April 14, 2022: Maundy Thursday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we have come to have our faith fed and our sins forgiven.  Since You are the One Who does both, we don’t have to worry whether or not such forgiving faith-feeding will be adequate.  For whatever You do, You do it perfectly.  Impress that thought in our minds.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR FORGIVING SAVIOR!

TEXT:  Luke 22: 14-20: “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.  And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.’  After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’  And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’”

Fellow Redeemed Searchers of God’s Forgiveness: 

          “Father, forgive them.”  During Lent we focus upon various aspects of exactly what that means.  This evening we have a very direct answer to that prayer.  For forgiveness consists of two parts: one, the offended party forgives the offender from his heart; and two, he lets the offender know that he’s forgiven.  Sometimes that second part is difficult.  Sometimes the sinner is so devastated by their actions that they really don’t grasp hold of the forgiveness being handed to them—it seems just too good to be true.  Well, tonight as we dwell upon our Lord’s Last Supper, Christ seeks to solidify in us the knowledge that, yes, He truly does forgive us.  He answers our prayer:

FATHER, FORGIVE US THROUGH THE HOLY SUPPER!

I

          Christ says that He “eagerly desired to eat this Passover” with His disciples.  They probably felt eager, too, but for different reasons.  For the Passover was the greatest celebration of the Jewish year.  It was the 4th of July, Christmas and New Years all rolled into one.  And the Passover dinner was the high point of the day.

          But, of course, Jesus had a different motive in mind behind His desire.  He knew as the eternal Son of God, the Lamb of God; that everything about the Passover was really about Him.  He knew that the Israelites deliverance from Egypt was but an earthly reminder of mankind’s deliverance from eternal sin and death.  He knew that the “angel of death” that saved them so long ago, was but a forerunner of the death He was to embrace on the morrow.  He knew that the perfect Passover Lamb with its saving blood, was Him.  It was all about Him.  Likewise He knew that the bitter herbs they were to eat prefigured the bitterness of death He would taste the next day.  And that the unleavened bread they ate, bread without any additive, prefigured Him, the bread of eternal life which needed no other additive.  Yes, Christ was eager to make these truths fully known to His disciples.

          And Christ went on to do just that during the meal.  Toward the end of the meal, He took that unleavened bread, marking His non-sin-tainted Body, the Bread of eternal life, broke (or distributed) it to them and said of it: “This is my body, given for you.”  Then He took the cup of wine, and gave it to them saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  To this action of consecration, or setting these earthly elements aside for holy use, Christ includes His distribution of it all to them along with their partaking.—Consecration, distribution, reception.  And then He adds an emphatic command: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

II

          A covenant is an agreement.  Usually it takes two parties to conclude any agreement.  On Passover evening they were celebrating an agreement between God and the children of Israel, an agreement that had first been instituted about 1400 years before in Egypt.  For 1400 years that agreement had stood.  It had been celebrated by God’s people because it marked and reminded them of God’s great deliverance.  But now,  Christ gives them a new covenant, His last will and testament.  As such it is to extend to the end of time.  And in this agreement, God does all the giving and His people do all the receiving.  And what’s the benefit of this covenant?—The gift of total forgiveness for all sins.

          Communion certainly is a ritual meal.  But it is unique in that God performs the ritual for us and we receive its benefits.  And to make all this real to us, to cement in our consciousness the fact that Christ really did forgive our sins on the cross and really does forgive them when we partake of the Supper, Jesus unites Himself to the bread and the wine.  Through His powerful words uttered tonight He will dwell in, with, and under those earthly elements.  They really will become His body and blood because He says so!  And remember, Jesus cannot lie! 

          To make us truly aware, to make sure we really do grasp hold of the forgiveness He bestows, Jesus adds His body and blood to the bread and wine.  To personalize all this, we taste and chew the bread and we smell, taste, and feel the wine.  The forgiveness He gives is not “other-worldly” but grounded in our reality and it touches our senses.  All of this is done to make sure that we really do grasp the reality of our sins forgiven by Him in His Supper! 

Let’s go back to our prayer: Father, Forgive Us Through This Holy Supper!  Do you want forgiveness?  Do you want to be free from eternal guilt and shame?  If so, then commune together with Christ tonight.  For as His last will and testament, this is His legacy of love to and for each of you!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Fox

April 10, 2022: Palm Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we join with saints and angels in praising Your holy name!  Today we come to honor You, to thank You, to worship You and to give You our hearts.  We come on this Palm Sunday to pay homage to You for honoring us with Your presence, Your life, and Your forgiving love.  May we always take every opportunity to give back to You what You so richly deserve: our praise.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR HUMBLE, YET TRIUMPHANT KING!

TEXT:  Matthew 21: 1-11

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          34 years ago I celebrated my first Palm Sunday here at Pinewood.  We sang those old, familiar, Palm Sunday hymns.  I preached on the very text before us today.  We were a smaller congregation in those days.  Our average age was quite a bit older than it is right now.  We weren’t as “full” as we were the next week, on Easter Sunday.  And yet, in proportional terms, that service was better attended than any Palm Sunday we’ve celebrated over the past few years.  Why?

