Sermons

Are You Ready for the Journey?

“Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem” by James Tissot

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As they were going along the road, someone said to [Jesus], “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” To another He said, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow You, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

A few years ago I read about a place called “Eden by the Sea.” A Lutheran pastor and his wife started a ministry in which they invite pastors and their families to come to Hawaii for a time of rest and relaxation. They have some very fine accommodations near Waikiki beach with canoes, surfboards, and snorkeling gear. They even serve a romantic candlelight dinner.

When I suggested to Aimee that this might be a nice place to go for our 25th anniversary, she said she’d have to think about it and get back to me.

No, that’s not true. She was very receptive. She thought it sounded like a wonderful way to celebrate 25 years of marriage. She’s always wanted to go to Hawaii. So, I contacted Lynda Mueller and made reservations. We had two years to save money and plan. And twelve years ago this July, we headed on a journey to Hawaii for a wonderful second honeymoon!

But what if I would have made this proposal to Aimee? “Aimee, I’ve made up my mind, no matter what you say I’m not going to change it. I’m going on a journey. I want you to come along with me. I can’t give you very many details, so you’re just going to have to trust me.   

“What I can tell you is that the journey’s not going to be easy. You can expect many hardships and sacrifices. We’ll have to walk or hitchhike. I haven’t saved up any money, so we’ll just have to rely on the generosity of the people that we meet along the way. I’m sure that somebody will let us stay with them.

“By the way, you’re going to have to leave everyone else behind—our kids and grandkids, our family, friends and co-workers. You may never see them again. And since we need to get going right now, there really isn’t any time for us to say good-by. You should also know that a lot of people won’t be happy having us around. Some will even threaten us with bodily harm. I won’t fight back, and I know for a fact that they’ll put me to death. But I’m going anyway. You can’t change my mind.” Do you think she would be going with me?

What about you? Are you ready for such a journey? It would have to be a fantastic destination to be worth it all, wouldn’t it?

But that’s very much the kind of proposal that Jesus lays before those who would be His disciples in our text as He sets His face to go to Jerusalem.

The phrase, “He set His face” sounds strange to modern ears, but it alludes to Jesus’ prophetic role. For God to “set His face” against a person, city, or region is for God to show His wrath. The opposite is for God to “make His face shine on you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). But here Jesus “set His face” to go to Jerusalem, not to show wrath or mercy to Jerusalem, but to face and overcome all temptation and opposition that would turn Him aside from traveling to the cross.

In Ezekiel, we are told that God made the prophet’s forehead as hard as flint so he could endure the hostility of rebellious Israel (3:8-9). In Isaiah, the Suffering Servant says: “I offered my back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting. Because the Lord Yahweh helps Me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be put to shame” (50:5-7).

Jesus, the Suffering Servant, “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” He is resolutely determined to go to the cross, fully aware of the torture and humiliation involved. He trusts in eventual vindication by the Father (Isaiah 50:8-9), and He knows that the cross is the only way to obtain salvation for humanity.

To reach Jerusalem, Jesus proposes to journey through Samaria, but the messengers whom He sends ahead of Him get a hostile reception. James and John ask Jesus if they can “tell fire to come down from heaven to consume them.” Clearly, they do not understand Jesus’ mission as the Messiah. He Himself will “be baptized” with the fire of heavenly wrath (Luke 12:49-50). His mission as Messiah is one of mercy and compassion, not of condemnation (John 3:17). Punishment of those who reject the Gospel will come at Judgment Day. Rather than lash out, Jesus simply moves on to a different village.

Along the way Jesus is met by some who wish to join Him. The first comes as a volunteer promising to “follow You wherever You go.” It is a bold promise, but Jesus dampens his zeal by warning him that he doesn’t know what he is asking. That is the meaning of Jesus’ answer: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Jesus wants this man to count the cost of following Him. The path may look appealing as the crowds sing Jesus’ praises. But like enthusiastic troops marching off to war on a sunny day with bands blaring and crowds cheering, Jesus’ followers will soon find the cheers turning to the big guns of enemy opposition and the sunshine replaced by cold rain and muddy battlefields.

