Palm Sunday Message (April 5, 2020)

5 April 2020 FBC Palm Sunday Message

“Thoughts from a lay pastor in pandemic lockdown”

Call to Worship: Isaiah 1:11-18 (Revised Standard Translation)

11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of he-goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who requires of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread forth your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, let us reason together,
says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

Tithe and Offering Prayer: Father, our little Church is poor in worldly ways (size and money), and outlandishly rich is the areas that matter, because we are yours. Today Lord, we as a family consecrate our very being to and into you Father. Please accept us filthy as we are and make us whole, clean, and new in you. All we are and will ever have is already yours. Amen! 

Message Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: “Our Journey continues!”

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”

10 God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

 

It’s amazing to contemplate on this Palm Sunday, that everything one may grasp, all the knowledge I begin to comprehend (or not), the colors that you begin to notice in the sky, or take form during a walk in the woods, or a springtime waft of air filled with so much humidity that it baths you or the late summer breeze that caresses the tops of wheat and assists the tassels of the mature corn in the field to dance a performance of hidden majesty; they are all authored by the one who created every molecule, each atom to perfection, on the pallet of exquisite beauty, we call life.

And yet the thought just expressed is just a momentary lapse from the journey you and I are on. Our faithwalk, is made up of many smaller journeys of thought, and longer pilgrimages, challenges, and goals that span our lives, with the current walk aimed at this most Holy of seasons. Passover!

Our present journey has been aimed towards Easter and the celebration of our own Passover from death, united with our mourning of the sacrifice and carnage inflicted on our Lord and Savior. This journey almost seems to have begun back when you and I were a more innocent follower of Christ, naïve to the real world before us now. The adult world of pain and suffering. Before we ever thought of giving any serious consideration or thought to fear a viral invasion, surpassing our annual colds, flu, or bronchitis.

After all, we aren’t just Christians who know we are saved by our faith in Him who was sacrificed for our very being. We are American Christians. Meaning, we have never really had to suffer as a group for our faith in our God, or our love for other people. Sure, we as a people rose to the challenges of 9/11, took on the banking crash in 2006, and we have been battling the opioid epidemic head on. Perhaps the worst that our society has brought our way as Christians, has been a listless contempt for our deeply held profession in believing and trusting in our Lord. This by people who many times, don’t really know who we really are as a family of God.

While society was busy chasing itself, to please itself, we people of faith enjoyed advantages unknown by much of the planet or often experienced in human civilization.

Indeed, as a culture we have certainly been a segment of a children of privilege. All of America! Where the biggest argument society-wise we have had to grapple with is who in our civilization has been more privileged. The have and have nots in a homeland full of plenty. This debate has been taking place nationally while people with nothing, living outside our bounty of stuff, have been watching. Many in other countries less fortunate, hooked old TV reruns of: All in the Family, Baywatch, Knight Rider, Saturday Night Live, Airwolf, Bonanza, culminating with The Streets of San Francisco, and saying; can we have just the leftovers and the scraps from our rich endowed society?

Endowed I believe, because our relationship to the Lord goes all the way back to before the beginnings of this nation. We were established as a people of faith and you and I are the inheritors of a celestial lottery beyond most of the world’s comprehension. That’s how much we have been given in this life of ours, and now it’s being interrupted by a pandemic. Or is it?

Perhaps we have been afforded a wake-up call. But before I follow this line of thought further, let’s first begin with what God has been instructing us throughout all of scripture.

Here is a quick list of what I think the Lord is teaching you and I.

  1. There is a worldly way of thinking and a way that is closer in harmony to what the Lord has in mind.
    1. We can’t buy our way to harmony.
    2. Our money our change comes from within.
  2. We have a means of discerning what God wants.
  3. God has been consistent in his dealings with us.

As always, this is a list that will only become perfect for you, when you work on building this list with your Savoir. That’s how a relationship with God works. Individually, not what someone else has with the Lord, but what the two of you have discovered together, as you build your beautiful lives individually with Him who made you!

Which leads us to the question: who are you; the product of the Lord or the world? This may sound like an easy question with an easy answer when it’s coming from a Baptist preacher, but the idea is to provoke the deeper thought about our first topic:

1). There is a worldly way of thinking and a way that is closer in harmony to what the Lord has in mind.

As with everything, the world has a way of doing everything. Usually the world’s thought patterns are based on self-interest, out and out greed, and fear. It was this kind of pagan type of mentality that incensed God to the point that He vents righteous indignation through Isaiah all those years ago. God doesn’t even wait for Isaiah to format a long drawn out introduction but goes right to the heart of things in chapter 1 with Isaiah 1 instructing;

11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of he-goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who requires of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.

Israel was going through the motions, and really only hoping to pay off God to indulge a forgotten ideal of communion in a higher power, instead of developing a real relationship with the Lord. Here God has been looking at being a part of the lives of the people He loves deeply, and Israel is acting like the guy in the commercial who comes up to a professional juggler, juggling running moving chainsaws and wants to cut in saying: “I’ve got this”.

Israel, thought they could wheel and deal with the neighboring kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to play one off against the other, without seeking guidance and direction from God. One underlying current or thought in the book of Isaiah is the concept that Israel felt so secure they had never known privation, or bondage and thought they were invincible to anything.

