Ad Te Levavi Sermon

The end harkens back to the beginning and the beginning to the end. Watch, be awake, be ready, for the end is drawing nigh. The first day of the church year can only be seen in the shadow of Good Friday…where your sin, the reign of death, Satan— meets its match. The end is drawing nigh. So the King comes to you. He comes lowly, humble, riding on a beast of burden. He comes triumphant into the holy city, but he comes unlike any other king would. He comes unlike any other god would. This is the Savior of the Nations, the God of Creation, the government is on his shoulder, but he will not over throw Caesar. The emperor’s government will be an instrument to free the world and you from sin and death. “Hail to the Son of David, Hosanna!” the people shout.

So it is that the ancient Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent (Ad Te Levavi) is the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem. The characteristic of the coming Babe of Bethlehem is defined by this. Your God comes to you: Lowly and humble. Advent is a season of preparation, but its name confuses it. Advent is Latin for “I come.” Jesus comes to his people. The Second Person of the Trinity is the great apostle, having been sent to interrupt the monotony of the world…to destroy the reign of a thief prince, to destroy lies, and to establish truth. He walks in the cool of the Garden of Eden, he comes down to see the Tower of Babel, he hears the cries of his people and comes to Moses in the burning bush to rescue and make well. Immanuel is God with Us…God visiting us, God keeping his promises. He rides into the holy city to die for your sins. He comes to Roswell even to have you for himself.

A God that throws off all conceptions of what God is. Not a divine watch maker that creates the heavens and the earth and then once the machine has been set in motion, goes to start another project. Not a god that needs to be found, approached, and appeased. He’s not abstract and unique to each person and their feelings. He is the true God that comes to find you. Seeks you out and comes. He is the God that is always revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. The face of Trinity is the blooded God-Man on the cross of Calvary…and there is no other god.

Whatever the reason the people filled the streets that day, they did not think they were participating in a funeral march. Perhaps they thought it was their freedom from Roman oppression or from the oppression of the Sadducees. It makes no difference. Not even the disciples of Jesus really knew what was going on. They had been in Jerusalem many times before and this had never happened. But this is the end. The beginning of our church year is informed and defined by that end. What is that end? It is the Good Friday, death on the cross, end. We will celebrate, but we will get the focus wrong from time to time, too. Crosses are gory. Death is usually an unpleasant topic. The temptation will be to forget your God: Jesus Christ and his coming, despite this season of piped-in Christmas music and crazy shopping. Satan will try to steal away the real reason you gather week in and week out. The world will try to convince you that you are on the “nice list” and that there is no reason to worry about payment for sin, crosses, and propitiation.

Nonetheless, the people shouted, Hosanna! It means, “Save us!” The people need saving. You shout, “Hosanna!” You need saving, too. And even if you were silent, the very stones would cry out. The Savior comes, the Son of David comes, to his creation, to his people. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! They sang. A people informed by the Holy Spirit. It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to them, but the very Spirit of the Living God. The Son of David comes in the name of the Lord to save his people from their sins. Jesus means “God saves!” The words of their cry were a people, a creation, a world reminding God of his promises.

Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we sing the Words of that Triumphal Entry. You will sing them again today, in fact. The liturgy, the great cloud of witnesses, you, the Church will remind God again that he is the God that Saves. You will put your hope in the God that comes. You will delight with the saints of all time that your God comes to you, lowly and humble, riding no longer on a donkey, but on bread and wine.

Once they were in the holy city, Jesus told his disciples that they would not see him again until they said, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” You celebrate again today with the King that comes to find you and destroy your sins, to establish the truth of his victory over death and Satan…and you see him again. The words of our Lord come true, as you partake of his very body and his blood. You sing, “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” with all the church with the saints of all time, with the great cloud of heavenly witnesses. You sing the acknowledgement of a God that saved and yet still comes. You sing of a God that washes you in that blood, makes you righteous, and names you with his name.

That means that the end harkens back to the beginning. Your end, your death, was your beginning, for you are the baptized of God. You have been marked by the blood of the Crucified One and Jesus has saved you from all your sins. He gives you his name. The cross is now your life. You have been made like him…redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Now the beginning of the Church year, that we celebrate today, is again the end of sin and death. And the characteristic coming of Jesus is not over, but new again today. He comes. Once he came in blessing, all our sins redressing; came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; Bore the cross to save us; Hope and freedom gave us. Today he comes in Word preached and Sacrament given: all our sins destroying; came by means of his Spirit; Son of God most lowly. The bread of life to give us!

In the name of +Jesus. Amen.



In the boat

The prophet was asleep in the bow. Jonah didn’t want God’s mercy to fall upon people that he didn’t feel deserved it. You and I have felt the same way before… or maybe you feel it right now. A grudge, a heart filled with anger or resentment… you would have done it different if you were God. And like Jonah, you are okay with yourself, so okay — to sleep while the world falls to pieces above you. Jonah trusted in his plan instead of God. He thought the boat would get to Tarshish. You don’t ever expect that the weather will divert your plans and tear apart your escape route. And so the sailors needed to wake him up. God pursued him and he ended up in the depths of a stomach—for three long days and nights.

The human existence is marred with anger and murder. We’d not love our neighbor as our self. We’d be judge of those who sin just like us and send them all to the belly of the lake of fire BUT instead our desire to hold on to this sin will send the clouds and storms of the skies or the storms of war upon us. Without the law, we would just be comfortable like Jonah, asleep in the bow of a boat heading out on a pleasure cruise. But the storms of God’s law find us anywhere we choose to hide. We won’t be able to hide from God’s Word. We won’t be able to sleep through the storm or dream through the pain. Nothing will save you. No ship, no plan, no work, no coma… the only answer is to be cast into the depth of God’s Word.

Repent. The Word of God is asleep in the bow of your boat.

What seemed like a disaster to the disciples was nothing in the eyes of faith. The one who spoke the clouds into existence would speak them into good behavior. Nothing in all the world would keep him from granting MERCY upon you and all your foes, even those we don’t feel deserve it. For Jesus, he is so comfortable with the plan set forth for him, a storm is just a normal occurrence on his daily schedule. He comes that the human existence would be rewritten. No longer will you and I be riddled by the reign of our sinful nature. No longer will Satan have dominion over us. Jesus will not let the world use its wind and rain and hail to divert us into fear and trembling. God is pursuing you and all your sin and he ended up upon a cross, died, and in the depths of a tomb—for three long days and nights.

That is your freedom, your life, your forgiveness, and your salvation. God has spoken —to the wind and the waves, to Satan, and to death. Their reign is over. Now is the reign of the Son of God and of this Immanuel, and his throne and dominion and power, there is no end.

Jesus does all things well. You can sleep secure in his loving embrace.