Sermon from Rev. Zickler for December 3, 2017

Sermon Advent 1B 2017
December 3, 2017
Mark 11:1-10

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. This morning we meditate on the Gospel lesson which was previously read, especially the word “Hosanna!”

Hosanna! If you have noticed in our bulletins and in the hymnal, there’s a note in some places as to just what that word means. Hosanna! Save us! It’s from Psalm 118 in particular, Hoshia Nah! Save us! Blessed is the One coming in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the One coming to save us! Or as Isaiah says, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Lord, that you would rip through the skies and enter into this world to come to us! That’s what those people on that road were crying. And to whom were they crying? Jesus. Jesus, the One who had rent the heavens and come down. Jesus the One who had come to save them, to save us.

But to save us from what? Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you. There we see it, again in Isaiah. It’s clear why Jesus came: He came for us, for our sins. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags, unclean polluted garments. We’ve become imprisoned in this sin, and we need a savior. Hosanna! Jesus come and save us!

Of course as I speak of sin, how much do we even grasp this? How much do you wrestle with your sin? Do you look at just how sinful you are? Do you consider how offensive this is to our good and holy God? And look around us, when you talk to people about their faith, do they even grasp that they sin? Sure, there are just minor peccadillos, there are little offenses, but certainly nothing worthy of eternal condemnation, right?! But that’s not what this says here, is it? These aren’t just little offenses. They aren’t just little failings that should be overlooked. They aren’t things that God just looks at affectionately and endearingly sweeps them under the rug, are they? No, these are filthy rags. Rotten and stinking before His nostrils like my trash that’s been sitting in my garbage can for a week because my wife has been out of town. These sins turn God’s head, His face from us.

But, we don’t see it do we? In fact, I hope you’ve heard me say it before, but we always, always, underestimate the effects of the fall. And this is just one way that we do it. Thinking that our sin isn’t so bad is just one way that we think the fall into sin wasn’t as traumatic as it was.

In fact, what we so often don’t think about is even just the First Commandment. What is the First Commandment? You shall have no other gods. And what does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We should fear God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit more than any thing, any circumstance, any human being on earth. We should love God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, more than any thing, any experience, and human being on earth. We should trust in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit more than any thing, any hope, and human being on earth. We should have no other gods. And yet we do, don’t we? Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Save us!

Save us, because looking around us, we can see all sorts of false gods that have crept in. In fact, I read a really thought provoking piece recently on a website called the Federalist. This was considered a satire piece, but I’m not sure it was necessarily all that satirical. That being said, it certainly pricked like good satire does. This piece was called, “Inside America’s Largest Religious Revival You Know Nothing About.”

It started off by describing the newest religion that is sweeping across America, one that has immense dedication and participation, but one we don’t even realize is religious because it doesn’t describe itself as such. Now this article named the religion fairly early, but I want to describe it to you, and see if you can figure out what it’s talking about.

Dedication to this religion is extreme, with devotees willingly sacrificing large quantities of time, money, health, and even family for their betterment in the faith. While the Christian Churches gather often once, sometimes maybe twice a week, gatherings in this religion can occur even daily, without flinching on the part of the participants. In fact, those who miss meetings can incur penalties which affect their participation at future assemblies. Parents have no issue with indoctrination of their children into the religion at all. In fact, they often spend a great deal of time conversing about the tenets, about the regulations, even reminiscing about legendary historical figures of the religion. And many of the children give little resistance to taking up memorization of such things. Adherents of this religion often find great enjoyment in the liturgical garbs and attire of the faith, with some of those who are laity even expending large quantities of money to dress in a manner appropriate to express their devotion. Likewise, the zeal for this religion draws many to a life of extreme asceticism. Many will utterly rearrange their schedules to ensure their ability to attend or participate in gatherings, whether in person or via some sort of media. Even more so some participants will dedicate themselves to the point of losing a great deal of sleep, suffering intense physical discomfort, even pain, and holding to an extremely strict and regulated diet so as to enable themselves in improve in the faith. All for the hope of glory in the religion in some form or another.

Do you know what the religion is? The article called it Athletica. Sports. And do you see it? Do you see how dedicated so many people are to sports, to the point that it is treated with far greater regard than the faith? Parents, how many of us dedicate as much time to indoctrinating our children in the faith as we do in sports? How many of us teach our children, or how many of us are willing to dedicate ourselves to the improvement in the faith as we are to improving our understanding or our capabilities in sports? Now to be clear, it’s not sinful to be involved in sports, to enjoy them, or to have our kids involved in them. I want to say that again, it’s not sinful to be involved in sports, to enjoy them or to have our kids involved in them. However, we have to ask, how often are we willing to rearrange our schedules for them, but not for services where Jesus Himself meets with us giving the forgiveness of our sins. And as I say all this I would like to encourage all of you to consider a quick point as to how we might possibly effect a change in some of this.

Specifically, many sports are beginning to meet on Sunday mornings. I would encourage you to withhold children from those games and practices on Sunday morning. Many of you have children of the age that they are able to participate now, many that will be able to in the future, so I would like to encourage you to think about this. First of all to teach the children where our hope really is. Yes participation in a team commitment is important, but when we’re willing to miss our participation with the body of Christ, what will they grow to see as more important? Secondly, I say this because I think of all of the Christians would band together in this it would stop happening. Around here, there are many Roman Catholics who are willing to participate because of the flexibility they have in their Mass Schedule, but I would encourage you to talk with them and see if they would band together with you in this. Those of you who don’t have children or whose children are grown, encourage those you know to do the same. The truth is that being realistic, only 2% of children who participate in sports grow up to be professionals. If our kids aren’t allotted playing time because of this, it’s not likely that it will prevent them from a livelihood in that vocation.

But even still as I say this, as Christians we also need to realize that there might be sacrifices and sufferings we have to endure for the faith. In parts of the world, and also in our culture, the attacks of the devil are clear and obvious. In many things they are subtle, and our Lord calls us to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, and this might be a way we ought to be willing to sacrifice in this calling we have. Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Save us!

Now, as I say that, if you’ve been thinking that since I talked about sports this doesn’t apply to you, ask yourself to what things you gladly devote yourself. Ask what things, or people you fear, love, and trust in more than our God. You see, I have focused on a particular example, but this isn’t unique. John Calvin, a theologian just after the time of Luther, is quoted to have said, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” None of us is immune. We all do it. Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Save us!

In fact, that’s what Isaiah also alludes to when he says, “When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you.” The implication? God did awesome things and we looked for another god, a god who didn’t exist. That’s who we are as sinners. Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Save us!

Now as I say this, this has been a lot of Law. And these commands of God should pierce every one of our hearts. It should draw us to that cry, “Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Save us!” It should crush us so we see just how broken we are. But Christians, this is the beauty of our faith. As we enter the season of Advent this morning, there is hope. As we cry out Hosanna! Jesus has saved us. As, He rode that donkey into Jerusalem, that’s exactly what He was riding there to do: to hang on the cross for those sins. To hang on the cross being made the worst of all idolaters by our sin which was placed upon Him. And on that cross He bled and died for our idolatry, for our false worship, for every last time we have feared, loved, or trusted in something besides our God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And we still cry out to Him today. Hopefully as you heard that word, you recognized it because we sing it every week. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest! Hosanna, Lord Jesus! Come! Save us! Christians, He has come and saved you, and He comes even now saving you, giving you His salvation through the waters of Baptism, through His Word, through His very body and blood where He is among us today as though He were riding on the foal in our very midst. And that is our hope. Hosanna, Lord Jesus. Save us! Amen.