The Son of Man, while destined for glory, must first take the lonely route of suffering and rejection, culminating at the dead end of a despised cross. He calls His disciples to follow Him on the road of service and self-sacrifice. The way of discipleship always means putting the kingdom first, last, and all the time, and letting God attend to the rest.

Did this man follow Jesus? We are not told.

What about you? If you had been in that man’s position, what would you have done? Are you ready for the journey with Jesus?

The second man is asked by Jesus to follow Him. While the first man was over-ready and had to be cautioned, this man wants to delay and join Jesus later. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father,” he says.

Jesus’ answer is puzzling, and purposely so: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” At Jesus’ time, the Jews considered burial a religious rite which took precedence over everything, even reading God’s Word. But Jesus is saying that the Gospel is so important, it takes precedence over all family ties and worldly cares.

So, do you think this man stayed with Jesus? Would you have stayed if you had been in his shoes? Are you ready for the journey with Jesus?

The third would-be disciple, like the first, thinks that following Christ means that he must make the offer on his own initiative, as if it were a career he had mapped out for himself. There is, however, a difference between the first would-be disciple and the third, for the third is bold enough to stipulate his own terms: “Let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

Jesus’ answer shows the futility of the man’s offer: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” It makes little difference to what part of the worldly life the heart looks back with longing and is unable to tear itself away, the effect is always the same: not fit for the kingdom.

Do you think this man followed Jesus after hearing His Word? What would you have done in his place? Are you ready for the journey with Jesus?

These are hard sayings. They dare not be interpreted in isolation from the rest of Scripture. In these statements Jesus is obviously making a strong statement to get across the point He want to make for all who would follow Him: you will need to be ready to make sacrifices. To be a disciple of Jesus means to be ready to reorder the priorities of this earthly life. The way of new life requires staying on the hard road of pilgrimage that leads to the cross, through death, and finally to resurrection. It calls for an unhesitating departure from ties to the old life, even ties to family. The family that matters, says Jesus, is the family of God.

Luke does not record the responses of the three would-be disciples in this text, suggesting that more important than the question of whether they heeded Jesus’ words is your response. Are you ready for the journey with Jesus?

An honest examination of our own discipleship will show that we often have failed. At various times, we have been just like the three would-be disciples. We have eagerly volunteered for service but have failed to count the cost. We have made excuses for not being able to follow Jesus when and where He wants us.

I personally can relate best to the third man, the one who wanted to be Jesus’ disciple, but only on his terms. It was January 1, 1995. I was planning for the coming year as a Lutheran Brotherhood representative. But I felt the tug to go into the pastoral ministry. On that day, I prayed two prayers: “Lord, I really enjoy my career with Lutheran Brotherhood, but if you want me to go to the seminary, let me know. If you have to, make me miserable enough to know that I should move on.” I also gave God another option: “Lord, if you’ll only come through with $12,000 so we have a little financial cushion, then I’ll go to the seminary.”

Neither one of these is a proper prayer. As disciples of Christ, we are in no position to bargain with the Lord. God is under no obligation to keep such an agreement. I might also add a word of warning here: you should always be careful what you pray for. You might get it!

From that day on, my life got miserable. The business that had been going along well suddenly dried up. We barely had enough money coming in to pay the bills. But God does have a sense of humor. After I finally committed to going to the seminary, He provided for our family very well. Less than a week after we put our house up for sale it was sold. And guess how much money I earned the last month I sold insurance? You’re right! $12,000. I dare say, more than I’ll ever make in one month for the rest of my life.

 It’s a good thing our journey of discipleship doesn’t depend on our faithfulness but on Christ’s. He already completed the trip for us. He “set His face” and went to Jerusalem, never once looking back. He died on the cross in our place, exchanging His perfect obedience and righteousness for our sin and disobedience. He rose again from the dead, and because He rose, we know that while suffering and the grave are still steps in our journey, they are not the end of the journey. In Christ we have been given the gift of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

We follow Jesus in faith by His grace. Discipleship is not our work; it is Christ’s work in us. He calls us through His Word and Sacrament. In Baptism He makes us His own and baptizes us into His death and resurrection. He makes us His disciples and calls us to journey with Him to the cross.

