Palm Sunday, 2017
Class Members – Cassandra Bade, Brandi Boyd, Aubrey Fischer, Torri Gens, Danielle Gerdts, Emma Johnson, Sage Lang, Jack Morsching, Gabriela Otto, Ethan Palmer, Taylor Rinehart, Gabriela Rodriguez, Adam Schlueter, Abby Schumacher, Brooke Sonnek, Darsie Stockman, Megan Walz, Katey Witt
Isaiah 50: 4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7 But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.
Just get me back to the (boat) Years ago Debi and I went on a little cruise near the Bahamas, which was lovely in every except for one afternoon, the afternoon Debi convinced me to go with her on my first and last snorkeling excursion. Debi would tell you that the snorkeling that day was easy, it was fun, it was as beautiful as it could be. I would tell you that they gave us about five minutes of training, we put on the snorkeling gear, about 80 of us slid off a little slide into the choppy waters, and from my point of view it was like a scene out of the movie Titanic. Many were having the time of their lives, but a few of us, including me were gasping for breath, trying to figure out how to relax and breathe under water, terrified by the fish swimming by, drifting farther and farther away from the boat. No life guards that I could see, nobody looking out for me, every person on their own. About ten minutes later, I found Debi, she came up to marvel at how wonderful it was, I sputtered that I couldn’t breathe, I was going back to the boat, see you later. For the next ten minutes, I had one thought and one thought alone, just get me back to the boat! I set my face like a flint, I was determined to get back to the boat. The boat was my refuge, my place of safety, that place where I could breathe and be happy and be feasting on snacks and beverages!
Our prayer for our confirmands this weekend is that the Church would be their refuge, their place of safety, that place where they can breathe and live and have their being. That place where they would feast at their Lord’s Supper as an appetizer for the great feast that is yet to come.
Two parts to our sermon today. 1) Jesus set His face like flint, He was determined to get to the cross. 2) This very day, Jesus Christ has set His face like flint on you and me, He is determined to usher you safely into the very gates of heaven.
Just get me to the (cross)
In our text for today, the Suffering Servant is speaking 550 years before He was born. He spoke about how He would suffer in complete and perfect obedience to His Father, He spoke about how He would be anointed with the Spirit of God, He would be awakened every morning by His Father, He would listen carefully to every Word His Father wanted Him to hear, His tongue would be instructed so that He would know how to sustain the weary. He knew that the Lord God Almighty would help Him, He knew He would not be disgraced, He knew that when all the dust had settled He would be vindicated, and therefore He set His face like flint towards a little hill outside of Jerusalem.
Flint is a massively hard quartz that was used to strike fire with steel. To this day, it is used in cigarette lighters for striking fire. Luke records that as the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. Matthew records that from that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the Law, that He must be killed, and on the third day He must be raised to life. Two truths we want to remember about Jesus determined to get to the cross and suffer all that He was appointed to suffer.
First, Getting to the cross was all about (His Father’s will). It was God who so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, it was the Father who knew that the Savior would need to be a true man so that he could be a substitute for all of humanity, it was the Father who knew the Savior would need to be true God so that His sacrifice would be sufficient ransom price, it was the Father who insisted that His Son drink this bitter cup of divine wrath all the way down to the last drop, it was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who knew the way of the cross was the way it had to be. And so on the one hand, Jesus getting to the cross was all about the will of His Father, and on the other hand,
Jesus getting to the cross was all about (us). It was about paying the price once and for all we could never pay, it was about offering the bloody sacrifice once and for all we could never offer, it was about making certain that our sins could be forgiven, our souls could be redeemed, our names could be written, our mansions in heaven could be reserved.
