I was invited to preach a Palm Sunday sermon today. It was a blessing to meditate on the example of our Servant King. Perhaps if I share this here now, some of you will find it in time to watch it this evening–or sometime later during this special week of remembering our Lord’s suffering and death.
Sermon Title: Worshiping and Imitating Our Servant King
Main Text: Matthew 21:1-11 (Jesus’ Triumphal Entry)
Supporting Texts: Psalm 118; Isaiah 53; Daniel 7; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-34
Teaser: Our world is full of images of power-hunger leaders, leaders who are willing to use even violence to hold onto power. Today we are going to see a King whose example sharply contrasts with such worldly rulers. His way of ruling should inspire both our worship and our imitation.
I was blessed by the responses after the sermon, including someone who shared an impromptu performance of Michael Card’s song Ride On to Die.
Last night I was listening to some US history lectures from The Teaching Company as I drove home through the night. Here is one thing I learned: Apparently the concept of “Judeo-Christian values/morals” is a relatively recent concept, birthed right here in America.
Prior to the time when this term was birthed, a greater separation was usually assumed and promoted between Judaism and Christianity. And apparently (Wikipedia again), some Jews even today find the term “Judeo-Christian” offensive. I’m missing a lot of details, but I’ll let you pursue that history further if you wish.
This discovery relates to all sorts of knotty questions. For example, consider the recent convoluted debate about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. There is legitimate debate about whether that is a helpfully-phrased question. (See, for example, this insightful post.) But, setting that aside for a bit, I’ve noticed that the strongest negative answer that Christians give to this question is to rightly note that Jesus insists that the only way to the Father is through the Son, and that “whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). Thus a person who does not worship Jesus does not really worship God/the Father, either.
I agree with that observation (despite lots of undeniable overlap between Mulsim and Christian concepts of Allah/God on other points). However, this rebuttal just as surely suggests that non-Christian Jews and Christians don’t worship the same God. That sounds like a radical suggestion to our modern (“post Judeo-Christian”) ears. (In fact, I’ve seen someone make the same observation, then use it as proof that Muslims and Christians must indeed worship the same God—for Jews and Christians surely do, right?)
Yet, as radical as it sounds to suggest that non-Christian Jews and Christians don’t worship the same God (and, again, there may be a more helpful way to frame the issue), somehow it also sounds pretty much like what Jesus might have said. After all, it was to Jews that he insisted on the above-noted relationship between the Father and the Son. And he also said this, which is even more offensive to our ears:
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47, bold added)
There is much to ponder here, and much need to define terms clearly and speak to each other with grace.
But one thing is already very clear: If you want to know and honor God, Jesus is non-negotiable.
What do you think? I’m not sure I have time to host a big discussion about the current events issues I’ve raised. But perhaps you have an observation about how Christ is at the center of true worship of God, or an observation about how we can discuss these matters helpfully in the context of missions and witness. If so, share your thoughts in the comments below.
Do you look like Jesus today? Listen to Paul’s testimony and promise:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor. 3:18)
In these busy summer days, stop to gaze. Glance up. Turn from work to worship. Schedule an August audience in his august presence. Renew your acquaintance, and renew your resemblance.
Here are two writings from my mother—prose and poetry—to help you turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Ken and I have just returned from a few days at a lakeside cottage with our oldest son and his wife and their five young daughters. I spent time with the girls splashing in the shallow beach and watching the older girls learn to swim. We played games and sang around the campfire. We studied God’s creation, the little fish in the clear water, the different bugs and birds. We fed the ducks, listened to the loons and explored the lake. The girls cast lines for elusive fish.
Now that I am home, five unique voices calling “Grandma, look” echo in my memory. I carry fresh imprints of each granddaughter on my heart. New memories are impressed on my mind and I feel a deeper bond with their individual personalities. I watched them conquering fear, shyness and impatience. I saw what makes them excited, bored, curious, restless. I learned what they are reading, writing, singing and laughing about. They taught me a new song about a worm in a box that, every time we sang the song, (gasps of wonder) turned into a butterfly! I watched their eyes sparkle as Daddy played guitar and they sang along. I listened to a toddler delight in singing “How Great Thou Art.”
When we left them at the cottage their hugs and ongoing chorus of good-byes sent me home feeling so loved as a grandma. Though we are in the same community and church, in the busyness of daily life we can get out of touch. Some of our grandchildren live far away making it even harder to stay connected. I spend a lot of time with the elderly in hymn sing ministries and with my mother who lives with us. Sometimes the responsibilities of life can almost make me forget that I am a grandmother.
Because interacting with all five girls at once can be overwhelming I recently invited the older ones to visit me two at a time. It was so rewarding. I learned their faces, voices and smiles in a new way. I discovered a common interest with one granddaughter that immediately drew us closer together in a delightful personal connection. I gained a new vision and longing to bless our grandchildren.
Though I am always a grandmother, I need time with my grandchildren to make it real, to refresh the essence of being a grandparent into my soul.
In a similar way, although I am God’s child, in this world of distractions and distortions, of pressures that would mold me into ungodliness, I too need time alone with Him if I want to truly know Him and to have His image real and reflected in me. This poem prayer reflects that longing.