In Holy Absolution, He grants us remission of all of our sins. By His Holy Spirit, He increases in us true knowledge of Him and of His will and true obedience to His Word, to the end that by His grace we may come to everlasting life. In His Holy Supper, Christ gives us pardon and peace, and strengthens us in service to Him as He feeds us His very body and blood.

Through each of these means of grace, Christ calls you to follow Him on the journey of discipleship. He equips you for the journey and promises you Paradise as your eternal destination.

Are you ready for the journey with Jesus? You most certainly are! Jesus gives you everything you need. For His sake, you are forgiven of all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Sermons, Uncategorized

If You’re So Smart…

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“Illustration to Book of Job” by William Blake

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

“If you’re so smart, then tell me this…” Ever heard those words? They’re usually words children speak when they’re playing the game of one-upmanship. One child brags how far ahead he is of the rest because he’s been there, done that. Someone else doesn’t like the insinuation and says, “Oh, yeah. Well, if you’re so smart, then how did you get a C on that last science test? If you’re so smart, why did you have to stay in for recess yesterday? If you’re so smart…”

Our Old Testament Reading contains God’s words to Job at the end of the lengthy discussion between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, plus a fourth by the name of Elihu. After letting the human counselors and counselee vent for thirty-five chapters, God finally speaks out of the storm.

His silence throughout the long days of Job’s illness no doubt parallels the silence of God during some of our tough times. Sometimes it appears God is silent, or maybe sleeping, like Jesus was in our Gospel Reading. But God does care. He is not asleep. God is not silent. But neither does He owe us an answer.

As Job forgets, and as we may well be reminded this morning too, God is so much bigger and smarter than you or me. We can trust Him even when life seems out of control, even when things just don’t make sense to our human reasoning.

Lots of people think they know better than God, and they need to hear these words from Job. The atheist who claims not to believe in God. The skeptic who questions whether God cares what goes on in the world. The secularist who’s far too practical to depend upon God. And the materialist who says if he can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. These and many others think they know better than God. To use the words of the text, they speak “words without knowledge.” They “darken counsel.”

But let’s face it: they’re probably not going to hear these words. But we do. We need to! The truth be told: we play that game all the time as well. It’s just that we don’t express it quite so crudely. We don’t say, “I know everything.” We say, “I know Scripture says it’s wrong, but in my case…” Or we cry out in despair, “God, why have You let this happen to us? Don’t You care?”

And then God says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Could it be that most of us have at times thought we knew better than God? Perhaps when we wanted an illness healed, a war stopped, or even a voters meeting decision to go our way? Or we wonder, “Why does it seem that everything in my life has to be so hard? Look at so-and-so! They’ve got it so easy!”

Let’s learn from Job this morning. His is not a formal institution of higher education. His is the school of hard knocks.

Remember, Satan has challenged God about Job. “He only serves You because You’re making life easy for him,” Satan charges. “You let me afflict him, and he’ll curse You to Your face.” And so Job suffers greatly. In just a short time, he loses his twelve children. He loses his great possessions and wealth. And then he even loses his health.

Job’s wife isn’t exactly encouraging or supportive. As Job sits among the ashes and scrapes at his festering sores with a broken piece of pottery, she asks, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Job’s friends have nothing comforting to say to Job, either. Their greatest help is when they just sit with him for an entire week before speaking. When they begin to speak, though, they accuse Job of great and secret sins that are the cause of his suffering. In their faulty theology, every person’s suffering is in direct proportion to the measure of his guilt in God’s eyes.

In reply, Job protests his innocence. But to whom do you appeal when your friends don’t believe you, and God appears to be giving you the silent treatment?

As much as Job suffers physically and psychologically, what pains him the most is God’s apparent alienation from him. Several times in this book, Job requests that God speak to him: “Oh, that I had one to hear me!… Let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put His indictment in writing” (31:35).

Job has been saying, “I know my situation better than you do, God. I know I’m innocent. I know I don’t deserve the rough lot I’ve had. If I could just talk with You about this, man to God, we could surely resolve this problem.”

About this time God’s silence ends. Out of the storm, God demands: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”

Pretty good questions, aren’t they? Some of them we still can’t answer, even now. Just like people today, Job asks, “Where is God when these bad things happen to me? How can a loving God allow suffering, pain, and death? Even if He doesn’t fix my problem, can’t He at least let me see why it’s happening?”

