve.He serves to the very point of death itself.

So what we see in our Lord’s passion today is a microcosm of the whole of human existence.We get the history of the world packed into a night.He creates new life by giving Himself to His disciples in the Eucharist.He is double-crossed with a kiss by one whom He loves, whom He called brother.He brings peace and healing, and is met with anger and betrayal.

If there is one thing we learn from Jesus’ death, it is that there was anything but clarity and serenity in the whole process.He goes to one high priest then another.He goes to Pilate, who wants to release Him, then to Herod who wants a show, then back to Pilate.Pilate even offers to release Him, but the people want Barabbas instead.He’s flogged, mocked, spat upon, and then takes the way of sorrows outside the city to Golgotha.Can you imagine following all of these events in the crowd, wondering what is going to happen next?Fearful yet glued to the events unfolding?

I remember what it was like ten years ago when the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists in New York.I’m sure many of you remember the day as well.It was a day when you could not keep away from the horror.You were glued to the television, wondering what would happen next, and to whom it would happen.New York, Pennsylvania, the Pentagon.Who else would fall under the knife of terrorism?

That is the sense we have with our Lord’s death.It is gruesome, confusing and just simply messed up, but the crowds could not stay away.They had to know what would happen to this man who would be their king.They could not stay away from the spectacle of a man who claimed to be God Himself dying as a common criminal.

And through all of it, through the shame and mockery, the abandonment, the apathy, the betrayal, the scorn, through it all, our Lord is faithful to God and therefore to you.When He is dying on the cross, it is you that He is thinking about.That is what it means for us to say that He died for our sins.He takes our place in line to pay the penalty for our sin.Perhaps Isaiah put it best:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6 ESV)

Behold, your God.Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.He comes to suffer so that you may rejoice.He comes to heal.He comes to restore everything that was broken.He comes to die so that you might live.This is our God, who loves us with a love that knows no bounds.

So come and receive Him at the altar.Come, and receiving His deepest blessings.Come, and journey with Him this week, so that you may know the power of God, made perfect in the weakness of Christ.Come, come, come.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting.Amen.

“The Lord Has Need of Them” – Advent 1 (Ad Te Levavi) 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is taken from the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter 21. We focus on the words, “The Lord Has Need of Them”.

Our Lord’s coming is one of humility and lowliness. One could hardly imagine a more contrary approach to what we call the Christmas season than Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Yet for more than a thousand years, the Church has welcomed each new church year not with the Annunciation or one of the pre-Christmas stories, but rather with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. If ever there was evidence that God’s ways are not our ways, this is it.

But there it is. While we shop ‘til we drop and have days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in the Church our eyes are fixed on Jesus. This is a season of contrasts for the Christian. On the one hand, the themes of family and friends and gift giving are certainly good and appropriate. It resonates with our American sense of pride and the way things ought to be. Yet there is this nagging sense that things are not right. Surely there is something more than home and hearth or trees and tinsel.

Jesus, the Righteous Branch, knows something that our world does not remember. His understanding of who you are and what you truly need is deeper, far deeper than we can even fathom. Jesus knows that you are suffering. He knows that you are mourning over your sin and brokenness. He knows that this season, these months, are the hardest of the year for most people. He knows that while you put on a happy face and try to exude Christmas cheer, He knows that there is mourning.

So what do you mourn this holy season? Do you mourn the death of a loved one? Or the shattering of a marriage? The loss of income, of friendship, or of something deeper? What is it that you fear? The unknown? Those inevitable conflicts with family, and the spent expectations which seem so inevitable? Whatever it is that you fear, it is pretty likely that it will be on your mind and in your heart this month. Life has a way of getting in the way when all we want to do is forget. And no amount of forgetfulness pills in alcohol and food and shopping are going to change that.

But back to our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem. The scene is set just a few days away from our Lord’s betrayal and death at the hands of sinners. They are in Bethphage, just a scant mile from the holy city. This city was really the dugout or batter’s box for the priests. They went there after their service in the Temple, and it was there that they prepared for service in the Lord’s house. You couldn’t travel more than a mile on the Sabbath, so this was the staging area for those getting ready to do the Lord’s bidding at His house. So here is Jesus, ready to do the ultimate service of sacrifice, getting ready to go. Jesus then tells the disciples to go into town, find a donkey and a colt, and bring them back. And if anyone questions you about it, say to them quite simply, “The Lord needs them.”

God has a way of pressing things into His service that we never planned or intended. Our grief and our joy. Our sorrows. Even our sins have been pressed into His holy service. For however broken and troubled you are, our Lord with gentleness and care takes all of these pieces of your crazy life and says to you quite simply, “I need this. Can I have this? It would fit in perfectly into my plan for your salvation.” It’s as if God takes inventory of all of the junk in your life, and everything you would toss as as too hard or too painful, that is what He wants to use for His own holy purposes.

I will be the first to admit that this is hard to see at times. Ok. Not hard. Impossible. How can God use all of this junk to prepare me for His appearing? And I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know. I don’t know in my own life, and I don’t know in yours, either. But what our Lord says to you today is that everything you have and everything you are is pressed into His service.

But this is very important to understand. What I am not talking about is the sort of cheesy “God has a plan” sort of talk that we so often try to comfort ourselves with. It goes much deeper than that. What God wants for you this week and every week is that you recognize what is really going on around you through His Word and Spirit. St. Paul put it this way in our Epistle,

“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. 12 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.”

So what our Lord asks of you today is simple. Wake up! Remember who you are, a baptized child of God, holy and beloved. Remember that our Lord’s coming is about you. It is about your salvation, which is right here, right now. Jesus Word is here, His body and blood are ever present, offering you forgiveness, life and salvation.

 

The Lord is our righteousness, we hear in Jeremiah. You, like those people lining the streets for our Lord so many years ago, are here awaiting His coming. You wait, but you wait in the prison cell of your sin and brokenness. But your wait is not in vain. Our righteousness is coming, indeed He has already come for you. He is here, even now, ready to release you from all that binds you and holds in thrall. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote this about this season:

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The door to your freedom has been opening in the birth and death and resurrection of our Advent King, the Lord of heaven and earth. Be free. Our king is coming to you. Rejoice, daughter of Zion! Shout and rejoice! Sing with palm branches in your hards and faith in your hearts as we cry out with the people of Jerusalem, angels, archangels and all the company of heaven, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

 

He is coming for you. He is coming now. He is coming with healing in His wings. He is coming to set you free. Blessed is He who comes.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.