Palm Sunday

We are united in Christ, now in His suffering and humiliation, then finally in His resurrection and exaltation; let His life be yours.

 

Philippians 2:5
Let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.

Palm Sunday, that beautiful remembrance of Christ’s procession as the coming king into the city of God and to the altar of His temple. pastordThe beginning of the last week of His life, as He fulfilled the promises to the people of old; the king come to be crowned, yet with thorns on the throne of the cross (Isaiah 23:5); the priest to offer the final sacrifice on the altar, the sacrifice of the true Pascal lamb by which those trusting would be saved (Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 53:7); the servant who would bring salvation to all the nations, by His suffering, death and His resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand, to His almighty power (Isaiah 49:7). And you are with Him in this. You know you are joined with Christ through baptism by the Holy Spirit, that we together are members of His body, that we share in His life, and so as the apostle says ‘let this insight be in you, which was in Christ Jesus’ let His life be yours.

And what is this insight? The Spirit teaches us with this ‘Christ hymn’ that the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Son, didn’t consider the almighty power and authority He possessed as God as something to be clung to, as we might clutch at good health, wealth or safety. His status as equal with the Father was not something He prioritised, like we might prioritise our position at work, or our status as citizens. Rather He gave of Himself taking the form of a servant to serve others though He is truly Lord of all and rightfully all should be serving Him, yet He came as a servant. He was incarnate, He took on our humanity in its fullness. He humbled Himself, from Lord of all to be a servant for all, from creator of all to be not just a human, but a human embryo, taking on our humanity from its beginning. And having become obedient, or in the Greek more ‘truly listening’ or ‘under to what is heard’, listening to His Father even to death, His excruciating passion flogged, shamed, and crucified.

Now we’ll take a break before going on. That insight of Christ is to not cling to the things this fallen world values, to power or authority, rather to fully listen to our Heavenly Father and live that out. Today I’m not going to highlight the truth of our sinfulness, and our helplessness. Instead I pray that the Holy Spirit has already done His Work, through the liturgy and the Word, that you who have been arrogant in your sin have been crushed, that God’s law has shown you that you fail to live with Christ’s humility and obedience. But now broken sinners do not despair, hear again God’s promise to you that, ‘you were united with Christ Jesus by baptism into a death like His, and shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.’ (Romans 6:4-5). But what was His resurrection like? We’ll go back to the text.

Jesus humbled Himself, incarnated and died in obedience with God’s Word, fulfilling His promises. Therefore God highly exalted Him, He put everything under Christ’s feet, His power. He graced Jesus with the name or reputation above all others, that when all things, from the highest archangel to the lowest worm, when all hear Him we will glorify and praise Him, truly and rightly honouring Him and confessing together that Jesus Christ is Lord, master and king of all; to the glory of God the Father. This is an incredibly dense text, and where is the good news for us here?

The first half tells us what Jesus did, humbled, took on our humanity, died in accord with the promises. Then the second half tells what our Father in Heaven did in response, exalted Him above all things that all recognise Jesus as Lord. But why is this Good News for us? We’re told to let this way of life to be our way of life, to always live as Christ lives; how can we hope to measure up to what Jesus did, how much He loved all people, even those hating Him? Well it’s like St Paul, who was a murderer of Christians, writes elsewhere and honestly throughout his letter here, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). We have been joined with Christ, He came to God’s city as King, came to the temple the earthly altar and sacrificed Himself destroying our sin and reconciling us to our Father. And we participate in this, are joined with Him, as we eat and drink His body and blood (1 Corinthians 10:16). Holy Communion is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the slain Lamb at the end of time (Revelation 19:6-9); when Christ marries us His church, a full and completely, perfect union of us lowly humans with God Almighty, our evil already dealt with, and then only the pure and beautiful love of God between us all.

Our common union together with Christ is what Holy Communion is, that’s where we’ve got the words. That we will be exalted and unified with Christ, reigning together with the power of God, Paul tells us later in this letter, ‘God will transform our bodies to be like Christ’s most glorious body’ (3:21). That humanity can attain such heights is proclaimed again in this hymn. The pre-incarnate Son emptied Himself, or came down to become a lowly human, to take on our humanity, eat, sleep, poop, and to die for us. Our Father exalted Him according to His humanity, giving Lordship over all creation to Jesus according to His humanity, because according to His divinity He already had it. Now you and I, joined into the God-man Jesus Christ can be assured that we too will rise with Him, exalted by our Father in our bodies to His glory. This is who you are in Jesus Christ. God has spoken, His word is sure. So now hear again, and truly listen to the Word of God, ‘let the life of Christ be your life.’

And until our full communion comes, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.
Dubbo.

Palm Sunday 14th April

Philippians 2 : 5 – 11

‘and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!’