And God answers Job’s questions with His own, beginning with: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” In other words, “If you’re so smart, if you know better than I do, then you tell Me.”

God first uses the image of the construction of a major building, where He is the architect, surveyor, and engineer. He talks about laying the foundations of the earth and stretching the measuring line across it. In effect, God says, “Believe it or not, Job, I knew what I was doing when I created the earth. It didn’t just happen. I put a lot of planning into it. No matter how hard you try, you couldn’t begin to cram My creative wisdom into the narrow confines of your limited imagination.”

Then God uses the image of a midwife. “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb? Who else was present at the birth of the seas, when I wrapped them in the swaddling clothes of clouds and darkness?”

God the builder, God the midwife: both images tell us that God knows what He’s doing. He understands the master plan. He knows how things operate—whether He’s building a home, delivering a baby, or allowing Job to suffer. Each of those images is designed to create confidence in the God who is speaking and to remind His listeners of our smallness in comparison to God.

In the verses that follow our text, God gives rapid sketches of some 20 creations. God’s words testify to a sense of beauty and order in the world, whether it’s in the spiritual realm, cosmic elements, meteorological phenomena, animals, or birds. Job is to conclude that if God cares for the many creatures He has created, He will care for His human beings far more wisely and compassionately. If God is in control of the clouds, the storm, and the rain, as our Gospel reminds when Jesus stills the storm, then God is in control of what happens in our lives as well.

Well, that’s what God says. Now, for what He doesn’t say. Does it strike you as odd that God doesn’t answer Job’s questions? He doesn’t debate with Job or Job’s friends. He doesn’t even refer to Job’s suffering. Instead, God raises Job’s sight from his own troubles to the marvelous order that undergirds the whole world. He patiently instructs a man who needs to see the larger picture.

Job is brought to contentment without ever knowing all the facts of his case—that Satan had brought up the matter and that God had allowed the suffering. Job must operate “by faith, not by sight.” He must love God for God alone. God invites Job to love Him for no reason other than that God is worthy of love.

God invites us all to have a humble perspective that is willing to learn and listen. He says, in short, that it’s more important to know Him than to have all the answers. Which is a good thing—because none of us do. But that’s okay! We don’t have to have all the answers because God does—even when things seem their worst, even when everything seems out of control as it did that dark day two thousand years ago when it appears Satan had won, when the disciples have no clue why Jesus was abandoned by the heavenly Father to die on a cross.

Jesus’ disciples don’t have the answer, but God does. Christ bears our sins on the cross that we might not have to die for our own sins. We know that now through the preaching of the Gospel. And unlike Job, with Christ’s resurrection, we come to understand God’s reasons for the greatest, most unjust suffering that ever happened. Jesus willingly gave up His life for the salvation of the world—yours and mine, the disciples’, and yes, Job’s.

Well, how does the Book of Job end? What’s the result of Job’s meeting with God? In the final chapter Job says, “Now I’m satisfied; I’ve seen You with my own eyes.” With his newly opened eyes of faith and spiritual understanding, Job learns that everything is right between himself and God. And knowing that, Job becomes content not knowing all the answers to his questions. He learns to rest in the power and grace of God. He learns to trust that even in suffering and unanswered questions, God is graciously working all things for “the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Today, you also meet with God. He is present in His Word to instruct, comfort, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness. He is present in the assembly, wherever two or three gather together in Jesus’ name. He is present in the Sacrament you will share in a few minutes. He invites you to learn with Job that you need not have all the answers as long as you have God. You need not know why certain things happen as long as you know that He loves you in His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s the larger picture. That’s the teaching you can always trust.

You are right with God. He is not silent. He is not asleep. He loves you. He promises to work all things for your good. No matter what may happen in this life, He will bring you to the joy of eternal life with Him. In the meanwhile, He speaks to you peace and absolution. For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Uncategorized

Glory of Christ Hidden in the Humble

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“Palm Sunday” by Octavio Ocampo

Click here to listen to this sermon.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

“Behold, your king is coming to you!” Were you to hear such a glorious announcement, what would you look for?

