Saturday, March 19, 2016

Who is Jesus, and how and why do we worship Him?


And the crowds that went before Him and that followed after Him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!"  Matthew 21:9

TODAY the church learns who Jesus is, what He came to do, and how we ought to worship Him.  Some do not know, today they will learn.  Others are unsure, today they will be fortified.  Still others are mature, but they too will benefit, because young or old we are all under attack by the demons of ignorance, unbelief and carelessness as regards the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and there is no better way to send those devils packing than to gladly hear and learn the Word of God.

The first thing we find in our lessons today is that our Lord is the realization of Zechariah's prophecy:  that Jesus brought to fruition the things that Zechariah saw in a vision and preached to God's Old Testament people in order to give them hope and to let them know that the forces of sin and death that were now crushing them would soon be crushed themselves.  We too can rejoice at such a message.  

Not only is our Lord the fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecies, but of every promise God ever made, from the moment death entered the world through sin.  If you are looking elsewhere you will be disappointed!   People will promise you the world, but they will always let you down.  Only Jesus recognized in the breaking of the bread cleanses your conscience, answers your prayers, and promises you victory over death and the grave.

Jesus is the Son of David, the legitimate King of Israel, the One who restores the fortunes of His people as David conquered Israel's foes and gave her an era of peace and prosperity so that she could rest and breathe free.  Jesus does the same for us.  As King, our Lord rode into Jerusalem for his enthronement and coronation, not to be installed on an elegant and proud platform, but lifted up on the tree of the cross; not with a head dress of gold and jewels, but one of thorns, mingled with His divine blood because this King did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.  You are those many whom He still serves today in this house with the remission of sins and victory over all who oppose  you.

Jesus is Hosanna which means the Savior.  He is the Blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord, the chosen Christ anointed by God Who humbled Himself in order to do what no man could.  He entered this mangled creation ruined through and through by our sins, marked by death and bereft of any hope not to fix it, repair it, adjust it or teach it how to "progress"; not even to restore it to "the good old days," but to RECREATE it in His own image and to give us birth into it through holy baptism.  

That is who Jesus is and what He came to do, but let us also learn how to worship Him, because it is in worship that we obtain the priceless gifts He gained for us that keep us safe from all harm and danger.  Under the prevailing winds of American Evangelicalism everyone has learned to take up the Bible as his own personal devotional and to conduct his own little church on the Facebook page of his own little heart.  That is wrong and there's nothing quite as insidious.  As we are not free to invent our own doctrine, but must confess the faith of the church of the ages, even so we are not free to invent our own worship, but you would never know it from the air waves, the internet, or the mega-campuses whose business it is to trash the sacraments and 2,000 years of Christian history as if it never happened.  It is no mistake that the words of St. Matthew and St. Paul heard here today were incorporated into the church's liturgy from the beginning; no mistake because Scripture is not given to be a personal devotional book, but it is given, instead, to be used IN the church BY the church and FOR the church gathered in holy worship, to be liturgized, antiphonized, chanted, read, sung, preached, prayed, taught and confessed even as we are doing at this very time.  (O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good!)  Yet it isn't only the content of worship we learn from Scripture, but our ceremonies as well.  We learn to bow our heads at the name of Jesus from the words of today's epistle that at the name of Jesus every knee in heaven and on earth and below the earth should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  We learn the entrance procession from today's gospel lesson.  We learn the gospel procession because St. Matthew reports that some went ahead of the Lord on Palm Sunday, while others followed behind, leaving the Lord in their midst, and we chant the holy gospel because chanting is elevated speech and the gospel is elevated (to say the least) and music to our ears as well!

Why take such pains?  Why the reverence, rites, rituals, ceremonies, vestments, paraments, architecture and liturgical hardware?  Because Jesus who once came into the world in the flesh, and rode into Jerusalem to be tried for our sins, still comes to us today in this Divine Service.  It is His gospel that we hear, His praises we sing, and His flesh and blood we take on our tongues in holy communion and there is nothing casual about it.  Every Sunday is a celebration, a unique event in all the world, as Jesus comes to us by His appointed means to commune with His Bride and to give her respite from the dreary world, so let us learn from our Lord to humble ourselves and to become obedient unto death:  the death of pride, the death of sin and the death of our casual disregard of the holy gifts that have been so generously placed in our laps.  Amen.

~  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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