Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Psalm 118:19-29 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! 28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. 29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
There they were, hiding in the Garden. God was looking for them, calling out, “Adam, where are you?” “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat lest you die?” “Cursed is the ground because of you; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” “And God sent him out of the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man…” (Genesis 3)
The gates were closed and shut tight. An angel was placed to guard the gates to make sure the man did not enter back in. The ground was cursed. The death penalty had been pronounced, for the wages of sin is death.
God in his anger and justice has sent mankind away, out into the wilderness to work the ground in sweat and tears until we return to the ground. And so today mankind pleads, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter in.” Save us, we pray, O Lord!
But God also cursed Satan, the evil one, and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed, he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” God appointed the Seed of the woman to destroy the evil foe; a seed to die on a cross and appease his anger; a seed who would free mankind from the wrath and punishment of the Lord and set aside the death penalty forever. A Seed who would open the gates of Eden so that we can return and enter into the kingdom of righteousness.
“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.” The gate of the Lord is Jesus Christ. The gates were opened by Jesus’ death on the cross where he paid for your sin and set aside the anger and wrath of God toward you. Jesus’ flesh hanging on the cross to die is the gate he opened for us through the curtain, as the curtain in the temple is ripped from top to bottom and torn open.
This is the ancient story you’ve heard over and over. By the death of Jesus Christ, the Lord opened the gates to release his Israel from slavery in Egypt. Yes, it was Christ who delivered the Israelites from Egypt. It was Christ who led them across the Sea and through the wilderness in the cloud and pillar of fire. It was Christ who parted the seas before them and the rock from which they drank water was Christ.
We heard the story again in 1000 BC when the same Lord, Jesus Christ, delivered David from Goliath. The ancient foe, the powerful enemy, was defeated by Jesus on the cross.
And the gates of Jerusalem are flung wide open to receive David’s returning army after defeating the Arameans and the Moabites and the Ammonites.
And now, can you see the story? The Son of David, mounted on a humble donkey ascends the road to the gates of Jerusalem. It was the year 30 AD. The crowds wave palm branches and throw their garments in the road. “Open the gates for the Son of David!”
Can you see the story? The Lord’s triumphal entry in Jerusalem and his Passion is the story or your salvation and it is your story to tell. Our God is mighty, mighty to deliver Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Mighty to part the sea for Israel to cross over. Mighty to defeat the giant Goliath. Mighty to defeat the evil foe who has kept us in bondage to sin and death.
But our God is humble. He comes riding on a donkey, a beast of burden, a sign of a poor, humble servant. That was in 30 AD. Now, in 2016 AD, our God is humble. He comes to us in ordinary, everyday things like water, bread and wine. God is humble and so the church is humble. To look at Christ’s church in 2016 we see the story of humility, persecution, opposition, in a culture that laughs and mocks the church of Christ. A media that scorns, a press that ridicules the believer in Christ. The name of Jesus is banned in public places and prayers. The attendance at worship and the membership of Christian churches has steadily declined for the past decades. Yes, our God is humble. He comes mounted on a donkey and goes to a cross on a hill to suffer and die. But, it is in humility that he defeats the proud. As David, a young lad, defeated the giant Goliath.
So we cry, “Save us O Lord!…blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” You’ve heard the story. Hosanna! Our king comes to us. Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Jesus, we’re oppressed. The Romans rule over us! we’re weak and helpless. But you’re the Lord’s Messiah, coming in his name! Save us! Make us mighty again! That was Palm Sunday, AD 30.
Can you see the story? The Lord’s triumphal entry and Passion is the story of our salvation and our story to tell. Lord, it’s 2016 and we’re oppressed. We’re oppressed by our sins. Our sin of wanting to be mighty, even when it might mean somebody else loses when we want to lord it over others and exalt ourselves to positions of power and authority.
We’re oppressed by our sins, celebrating with the crowd some of the absolute wrong things. Celebrating with the crowd the new freedoms recently discovered in the Constitution; such as the freedom to kill unborn babies, the freedom to marry people of the same sex.
But, this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. You’ve heard the story. Can you see the story? Thousands of people streaming into Jerusalem! It’s Passover week, the highest celebration of the year. And what a week it will be because Jesus of Nazareth is finally coming into his kingdom! There he is, turning over tables in the temple, silencing his opponents, giving his Church the Sacrament of his body and blood. It’s Holy Week. We’re eager to celebrate release from all those oppressions—forgiveness of sins, resurrection from death.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the day that the Lord has made. The day the builders rejected the stone is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice! The day he died on the cross is the day we were released from our sin, the day your sins were paid for, the day God’s anger and wrath were put aside. Yes, that was the day the Lord has made, the day your salvation was won for you on the cross. It is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. The cross of Jesus! This is the Lord’s doing. This is the thing that is marvelous in our eyes. Jesus’ death on the cross is the reason God has indeed delivered us from all our oppressions.
You know the story. Can you see the story? Shall we tell the story? Yes, that’s the story we tell. The good news to all the world. The story of the Day the Lord has made: the day of salvation for all who believe. That is the story we preach. That is the story we confess. Let us recount all that our God has done even as he tells the story through us in our lives. Amen.