The Wonder of Wandering

Sermon – Sunday, March 28, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
John 13:1-17, 31-34

This is Lent, and yet the last few days this old Appalachian Christmas tune has been wandering through my mind….. (Sing) “I wonder as I wander out under the sky, How Jesus the Savior did come for to die. For poor on’ry people like you and like I…I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus our Savior was born for to die.”…..The question this haunting melody raises is one for tonight of all nights because on the night before Jesus would be put to death it’s on all our minds. And it was on the mind of Jesus too. No one else before Him or since was born for the sole purpose of dying. Yet that is the truth of the matter. God was so grieved over the fact that sin had corrupted the once perfect creation that God’s only Son was born to save us. And the only way to save us was to die. I wonder…..

Was there any other way? Jesus asked that very question this night thousands of years ago. As He cried and prayed in anguish to His heavenly Father, “please, take this cup from me. Please let there be another way. But not My will, but thine.” There was no other way and so Jesus had to accept God’s will. What courage, but more than that, what love. What love to go to such extremes to make sure each and every one of us would not perish, but have eternal life. It makes you wonder as you wander.

This night is filled with wanderings, journeys from long ago and journeys today. This last meal Jesus shared with His disciples was a wondering…a remembering of how the Israelites were saved by God from death on the night of Passover. This meal with Jesus was a celebration of that Passover meal. Only now instead of eating the lamb prepared for the Passover meal, Jesus was the Lamb of God.He was the One through Whom all the world would be saved. That first Passover, what saved the Israelites was the blood on their doorways, but now the blood from Jesus would be what would bring salvation. “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you. Take and drink this is my blood shed for you.” These are words of salvation, forgiveness, and life. This sacrament, which began on this night thousands of years ago, is a new Passover, a new journey, from death into life. A journey Jesus was prepared to take. He was ready. With sandals on His feet, Jesus was ready to go.

Yet in the middle of this meal with His disciples, Jesus’ feet took Him to their feet. He paused in the middle of this meal to wash their feet, something even today would make most of us squirm. That intimate act makes us feel uncomfortable just as it did the disciples. Jesus was not a servant, He was their teacher. He was their Lord. And yet, yet stooped to wash their feet. Those parts of us that we’d rather not anyone pay attention to – those parts of us that seem way too dirty for anyone to touch. They might smell. They might look bad. They may be covered with callouses, or bunions, or cuts, or infections……or any number of maladies.

Anyone who is diabetic knows how critically important it is to take care of your feet. A cut can turn into a major infection and if not treated you can potentially lose your toes, your foot, or even your leg. Disease can spread quickly, and so it is important to take special care of the feet or it may spread to the rest of the body. Feet are important, but we, like the disciples, don’t want anyone to see our imperfections. And we don’t want anyone to get close to our dirty little secrets, not even God.

But that is what God wants to do. That is what Jesus came to do – to touch our dirty, broken, messy, and diseased lives and clean them up. Jesus came to uncover all our sins and take them on Himself and wash them clean with His own body and blood. And once we are washed clean, then we are ready to do what our feet equip us to do – to journey forward, to wander, to be messengers.
The prophet Isaiah says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger, who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation…” 52:7 Our feet are what help us to go out and proclaim what God has done for us. But you may ask, “What about those who have no feet? What about those who physically can’t walk.” Our physical feet are what enable us to physically walk on a journey, but Jesus is not only concerned for our physical bodies, He is concerned for our souls. Jesus came to save our souls, and not merely the soles on our feet. Jesus came to put us back on the track of this journey, our journey of faith. As St. Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

The “feet of the messenger” is faith. It is faith that propels us forward. It is the faith of Christ in His Father that enabled Him to carry out His purpose on earth – a purpose that would lead to death on a cross. And love is the evidence of our faith. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Washing our feet was a sign of how far Jesus is willing to stoop to show us love and compassion. He does not ask His disciples, but commands us to do the same. He commands us to reach into the messiness, the dirtiness of each other’s lives and to pour the love of Christ into them. To listen with compassion, to heal by forgiving, to anoint by proclaiming the good news. It isn’t easy and we can’t do it on our own, but we don’t have to.