Sound stupid? Well, yeah and familiar! Isn’t that how many of us have been living our lives. Outside the Lord’s providence and guidance, saying to ourselves and the world, I’ve got this. Regardless of the challenge. Instead of attempting to pay off God and all of creation, disaster by disaster, maybe we should collectively look to returning to the basics of our faith in the one who has endowed this wonderful land!

On a congregational note, we know that: …

  1. We can’t buy our way to harmony.

First because our little congregation is not a rich church in the worldly sense. We are a faith family that has everything to be grateful for, and is in the habit of expressing this gratitude on a weekly basis when we come together in faith, during our prayer concerns!

The Lord has been leading us in a direction towards Him and Easter for some time now, and that direction has been through service and love to Him, and to others less fortunate than ourselves.

This manifested itself this last Tuesday evening with our church having a Church Service for the Lord in our church parking. Our Food Pantry, God’s Food Pantry, is our way of praising, magnifying, and glorifying God’s name, and this was church for countless individuals who may have only experienced kindness with no strings attached through our sharing food, clothes and loving prayer. That is indeed a church service to the Lord! It’s the attitude Isaiah was referring to.

As Isaiah goes on to state in chapter 1:

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow.

A real relationship in the Lord comes from loving Him (God), and loving our neighbor as ourselves, As Jesus teaches us in Matthew 22:37-40 and repeated with the same intent throughout all scripture. Both Old and New Testaments are clear about this teaching of compassion. Emphasizing the thought that:…

  1. Our change comes from within.

In other words, our real capital comes from within when we have a change of attitude, and we wash our hands so to speak by working on putting others ahead of our selfish selves.

One may say, “I have no money or wealth to share with other people, no talent, and no knowledge of deep Bible stuff, so there is no place for me in your church!” My thought is, if you are praying for other people, you are giving the greatest gift that you can anyone. It all begins with prayer for others, and there is no one right way to do it. This is a time between you and your Lord (not for showing off to others but), where you are showing God and more importantly, yourself that you finally get it. It’s all about putting others before our own selves and striving for a relationship with God, and other people.

This is where real growth begins that leads to deeper thinking about what others need, what God desires, and service before self. It leads to the recognition that:…

2). We have a means of discerning what God wants.

By our asking Him and then listening to what He has to say and where He is leading us. This works better through practice, and even better with other people in your faith family trusting in each other and in God to lead our family in the right direction.

The stronger we become in the Spirit, the more we will begin to recognize the promptings of the Lord in both the big things in life, and the day to day stuff that occupies so much of our energies. I am reminded of what Paul had to say from our message reading in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 that the Lord has imparted knowledge to the mature. That would be those people working on a relationship in the Lord, and a faithwalk with Him and other people.

Paul goes on to say:

10 God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

I love this instruction! Because Paul is so clear and to the point! In so many words Paul is teaching; as we grow in the Holy Spirit, we will understand what God has intended for our lives, our church congregation, our neighborhoods, and communities. More and more each day. This understanding will be improved on with the assistance of other people. Family members of God’s household who together with each of us individually will come together to discern the promptings, tugging, and direction from the Holy Spirit, and grow stronger in God’s Spirit.

“So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”, and we have access to the spirit of God based this teaching and on another instruction from God through Paul. This time from Paul’s letter to the Romans 5:

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

God has poured the Holy Spirit into your very essence when you ask for a relationship with Him. And it is a growing phenomenon that takes place within us. So much so that Paul remarks that: we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope

There is hope for you and me, and it is this hope that we must cling to as we come to terms with the fear that surrounds us in the midst of this very real tragedy of pandemic creating havoc and terror in some communities. The hope that comes from the Lord, is a very real comfort.

Comfort, because we are no longer taking His protection for granted, and we are looking deeply into the real nature of what our lives look like when we submit them up to a walk in Him. The great “I Am”, who knows everything there is to know about you, and loves me in spite of me!

And every time we individually have strayed or as a society; …

3). God has been consistent in his dealings with us.

Consistent in the fact that He wants to be in relationship with you. And not just you, but that person you can’t seem to get along with, and that other person who you are sure as heck is destined for the “Fire-barn of Hell” in the future. And that person who did you wrong in the 3rd grade and you are still not quite over it yet. Let go and know, that’s why God does the picking and we do the thanking. And if you are not quite sure that this is fair or you haven’t come to terms with all things God; let’s go back to the “Call to Worship” in this message and to one of my most favorite passages in the Bible. From the Revised Standard Translation, we have one of the most beautiful statements from God. Isaiah 1: 18

18 Come now, let us reason together,
says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

Regardless of how you have taken God for granted, or quietly snickered about doubting His very existence. In spite of the horrible things we have said and done to other people in this life, let it die to the past. Repent, learn, and move on. Your creator has said: Come now, let us reason together…

That is how much you are loved, which might begin to answer the questions why do bad things happen in life? Because we are fallen people living in a fallen world that produces pandemics, havoc and fear. But God has a plan, and you are part of the solution. That is why you and I have been placed at this place and time to answer the Lord’s call to reason with Him. Let Him in, and begin the Road towards your Easter and humanity’s Salvation by serving others as He has already done so, and by making beauty from bedlam, pain and grief.

Amen!