Sermon – Lent 6 – April 14, 2019 Palm/Passion Sunday
Deuteronomy 32:36-39 ‘Life Song’
CT: Jesus is the Word to live in and live by; all other attempts at living are cheap imitations and mock God who gave us life.
Intro: Spring is a season of extremes. We can go from minus 20 and a snow storm to sunny and plus 20, yet it brings with it the promise of something better: summer. It’s like our worship this morning—from a parade to crucifixion—from ‘Hosanna’ to ‘Crucify Him!’ The excitement, anticipation, and joy of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem are at one end of the spectrum, and the jeers, beatings, and painful journey to the cross are at the exact opposite, but they bear the promise of something far better; something God calls life. Our culture today would rather define life for us. “Now this is living” says the fisherman aboard his new boat, or the woman in the middle of a shopping mall. Our world claims to have the market cornered on life, but does it?
Extremes: Extremes when they come in the same package confuse us. Our OT lesson today highlights some extremes and how important they are to our lives, and our understanding of God. There is no other god beside Him; He’s it; He’s that extreme, and He shows it! Even those things that seem so far from our carefully crafted image of who we want God to be; things that seem to contradict our God of love are there; He kills and He wounds. Ah! But He also makes alive and heals!
Swan Song: These words from Deuteronomy are part of a song that Moses gave to the people of Israel before they entered into the Promised Land. Moses would not be going with them; he would climb up into the surrounding hills and die. You might call it his ‘swan song’, his last will and testament; his farewell. For Moses, these are important words, laden with a depth of understanding of both God’s wrath and His mercy. Despite the fact that all the other gods of this world put together are powerless to change a thing, and consistently let down those who worship them, God’s people chased after them anyway. And God often used ways that seemed extreme to reach His people, like poisonous snakes bringing a painful death but also a bronze snake on a pole so that those so bitten might look to it and live. God can use painful experiences to waken us to His presence. Sometimes our pride and self reliance is so great that it’s only when we are left with nowhere to turn, do we look on His mercy.
False Gods: In Moses’ song, God mocks the false gods; the places, things, and ideas that captivate our attention, consume our energy, and drain us of hope. False gods always demand more sacrifice; that we give them more on the premise that this time they’ll deliver on that ‘now this is living’ promise. But after giving all to chase after another relationship, a better education, a newer job, a fatter retirement plan, or an opiate of some kind to numb our pain, we come up empty. It’s as many a senior has said, “And they call this the golden years!” Over and over again God’s Law becomes a mirror revealing the false gods we lean on and trust in, in order tear down, destroy, and kill that we might know our need for His faithfulness; our need for a Saviour that He might make us alive in His Son, know life, and have life.
That’s what Moses said after delivering his ‘swan song’; he called it a ‘life song’: “Be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land you are going over the Jordan to possess.” When some disciples were leaving Jesus because His teaching was too hard to follow, Peter said, “Lord to whom shall we go; You have the words of eternal life.” It’s not that we can keep God’s Word so well as to attain this life on our own, but that His Word avails a fullness of life we would otherwise never know or have.
Extreme Cross: The nations around Israel mocked them for worshiping a God that had no earthly shape or form, yet God would not let them mock Him by thinking His people had accomplished anything by their own strength, wise decisions, or even dumb luck. They were a people, alive and where they were, because of God’s promise and His actions for them.
And so in our Gospel lesson we see the extreme of God’s ‘life song’ for you and me. The very One who deserves our praise and adoration; the One who came in the name of the Lord to save us; who, though in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant; He died a cruel death in our stead. God, who took on human flesh; our Jesus is mocked by those who falsely accused Him, who inflicted injury and killed Him. But by His wounds we are healed. By His suffering and the shedding of His blood we are forgiven. By His death we are made alive. The extreme change of events in our worship today is purposeful—from the palm branches to the cross—they are God’s extreme actions for you.
Extreme Baptism: God works in extreme ways in our lives too. He kills and wounds in order to topple a sinner like me off my prideful pony with the reality that I am wounded and dead in my sin, but more; that Jesus’ passion might work faith in the deepest parts of my frame to trust in the Lord, who alone heals and makes alive. To be alive in Christ is to be dead to sin. Far from a mere symbol or declaration of what you will do, your Baptism kills and makes alive, brings the healing power of faith in Christ alone to work into your every day. We are baptized once to live in it.
The Apostle Paul puts it well in his letter to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Now, that’s living; living in God’s life song for you—living in and with the peace and awareness of the extremes of God’s actions for you and me!”