For in the night Jesus was handed over, He gave us His body and blood. We who come to the table this night are fed with the Bread of Life. This bread and wine through which Christ is truly present, now lives in us. His very body and blood courses through our veins and we are no longer the same. This is no ordinary meal. Jesus, Himself, has touched this common meal and made it holy. This is no ordinary night. Jesus, Himself, has shown us how to love with His own hands. This is a night of wonder – a holy night of profound love – a night to prepare for a journey that will lead us to the cross and to resurrection. Let us wonder as we wander in Christ’s love. Amen.

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The Palms of Passion

Sermon – Sunday, March 24, 2013
Zion Lutheran Church, Hoople, ND
Luke 19:28-40
Luke 22:1-23:40

We celebrate with waving palms on this Palm Sunday. But why is it also known as Passion Sunday? Why not just revel in the glory and excitement of the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem? If we look at it from Jesus’ perspective, I would imagine it was both – and heavier on the passion side. Jesus knew that entering Jerusalem was entering into His death. It would be like a wanted criminal today entering into a state where he was wanted by the authorities. And Jesus by this time, was becoming an increasing threat not only to the Roman authorities, but the religious leaders. He spoke the truth. He spoke about change. And people even today don’t always like to hear the truth. They want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay even when others are suffering around them. People don’t want change, because that means that what they are comfortable with will have to change even if that change would be a benefit to help others. We only have to look at people throughout history like Martin Luther King, Jr. who spoke out against racial injustice, or Abraham Lincoln who spoke out about slavery, to see that their passion for speaking out against those who had no voice caused them their own death. So why did Jesus go to Jerusalem if He knew what was waiting for Him? He believed in following the truth. He believed in following what His Father wanted. He believed in faithful service.

Last week we heard the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. She too was a faithful servant and it caused her much ridicule, but she didn’t care. She knew it was the right thing to do. And Jesus knew that Mary was anointing Him for His burial even if she didn’t fully understand that. The fragrance of the oil of the perfume filled the room and now Jesus could still smell it all over Him as He entered into Jerusalem. Gone were the relaxing evenings of sitting with His friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Now it was time to enter Jerusalem and complete the journey He was sent on earth to accomplish.

The crowds were waving palms that day. They were singing Hosanna – proclaiming Jesus as king. There were filled with elation, caught up in a mob mentality, waving branches and waiting for their “king” to take power. Jesus – their king – was to be the answer to all their problems. So the crowd was going wild – louder than at any hockey game. And I’m sure Jesus enjoyed it, at least somewhat, but if we could slow this scene down like a movie scene we would see through Jesus’ eyes. And that is what we do on this Palm/Passion Sunday.

Jesus is riding into Jerusalem – palm branches and cloaks strewn before Him – and there is so much noise and chaos that it is deafening. Jesus’ view pans out across the crowd. He sees them excited about all the possibilities this “kingdom” will bring. He sees them longing to be saved, rescued from their oppression. He wishes this exultation could last for a long time, but Jesus knows His kingdom is not of this world. Jesus knows that this triumphant ride through Jerusalem is not going to end with Him being crowned as an earthly king. It will end with a crown of thorns being placed on His head, mocked, tortured, and put to death.

So while Jesus is riding through the city of Jerusalem – palm branches strewn before Him – His mind races ahead to what is coming down the road. His life flashes before His eyes and He sees the suffering, the agony, the humiliation, and the death He will soon experience. He feels the betrayal as He is handed over to the authorities, and even though He knows it is necessary, His heart is still breaking. His heart is breaking for what He has to endure and for not only for the people of Jerusalem, but for all humanity. Jesus is about to suffer and die to save the world, but many will still reject Him, reject the Father’s love and grace.

These thoughts are racing through Jesus’ mind as He enters Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday. We read the Passion story because it is part of that day. Yes, it is Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but it is also the journey toward death – death on a cross.

And we, like Jesus, must look ahead to what is coming too no matter how difficult or painful it is to see. The truth is not always easy, but it is necessary. While we processed with palm branches today, we placed them beneath the cross, for that is where the journey will ultimately end. As we begin Holy Week, let us remember what this journey is all about. What is the truth we are forced to face? Jesus – an innocent man – was tortured and killed for our sins so that we would be set free. Free to live a life proclaiming this truth. We gave Him palms, but He gave us His palms – outstretched in love for all. That is real passion. Amen.