28 November 2009

Behold, Your King Is Coming to You

Forget about sheep for today. The Lord would have you see yourself in the donkey, in the colt, the foal of a donkey.

Without any rider, you would seem to be free. But you are not. You are tied up and owned by other lords; unused and useless; unclothed, unbridled, unneeded — but not free, and not safe.

Then Christ Jesus sends His disciples to loose you from your bonds and set you free; to clothe you with the garments of a disciple, and to set Christ Himself upon you. Not that He would burden you, but that He would be your gracious Lord and King.

In fact, for you the Lord Jesus Christ has become the donkey, the colt, the beast of burden. For He carries all your guilt and sin and shame, in His own body to the Cross, and He carries you through death into life.

In His descent, you are raised up. He goes up to Jerusalem, yes, because He is offered up to the Father as the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world. But thus He comes down from the Mount of Olives, anointed by the Holy Spirit for the sake of mercy, in order to give you life.

The Law accuses and condemns you, and would rebuke your worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. But He has come to establish righteousness for you, to save you by His grace, and to grant you safety, peace and rest in the midst of His Jerusalem. He receives your praise, as He receives you.

He does not condemn you, nor cast you away from His presence, but has called you to Himself. He does not rebuke or reject you, but calls you to rejoice in His salvation and His righteousness.

For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. And as there is now peace in heaven, in the heart of God the Father toward sinners, so is there now peace on earth in the preaching of the Gospel, in the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

He calls you to be reconciled to Him. For He would convert your stony, idolatrous heart into a heart of flesh: to love and trust in Him, your God in the flesh. Rest yourself in His Peace, and so be at peace with Him; and, in such peace, now love and serve your neighbor in his body and life.

Such love and peace in your body and life — in your daily words and actions, in your dealings with the sinners and brothers and sisters and fellow disciples round about you — such love and peace are all that is lacking in your faith as a disciple (as St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians).

To be sure, even in its weakness, even in your frailty and falling short, your faith lays hold of Christ Jesus and His Righteousness, in which there is no lack but perfect life and light and love, both now and forever. That is fully yours, by His grace. So, again, be at peace with Him, as He is most certainly at peace with you. So also do I rejoice and give thanks for your faith and life!

But in your flesh and in your members, in what you say and what you do, your faith in Christ has not fully turned in love toward your neighbor.

Therefore, do not remain tied up and still attached to your old lords and masters, but live now in the freedom of Christ, that you may increase and abound in love for one another. Do not avoid your brothers and sisters, but seek them out in mercy. Do not wait for them to ask for your help, but look for ways to love and serve them, as Christ has come to help you when you did not know Him. Do not speak ill of your neighbor, nor cause him any hurt in his body, his family, his home or his honor, but let all your words be gracious and all your actions graceful toward him.

Love freely, in faith, and not as though under the whip or goaded by the prod. Have no fear of punishment; you shall not die, but live. Rather, rejoice in the King who comes to you, who reigns over you in love from His Cross.

As He has become your gracious Lord and King; as He has borne all your burdens in His body, and as He has set you free from sin and death, so now bear Him in your body and life.

Be the colt that carries Him. Be a Christian. Let your tongue and mouth be bridled; let your hands and feet be guided; and let your flesh be disciplined by one Lord, Jesus Christ.

Let Him be the Lord who rides you, through death into life.

Let your outer garments be trodden under His feet, on the way of the Cross; so that you may be clothed with a new vesture, with His righteousness and purity, and with the holiness of His Love.

Has He not named you with His Name — the Name of the Lord your God — in Holy Baptism?

Has He not signed you, also in your body and your flesh, upon your forehead and your breast, with the sign of His holy Cross?

And yet, it is not you, the servant, the donkey, but Him, the Christ, your Lord and God, who first of all bears the burden of the Cross and looses you from the bondage of sin and death.

If you now bear Christ and His Cross, it is only because He has already borne you and yours.

Therefore, you are born again to a new and living hope. No longer the foal of a donkey, you are a son of God, a daughter of Jerusalem. You dwell in safety, and you shall be saved, because Christ has made righteousness and peace for you. That is your freedom and your faith.

For, behold, there is yet another donkey here at hand, which bears your King to you, who comes in the Name of the Lord, having salvation for you.

As He has sent His disciples to make a disciple of you — to forgive you in His Name; to baptize you and catechize you in love; to fill up whatever is lacking in you, with Jesus — so does He also send His disciples before His face, to prepare this upper room of His Church, this House of the Lord, for the true Passover Feast of His Body and His Blood.

The Lord has need of bread and wine. That is the colt He now rides, that by these earthly means He would enter His Jerusalem in mercy: to give His Body for you, and to pour out His holy, precious Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins.

Here He has need of you, also. Not that you should serve Him, but that He would serve you. For He would be your King of righteousness and peace. Not to enslave you, but that you would live with Him in His Kingdom.

He is a greater and more faithful King than even David, a better and far wiser Son than Solomon. For He is Himself your righteousness and holiness. He is Himself your safety, peace and rest.

That is why we shout aloud, and cry out, and greatly rejoice. That is why we sing of peace on earth as it is in heaven. For "blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord." From the House of the Lord we bless you. Hosanna in the highest!

And happy are you, who know this festal shout.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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