Or to make it a little easier to imagine: Let’s suppose the president of the United States is coming to town. You pack up your family and drive to the route on which you suppose that he would travel to his speaking engagement. Your family sets up their chairs at the side of the road and you wait. Others gather, many holding welcome signs and American flags.

Time slowly passes and the excitement builds. Your son notices that the traffic has begun to thin out on the road. Police officers have started to direct traffic at intersections. A helicopter flies overhead, and you wonder if that is a sign that the president is on his way.

Ten minutes later, the road is eerily empty. Occasionally a police car zooms by with its lights flashing. The president must be on his way. He will be here soon, but not yet. The highway is empty again for a while.

Suddenly, you see two police cars in the distance coming toward you. They drive by and a swoosh of air hits you in the face. Then, far off, you make out some vehicles. The excitement builds and you think you can see…

Well, what do you think you would see? After all, this the president of the United States, and he is coming to town. You know what to expect. You have seen motorcades on television. The power, the honor, and the glory of such a prestigious office is manifested in the limousines, SUVs, law enforcement vehicles.

On this glorious day of the majestic entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, God Himself enters into His glory. The very Creator of all that is, the omnipotent power of the universe, the One who was, is, and always will be, begins His triumphal trek to His most glorious and honorable day on earth. How does He enter? Like the president of the United States? Like the conquering king of a Middle Eastern dynasty? Like an A-list celebrity on the night of the Academy Awards? No.

In our scenario with your family at the side of the road, would you expect to see the president and his motorcade drive by in a rusted-out mini-van? An old Ford Tempo? Perhaps a wood-paneled station wagon? Of course not! But how did God enter into the glory that you and I see and believe? He entered on a donkey! The prophet Zechariah announces: “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (9:9).

This is our Savior? Why would God ride in on a donkey? Why would He do such a thing? Because this is exactly how He said He would come. God would do such a thing for the very purpose of His coming—salvation. The salvation of His people, the salvation of the world. The Righteous One would become the Unrighteous One. The Blessed One would be cursed. The Sinless One would bear our sin. The holy must become unholy to save us from our sins. The glory of God comes in Christ’s humility and servitude. He humbles Himself to take our sin and suffer the consequences of the eternal wrath of God as His own punishment.

But unbelievers and the world in which we live look for a triumphal entry. They look for limousines and well-armed motorcades. Or given the day and age of that first Palm Sunday—war horses and iron chariots, escorted by soldiers and accompanied by personal attendants. The world wrongly assumes a majestic and glorious entrance that reflects the honor and power befitting the Creator of the universe like any other powerful ruler.

The unbeliever, though, sees with his eyes and not through faith. The sinner looks and lusts for the excitement and honor found in the power of an earthly king. That is true of our Old Adam as well. We sinners want to win! We seek a popular Jesus that attracts more and more people or an eye-candy Jesus who makes us feel happy and important. But alas, this thinking is an entry not into Christ’s glory, but rather an entrance into hell. It is a road to the tomb with no chance of a resurrection into the presence of the Christ. Our sin—and our sinful nature!—is ever before us.

Yes, even we believers, who confess the suffering and death of our Lord for our sins, we, too, yearn for a Jesus of glory who would be popular and successful. We sinfully seek a kingdom builder of wealth and power and numbers so that we might have bigger churches for the sake of recognition or influence or just the simple hope of survival for a few more years. A Jesus who will make our church great again. A Jesus who will make our own lives great again. A Jesus who will return us to the glory days.

However, Jesus, the Lowly One, calls us not to glory, but to lowliness and repentance, to have the same humble mind as Jesus, who emptied Himself of His glory, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Following in our Savior’s footsteps, we carry our own crosses and bear one another’s burdens. Our new man rejoices in the glory of the lowly and humble. The believer rejoices in the poor, the sick, and the needy. The believer rejoices where only faith can see the glory of God: in suffering and death.

We poor sinners need the glory of the God who died. We need a God who suffered. We need the glory of the cross. That is the irony of the Gospel. It is a scandal to sinful thinkers. That is the hidden truth that eyes cannot see, but only faith can believe and confess. The glory of God that saves us is, ultimately, the death of God!