When Jesus listened and learned at the feet of his parents and religious teachers, He was in training for a three year public ministry yet to come. When He gave His back to those who whipped bloody, He gave it with you in mind, when He gave his cheeks to those who pulled out his beard, He gave them with you in mind, when He hid not His face from disgrace and spitting, He hid not with you in mind, when He stood there like a man and let them crucify him until He was dead and buried, He stood there with you in mind. Getting to the cross was all about you, it was all about me, it was all about sinners in every generation in mind. Paul says it this way, that this was the mindset of Jesus Christ, that he would be in human form, that he would humble himself, that he would be obedient even to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Which brings us to today and our second snapshot of the mind of Christ. What is it that Jesus Christ is determined to do in the lives of these 18 confirmands? Just get my loved ones to (that glorious day!) In our Palm Sunday Epistle Lesson,we have this picture of a glorious day when Christ is returning, when all knees are bowing and tongues confessing that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
This is the bottom line for your parents, it is the bottom line for your Godparents and your grandparents, it is the bottom line for the elders and members of this congregation, it is the bottom line for your pastors, that the 18 of you be found among the faithful on the Last Day.
This is the desire of Jesus Christ, it is our desire that you would be diligent in the use of the means of grace, that you would be hearing the Word of God and keeping it, that you would be eating and drinking in regular fashion at your Lord’s Supper through thick and through thin, in good health and in sickness, in easy times and in hard times. In closing today, I invite you to think about the life that is to unfold before you, first about the easy chapters of life, and then about the not so easy chapters.
Looking out for the smooth spots, because that’s where the (land mines are). I told this story on Palm Sunday in 2002 and so some of you may have already heard it. Sorry about that. It’s a story about how years ago, the Portuguese had withdrawn from a nation called Angola and that nation had fallen into tribal unrest and civil war. As the years went on, the bridges became untrustworthy, the roads were filled with potholes. It happened that a missionary kind of a person went there on a fact finding mission. He noticed that his driver made no attempt to miss the deep holes and ruts in this road. On the contrary, it seemed as though he headed right for broken up parts. When they came to a stretch of road that had been repaired, the driver almost always headed for the side of the road, and so the missionary finally asked about it. The answer, “I avoid the smooth spots because that’s where the land mines are.”
Dear friends, this very day you will be promising to spend the rest of your days renouncing the devil, renouncing his ways, renouncing his works. Understand that the devil has all kinds of tricks up his sleeves for your days of smooth sailing. Look out for those days that are pleasant and fun and easy going for those are the days he will tempt you to swerve off into a lukewarm, an indifferent, and a lackadaisical brand of Lutheran Christianity.
Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, we invite you to be Looking forward to the rough spots, because that’s where the (teachers are). The kingdom of God is like a speed bump, because that’s where many have been taught the foolishness of not slowing down. The kingdom of God is like a 13 year old boy whose smooth sailing days were interrupted by the death of his brother in a car accident, because those very days, the Holy Spirit nudged Him towards being a pastor. The kingdom of God is like a 17 year old boy whose first real girl friend dumped him in unceremonious fashion and ran off with a friend of his, because in the months following, the Spirit of God taught him not to pin his hopes for happiness on having a girl friend. The kingdom of God is like a thousand times a thousand other Christians who have traveled through every type of tragedy you could imagine, because in those days of trouble, the Spirit of God worked in them a spirit of endurance, which produced strong Christian character, which produced a hope which was and is and ever shall be based on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Just show me who needs (my help) One of the heroes in my life is an elderly man known by many of you, he is from Waldorf, and for many years now, he is happiest when he is helping other people. A number of times in my ministry, he would show up in my office, we would shoot the breeze for a time, and then he would say he was looking for something to do, he was wondering if there was anybody he could help. That’s my prayer for you, dear confirmands, that as the years go on, the Spirit of God would work in you a faith in Jesus Christ that is rock solid, that He would make it so that your face is set like flint towards making this world a better place, that you would be taking your Gospel lights and running towards the darkness all around you, that years from now, you would wander into the office of one of your pastors, that you would shoot the breeze for a time, then be asking that question your Savior loves to hear, “Hey do you know somebody I could help?”
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