 Today, on this ‘Palm Sunday’, we think of Jesus entering Jerusalem in joy and triumph!gus1

Even so, have you noticed how the story is told emphasizing the humility of Jesus?
The letter of the apostle Paul to the Philippians forms the basis of the response we use in worship during this season of Lent …  Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross!  (v. 8)

In the Gospel Reading for today, we have a quote from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, (Zech. 9:9) which says …

‘see your king comes to you, gentle (or humble) and riding on a donkey’  (Matt. 21:5)

I suspect humility is a quality or characteristic not so well known in our modern world.

Humility is defined …

‘as the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, … or having a clear perspective and respect for ones place in context.’

 Now would you say you are a humble person? 

Is it even your desire to be humble in spirit? Perhaps the more we think or speak of ourselves as being humble, the less humble we are!

While the less conscious we are of this state of humility, the more humble we become!

Whatever, today Jesus provides for us the focus and image of humility.

As inadequate as I am at this, I will attempt, from God’s word, to paint a picture of Jesus’ humility.

Jesus is God’s own Son. He is the eternal God. He shares the glories of heaven with his Father; yet he always lived in humility before God, his and our dear Father. (v. 6)  He didn’t demand the glory!

Jesus only spoke the things his Father told him to speak. He said to the unbelieving Jews: ‘I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.’ (John 12:49)

Jesus only did those things the Father asked him to do. Again, after healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus said to the angry and disbelieving Jews: ‘the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ (John 5:19) Jesus always gave God the Father glory!

Today the apostle Paul most vividly describes the humility of Jesus.

His incomprehensible, obedient, death-embracing humility!

It is the mystery and marvel of God’s kingdom revealing the depth of his love from the bloodshed of Calvary. From the bloodied cross we measure God’s determined purpose to be merciful … to the world!

Jesus teaches, and then he shows the world that there: ‘is no greater love than to lay down one’s life …’ (John 15:13)  Jesus willingly and humbly goes to the cross for us.

John records Jesus telling us: ‘The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ (John 10:17-18)

Here Jesus emphasizes two qualities – love and humility.

The apostle Paul not only points us to the humility of Jesus.

It is in the name of Jesus that he calls us to live in this same spirit of humility in our lives

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’, he says (v. 6)

God not only calls us to be humble – he grants us the same ability to ‘empty oneself’ or ‘make oneself nothing’ (v. 7) in the service of others, because we are his children. Children who follow the Father!

The call is for us to follow Jesus by: ‘dying to self.’ This is what Jesus means when he says: ‘whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ (Matthew 16:25)

This is the paradox of following Jesus. The contrast between our earthly life here and now and the heavenly life God offers. Clinging to earthly life forfeits eternal life; but losing our life now in love for Jesus gains real life. This is the joy of a servant heart!

Do you know that real joy in your life?

The mystery is that when we lose ourselves in the service of something bigger than ourselves, we find real joy in life.

Could it be that Jesus’ model of humility challenges our understanding?

Is there something bigger, foreign even; about God’s humility in Jesus?

When we think about and describe ‘humility’, our minds tend to focus on behaviour or character.

But Jesus models humility thinking … relationships!

His … and God’s relationship with us … and the world!

He thinks of his relationship of love, loyalty and obedience to the Father who loves just as much!  For Jesus, it was all about God … and his relationship with his Father.

He thinks about his relationship of love for you … and the world!  A love that compels him to take on our human form. To be born a dependent and defenceless baby. A love that leads him to leave the glories of heaven behind, and take on the corruption of sinful humanity!  Yes, a love that even demands he ‘be sin’ for the world, all the way to the cross; so that your and my sin can be cancelled forever. A love that surrenders to physical death and the grave. And then, in the power of God’s love, bursts alive from the cold, dark earth; so that we can be welcomed into his kingdom of life!

 Yes, the truth is, our humility is also revealed in terms of relationships, isn’t it? 

Especially in our relationship with Jesus!  By the place that Jesus, God’s own Son has in our hearts.
So what is your relationship with Jesus? 

Do you love Jesus?  Do you love him for his sake, … or for your own sake?  Do you really love him for who he is?  God’s own Son, your Lord and Saviour!  The one who gave up everything, even his very life, just so that you could become God’s child and heir!

How are you showing that love in your life?

Is Jesus at the very centre of your life?  Or is he just someone out there – at arm’s length. Who you can call on, but only as you feel the need!  Or just Sundays!  Who you can take or leave, just as you like!

So let this be a challenge for every one of us as we model humility.

Humility before God, and humility as God’s people in the world.

As the apostle Paul says: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’ (Romans 12:3)  So what does it look like in your life?

Is it YOU first, OTHERS second, and JESUS third?

Or is it JESUS FIRST, OTHERS second, and YOURSELF last!

That’s what a heaven blessed humility really looks like!  That’s what we get to see in Jesus. That’s what we experience when Jesus is first in our heart and life. Jesus truly brings JOY into our lives.

When you and I discover Jesus’ spirit of humility, then we truly begin to live! 

Lord God, grant us something of the humility and gentleness of Jesus!

 Hallelujah, Hosanna and Amen.

Pastor Gus Schutz