Psalm 118:25-29 (Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 25, 2018
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from Psalm 118:25-29, the psalm that the crowd who went before and those who followed Jesus were shouting on that first Palm Sunday.
25Ah, now, O Yahweh, save us, we pray; O Yahweh, send us success. 26Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh. We bless you from the house of Yahweh. 27Yahweh is God and He has caused His light to shine on us. Tie the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28You are my God and I will praise you. You are my God; I will exalt you. 29Give thanks to Yahweh for He is good, for His steadfast love is forever.
Where is the steadfast love of God? Sometimes at various moments in our lives, we wonder. Where is that “good action” of God for His people?
So much of life that we go through might be described as darkness. We read in John 1 that “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). It makes sense that our sinful lives are compared to a life lived in the dark. Paul calls our sinful actions, words, thoughts, and desires “works of darkness” (Rom. 13:12). The Bible talks about people still being in their sins as walking in darkness—blind to the Word and ways of God (Is. 9:2). Yet, we are told that for the believer in Jesus Christ, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). And, “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). It is our Lord Jesus Himself who promises, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). So, in the words of Psalm 118, “2Yahweh is God and He has caused His light to shine on us.”
But yet, we still face plenty of darkness in what we go through in our lives as believers in Jesus who live under the cross. A father is diagnosed with a brain tumor which could very well be cancerous. There is shock and disbelief, fear, worry, and deep concern. There could be anger at God for allowing this to be, and a questioning, “Where is the steadfast love of God?”
A Christian marriage comes to an end because one of the members of the couple decides he or she is done with the relationship. What about the past 17 years of being husband and wife—the love given and received? What about the children? How can life ever go on “normally” again? There is heartbreak and fear, worry and deep concern. Where is the steadfast love of God?
Christians, like everyone else on this sin-filled, messed up earth, face everything that a life in a world of sin can throw at us—job loss, divorce, anxiety and depression, a myriad of other health concerns, financial crises, teenage rebellion, illnesses, and the ultimate, death itself. As Christians, we suffer a whole lot of adversity from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Sometimes, because of these tyrants, we barely seem to be standing, as if we are about to fall and perish at any moment. As the sufferings of life get the upper hand and we consider, “Where is the steadfast love of God for me?” the heart of faith turns to the Lord who might seem absent with His love, but is not, and we pray, “Hosanna (save us, we pray) O Lord!”
That was the prayer of the multitude of Jesus’ disciples on the first Palm Sunday as they sang to Jesus Christ the words of Psalm 118, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh!” The wonderful Gospel truth is that in the midst of the darkness of sin and sin’s effects in our lives, God comes to us. The very moment when, in the weakness of our human flesh, we ask, “Where is God’s steadfast love?” our baptismal faith cries out with confidence, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! He has caused His light to shine on us.”
You see, we do not have to raise ourselves up to the Lord to find Him. Rather, He lowered Himself to come into the night of our sins and troubles. He came to save us from the darkness of sin and death. From Philippians 2 we heard this morning, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lighted a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say.
That’s why Jesus went to Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday so many years ago—to die on a cross and suffer death and hell for you and me and all people, bearing the world’s load of sin. He willingly went to the cross to answer our prayer of hosanna, to save us from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Jesus was the “festival sacrifice” nailed to the altar of the cross. He was the Passover Lamb who shed His blood on the tree in order to save us from the darkness of our sins, the darkness of sin’s effects, and the very power of death and Satan. Upon the cross, behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Upon the cross, behold your Savior, the One who came to you in the name of Yahweh, in order to save you, to make His light shine upon you in the forgiveness of your sins and the free gift of everlasting life.
This same Savior, your Lord Jesus Christ, continues to come among you in the midst of life through His Holy Spirit in the Means of Grace. Christ came to you in your Baptism when you were washed with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Christ comes to you through His Gospel Word, read and proclaimed, received by you in words like, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord look upon you with favor, and give you peace.” In perhaps the most intimate and special of ways, Christ comes to you with His very real Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine. He comes with His blood-bought forgiveness and life. He comes with strength for your faith so that your suffering will produce endurance, and endurance will produce character, and character will produce hope, and hope will not disappoint you because God’s steadfast love has been poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you (Rom 5:3-5).
Where, then, is the steadfast love of God? It is in Jesus Christ, the Blessed One, who comes to you in Word and Sacrament with forgiveness, life, salvation, and strength to face whatever life throws at you in this world. The steadfast love of God in the person of Jesus Christ is with you always, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, to the end of the age. Your Lord continually hears your prayers of “save me,” and He responds by coming to you in Word and Sacrament, letting the light of His love transform your darkened world with the brilliance and radiance of His presence.
How then can you and I respond to the steadfast love of the Lord? Our text reminds us of what is most appropriate. The Psalmist writes, “You are my God and I will praise you. You are my God; I will exalt you. Give thanks to Yahweh for He is good, for His steadfast love is forever.” To put it into Luther’s words from the Small Catechism, “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” That’s our life as children of God who receive Him who comes to us in Word, water, bread and wine in the very midst of life and life’s troubles. Our praises and thanksgiving overflow to the Lord because His steadfast love does last forever, for nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)
When the trials and troubles and sufferings of life seem overwhelming and you are at the point of crying out in despair, “Where is the steadfast love of God?” let your faith cry out also, “Save me, I pray, O Lord, my Savior Jesus.” His light and His love will shine upon you and you will receive strength to meet the days ahead through His Gospel Word and Sacrament, His very presence with you in your times of need. “Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh! We bless you from the house of Yahweh” and give You thanks forever. Amen.