          I’ve spoken to other pastors about this situation.  Our church is not alone.  Palm Sunday has been on a downward slope for quite some time.  When I was a child, Palm Sunday was a really big deal.  People turned out for it.  Kids were excited over it.  Most Christians viewed it as one of those special, high-point, cannot miss Sundays of the year.  But, it seems that view of this special day has changed and not for the better.   And so today I challenge all of you to adopt this mantra:

THE RESURRECTION OF PALM SUNDAY BEGINS TODAY,  WITH YOU!

I

          The season of Lent, of personal sorrow over sin, and that personal walk of repentance to the cross, is viewed today as an anachronism.  That is, something totally out of step with modern times.  To be sure, Lent isn’t “fun.”  And make no mistake; modern society is totally focused on having fun.  No, Lent is about being truthful with yourself.  It is seeing yourself as you really are: a bankrupt sinner who cannot pay the debt you owe to God.  But even more importantly, Lent then forces us to look outside ourselves for comfort, strength, and lasting help.  It forces us to look to Christ and His cross.  And when we do, we find that on that cross God’s Son paid our debt in full to His Father.  We’re free!  We’re forgiven!  The weight over our eternal future has been replaced by joy and lightness of being.  All this is God’s gift to us in Jesus Christ.

          From the introspective “lows” of Lent comes a brief shining moment of joy before Christ’s passion and the eternal upper of Easter.  That brief, shining moment is: Palm Sunday.  So, I have to wonder: “Why don’t God’s people embrace Palm Sunday with a staunch fervor?”  The only conclusion I can deduce is: they let all the extraneous “stuff” of life obscure Lent for them.  They let youth sports get in the way of personal, inner growth.  They let work  and tax time get in the way soul searching over what’s truly important in life.  They let the drudge of winter get in the way of letting go of the drudge of inner upset caused by our various sins.  And yet, yet, Palm Sunday is still here!  It’s not too late to free our inner self by letting Christ’s love personally embrace us! 

II

          The facts of this day, the singing of “hosannas” and the omnipresent palm branches are familiar to all.  If we strip all that aside, exactly why do we celebrate Palm Sunday?  What is this day all about?  I’ll tell you.  It’s about giving Christ His due because He was going into Jerusalem to give us His due.  Unlike the disciples, unlike the crowd surrounding Him that day, Christ knew exactly what awaited Him that week.  He was going to embrace death.  He was going to suffer and die in order to save our souls.  He was going to Jerusalem to lay down His life for His sheep. 

          On that first Palm Sunday, really no one there understood all this.  John tells us in chapter 12: “At first his disciples did not understand all this.  Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him.”  Then John also talks about the mindset of the crowd that day: “Now the crowd that was with him had continued to spread the word that he had called Lazarus from the tomb…Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.” 

          That first Palm Sunday crowd embraced Jesus because they viewed Him as a miracle worker, some kind of prophet, and perhaps in Him their popular view of the Messiah—an earthly King who would restore their political freedoms—that view would come to fulfillment.  Those first Palm Sunday worshippers really missed the point—totally.  They didn’t understand that this Man riding on that donkey colt was actually the eternal Son of God.  They didn’t understand that this Man was going to give His life in place of theirs to make them right with God.  None of that was real to them, yet, because the crucifixion and resurrection had not occurred.  But, Jesus in His gracious love still condescended to accept their praise and acclamation, didn’t He?  That’s the irony of the day—He deserved such praise, even if they gave it based on a faulty understanding of what He was all about

III

          You and I have the benefit of hindsight.  We don’t have a faulty understanding.  We know the truth.  We know that when they shouted: “Hosanna to the  Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”—we know just how true and yet ironic those words really were.  They were shouting about being helped and saved by Jesus from earthly problems and from freedom-crushing earthly rulers.—That’s what “hosanna” means: help and save us!  And the irony of it all was that Jesus was helping and saving them from their greatest enemy of all—eternal sin, eternal shame, and eternal death.  If they could praise Him in such an amazing manner for all the wrong reasons, cannot we praise Him even more for all the right reasons?  The resurrection of Palm Sunday must begin anew!  It must begin today, with each of you. 

          One final thought.  Have you noticed how the first glorious day of Spring affects people?  Each Spring there comes a time when suddenly winter is gone and the gentle caress of Spring returns.  Suddenly, everyone is happy.  Everyone is outside.  Everyone drinks up the sun.  Everyone literally has no care in the world.  Aren’t those moments delicious?  Well, in reality, that is Palm Sunday!  The day is delicious because God’s Son is entering His victory lap of freeing our souls from every anxiety.  It’s a moment to be savored by us and for Him.  Truly praising our Lord is always something to be celebrated!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…. 

Pastor Fox