The glory of God that saves us is in the scandal of His conception, the humility of His birth and His life, and His suffering and endurance of the wrath of God—all of this in our place. Our sin did this to Him. Your sins, your hidden sins, your silly sins, your big sins, in fact, your entire sinful life was given to Christ. He endured what we could not. It is really insulting—shameful, even!—that God Himself gave up the holiness, power, and glory in exchange for our sinful, lowly, and suffering existence. However, there is where we see the glory of God. There is where we see the extent of His love and grace.

Well, then, how do we see the glory of God in our lives? We do not—that is, we do not see His glory. Rather faith confesses and sees the glory of God where He has told us He hides it. Our eyes do not see the glory; our faith does.

“How does that work?” you ask.

God’s Word teaches us where to see His glory. In the lowliness of this sinful world, God hides His glory. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was humble and lowly—swaddling clothes and a manger for a bed. His entry into Jerusalem was humble and lowly—riding on a donkey. His death was humble and lowly—crucifixion, the cursed death reserved for slaves and the most dangerous criminals. That is how Jesus accomplished the work of salvation—His glory hidden in humility and lowliness. In the same way, Christ’s glorious and triumphant entry into your life hides in the reality of your humble, everyday life.

God has called you according to your vocation to do what you do. He calls you to be a mother or father, a son or daughter. God calls you to be a teacher or a student, an employer or employee or retiree, a neighbor or friend. He calls you in so many ways, and you do what He has given you to do—love and care for your neighbor, that person who is in need of your love—for there is the glory of God.

“But, Pastor, it doesn’t look like the glory of God. It looks like, well, normal daily life. At best, it is mundane and routine, but it is often more draining—emotionally, mentally, and physically—sometimes, it’s more overwhelming, or just plain scary than it is glorious.”

That’s it! Now, you’re getting it! The glory of God is generally found in the in trials and troubles, in humility and servitude through your daily call. It’s not flashy or popular. It’s not big and powerful. It rarely makes the nightly news or social media. It is most often found in the normal grind of daily life. However, it is still the glory of God.

Getting the children up and ready for school reveals the glory of God. Loving your wife and caring for her needs is the glory of God. Washing clothes and changing diapers is the glory of God. Going to work and bringing home money to support your family is the glory of God. Giving your neighbor a ride to church or the grocery store is the glory of God. Praying with your neighbor who has just gotten a bad report from the doctor is the glory of God. Reading a book to your grandchildren or great-grandchildren is the glory of God. Picking up your room without making a fuss when your mother tells you is the glory of God.

How can this be? Because our Lord makes your work holy by His grace and His call for you to be His own in your Baptism. He gives you the faith that receives the holiness Jesus earned on the cross. Therefore, you are holy through faith in Christ. All the works done for your neighbor are holy and done to God’s glory.

The glory of God is seen through the eyes of faith trusting in God’s Word. As Christians, we confess our Lord and His glory in our normal, sometimes painful and hurtful life. Christians also understand that God and His glory come into our lives in the least of these Christ’s brothers—in the poor and the sick, in the lonely and in the hurting, even—and especially—in death.

Our Lord’s death on the cross is His greatest glory. There in all humility He served our most desperate need, the payment of our sins. On the triumphant day of entrance into Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus sat on a donkey in humility. In that triumphant entry, He entered the way of the cross. That entrance took Him to His most glorious moment: His death on the cross.

Through the glory of the cross, our Lord gives to us and teaches us to see His glory in the hidden reality of our faith. When we turn to our lives and see them in faith, we see the glory of God in our suffering, in our humility, and in our servitude. He calls us to love Him and others. But once again, our love for God is hidden in our love of our neighbor. When we love our neighbor, we love God.

So the love of God and His mercy come to you hidden in the waters of your Baptism and in the eating and drinking of bread and wine, Christ’s body and blood. These bring the glory of the kingdom of God to you for your salvation. Like the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they are lowly, humble, and simple means. But there is exactly where He brings us to the triumphal entry into His kingdom, in everlasting joy and blessed righteousness. Through these humble means the Lord strengthens you in faith toward Him and fervent love toward one another. By them you have forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. Indeed, through these means and for the sake of the glorious death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Ronald R. Feurhahn, published in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 16, Part 2, Series B, Concordia Publishing House, 2005.