Sunday, April 9, 2017

HOSANNA! (Save us!)


The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem, so they took branches of palm tress and went out to meet him crying out, "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"  John 12:12-14

TODAY is Palm Sunday!  Today the procession that took place 2,000 years ago unfolds before our very eyes.  Today we don't only commemorate, but we also participate!  Today we join the church of heaven and earth in crying out to Jesus "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel."

The way the world counts time these events are in the past, but as the church counts time they are an ever present reality.  Though these acclamations were shouted out two thousand years ago, they are of such surpassing greatness that the church embedded them into her liturgy and to pray every Sunday, because these words best describe what occurs as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup which is the very definition of Christian worship.

As Jesus came to Jerusalem that day, so He comes to His church today.  Then He came as a man, one so genuine and true that people could see nothing more.  Today He comes under the forms of bread and wine and the same problem prevails.  Many people can perceive nothing more than meets the eye, but there is much more here, for as often as we sing Hosanna, and Blessed is He who comes to us in the name of the Lord; this King of Israel answers by coming to us and by giving His body and blood for us Christians to eat and to drink for the remission of our defiant sins, for life, salvation, consolation, spiritual confidence, peace and calm; and to inoculate us against the Great Judgment and from the second death.

What sin?  It's a question we must always ask, because unless the church teaches the Law as clearly as the Gospel, God's people gradually lose their awareness of it.  When that happens, the Lord's great sacrifice declines in importance.  People fall into self-righteousness.  They start feeling good about themselves and stop taking this Medicine, but today we open the windows.  Today we let the sunshine in.  Today we take on the deadliest sin of all, the sin of pride. the sin of self-promotion.

It is pride that led the devil to revolt, Israel to rebel, and each of us to recklessly follow in their train, but let's give that word some content.  Pride means that we love ourselves more than God or our neighbor.  It means that the person suffering from pride can never be happy, satisfied, calm, quenched, at rest or at peace until he has garnered "all glory, laud and honor to himself."  From this desperate and vain quest proceeds every known cruelty of man against man.

Sometimes the symptoms of this terminal disease are plain to see as with politicians, sports figures and other members of the illuminati who, no matter how famous they are, can never cease gorging their egos; but pride comes in different packages too:  the tyrant who must control everything about him; the passive-aggressive person; also the meek person who conceals his pride under the cloak of humility or victimhood,  whose fastest track to praise is for others to know how oppressed he is and how many sorrows he has to bear.

The common thread here is that the Redeemer King, who alone is worth of "all glory, laud and honor," gets none, while man the sinner hoards it for himself; but paltry praise it is.

Contrast this with the Lord we welcome into the church today, with Jesus who rightly owns all glory, laud and honor, but lowered himself into the depths of human sin, into the self-conceit, chaos, powerlessness and utter unpredictability of this world, so that by His pure humility, and by His willing death on the cross, He might truly exalt us all!

So the church, now as then, cries out to Jesus, "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!"

The word Hosanna is an appeal for divine help.  As often as we pray it we are asking our Lord and Savior to come to our aid, to save us from our sins, and to grant us His peace now and forever.  It is a prayer He will always answer, but an answer that came with a great price, because we must remember that our Lord rode into Jerusalem that day to stand trial for our sins, to be adjudged guilty, condemned to death, mocked by the world and even, momentarily, to be forsaken by God, as the man of sorrows expunged the sins of all the world in His body on the cross.  Yet it is here where the proclamation, "King of Israel" is made most clear.  In John's gospel the Lord's death was not a defeat, but victory over the devil and the world.  He came into the world for this very purpose, to be the Lamb of God who lifts away the sin of the world.  We read the language of the Lord's exaltation throughout John's Gospel.  In it Jesus refers to His death on the cross as being "lifted up" or "exalted" in the same way that a king is raised up high upon his throne.   Immediately  before His passion, He prays, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You..."  Here we learn that our Lord's death is not a failure, but the true and actual glory of God which Isaiah predicted would be "revealed" and that "all flesh shall see it together."

We hear further from St. John that our Lord was dressed in a purple robe, albeit in mockery; coronated with a crown, albeit of thorns: and proclaimed by the one-world Roman government to be the King of the Jews (INRI).

This is the King we worship, the King to whom we pray, the King to whom we offer all glory, laud and honor; the King we welcome into the church every Sunday who rescues us by His death and shares pure glory with us, here in the church, and there in eternity.  Amen

~  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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