At Home Palm Sunday Devotion For Families and Individuals
April 4, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
March 5, 2020
V: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
V: Almighty and everlasting God, you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his great humility and patience and be made partakers of his resurrection through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever.
THE EPISTLE (Philippians 2:5-11)
5 Let your manner of thinking be that of Christ Jesus 6 who, though being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped 7 But emptied himself took on the form of a servant and became the likeness of man. 8 And being found now in human form he emptied himself became obedient to the point of death ... the death of the cross! 9 Wherefore God has HIGHLY exalted him, and gave to him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and below the earth 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father.
V: This is the Word of the Lord.
R: Thanks be to God.
Christ entered once for all into the holy places, by means of his own blood,
thus securing an eternal redemption.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant,
so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
THE HOLY GOSPEL
V: The holy gospel is St. John the 12th chapter (John 12:20-43)
R: Glory be to you O Lord.
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who had ascended in order to worship at the feast. 21 They therefore can to Philipp who was from Bethsaida of Galilee and requested of him, "Sir! We wish to see Jesus."
22 And so Philipp came and said to Andrew, and Andrew and Philipp came and told it to Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them and said, "The Hour is arrived for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Amen Amen I say to you unless the grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it alone remains. But if it dies it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it; and whoever hates his life in this world preserves it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me; let him follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me the Father will honor him.
27 Now my soul is in a troubled state; and what shall I say? 'Father save me from this Hour? But it was for this purpose I have come to this Hour.
28 Father glorify your name!" Then a voice was heard coming out of heaven, 'I have glorified it and I will again glorify it."
29 The crowd there gathered that heard the voice kept saying that "it had thundered." Others insisted "An angel has spoken."
30 Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come for my sake, but for yours." 31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be expelled. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the ground, I will draw all people to myself." 33 He stated this in order signify the kind of death he was going to die.
34 And so the crowd replied to him, "We have heard from Torah that the Christ remains forever. And so how is it that you say that it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?
35 So Jesus said to them, "for yet a short time the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness does not overtake you. And the one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.
36 While you have the light believe in the light so that you might be sons of the light." When Jesus had said these things he departed and hid himself. 37 Though he had been performing so many signs before them, they did not believe him. 38 So that the word spoken by the Prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39 For this reason they could not believe, because Isaiah says again, 40 "He has relegated them to blindness and hardened their heart lest they should see with the eyes, and have awareness in their heart, and turn and I would heal them." 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory, and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless many of the rulers believed in him; but would not confess him for fear that the Pharisees would put them out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory of man more than the glory of God."
V: This is the gospel of the Lord.
R: Praise be to you O Christ.
The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of His Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,
very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father,
by whom all things were made;
who for us men* and for our salvation came down from heaven
and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried.
And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures
and ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of the Father.
And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,
whose kingdom will have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified,
who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church,
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins,
and I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life + of the world to come. Amen.
LEADER READS THE SERMON
The four gospels are a mystery. They are not mere histories or biographies of Jesus, or almanacs of the Christian religion, but they are genuine mysteries. When they are read aloud in the church Jesus himself is present among us, speaking to us, telling us of the good things to come.
Being mysteries in every sense of the word they fire the human imagination and heart with glorious visions. They make the head swim. God be praised since our heads usually swim in malaria-infested, alligator-infested stinking swamps that only cause disease.
The human heart, our core, is infected with sin and it has spread to every fiber of our being. And so finding comfort in dark, moist diseases infected places makes us happy.
But the gospels clear the mental ray! They cleanse and sanitize us, and fill us with goodness, beauty and truth. And they do so by mystery. A merely rational reading of them renders little. But when the baptized hear them with baptismally granted faith, in the Eucharistic gathering (which we will soon resume) then they come to life.
The first mystery here is that: certain Greeks came to the Lord's disciples and said: Sir! We wish to see Jesus!
These were not Jews, the chosen people from whom Jesus the Messiah came, but they were Gentiles, citizens of the world, who knew no light, who did not know who the true God was, or how to find peace with him, and obtain his blessings.
But they had heard of Jesus. It was impossible not to! And they finally overcame themselves, their religious pride, their prejudice against Jews, and asked to see Jesus.
But Jesus did not respond as we might imagine. He did not say: Yes, bring them here that they too might have Light and Life from me. No. He did not say that. Instead he seemingly changes the subject entirely. He says:
"The Hour is arrived for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Amen Amen I say to you unless the grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it alone remains. But if it dies it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it; and whoever hates his life in this world preserves it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me; let him follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me the Father will honor him."
The Lord was not being snobbish, or rejecting the Greeks / Gentiles. Instead he was announcing what was now the case: that since the Gentiles, in the person of these Greeks had now come to learn of the Christ, the stage was set for the whole world to view "the Hour" that had finally come.
The "Hour" that humanity had awaited since Adam sinned and brought death on all of mankind! The golden Hour when the sins of humanity would be expunged, deleted, forgiven and forgotten by God. As the Lord says in Jeremiah: I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more." (Jer 31:34)
Now the hour had arrived for the cosmic books to be balanced. For the "prince of the world," the devil, to be expelled, dethroned, and otherwise sent packing. There is a new King. Jesus. But as always he would be king in a way not only foreign and unimaginable to human wisdom, but in a way that is offensive and repels.
Jesus would reign from the cross. The God/Man would suffer death as a sinner (though he was sinless) for sinners. When he says: 24 Amen Amen I say to you unless the grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it alone remains. But if it dies it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it; and whoever hates his life in this world preserves it for eternal life. When he says these words he is talking about himself!
He is the kernel of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. A kernel of such overpowering majesty, glory and divinity as to renew the entire planet, all that is on it or in it or under it; and everything in heaven and on earth besides.
This is the one that we call Lord, whom we know, love, serve and trust in with all our hearts. By his "falling into the ground and dying like a seed" he bears much fruit.
You are that fruit! A man, a woman made new. Not remodeled, but begotten anew, begotten from above, having gained a new genealogy. We no longer descend from Adam in whom we all die; but Christ is now our original ancestor. And in him we will all be made alive.
We too will fall into the ground, but we too will be raised again; even if at first on a cross, like Jesus.
Yes, Jesus is talking about himself. He is the one who "hated" his life, and gave it up according to God's will, to gain life for a world otherwise dead in trespasses and sins. You are that world. Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:4) by giving up his life, gained life, glory and according to our Epistle: "him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and below the earth. 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11)
These are just some of the mysteries: The Greeks, by their coming, signaling that the golden HOUR is now come, and that all men will see the salvation of our God. Jesus on the cross, suffering for our sins, teaching us to be humble before God, and suffer as he did. The "seed" which is Jesus going into the ground, and sprouting as a grand and glorious Vine. "
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love." John 15:5-9
Our gospel closes on a sad note: "42 Nevertheless many of the rulers believed in him; but would not confess him for fear that the Pharisees would put them out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory of man more than the glory of God."
God be praised that we can learn the right thing from their bad example. We are baptized. We hear the story. We eat of the kernel of wheat that comes out of the ground, the bread of Holy Communion. Jesus. We drink of the living vine. Jesus.
And so let us seek the glory of God, the crucified Christ, rather than the applause of men. For the latter leads to death, but the former to life.
Soon enough, by God's mercy, we will gather together again in God's house and embrace Christ and one another without the fear of disease. Not to worship together on Palm Sunday ... and Easter the Day of all days. The DAY, which the LORD has made. The DAY on which the LORD has taken decisive action by bursting the bonds of death and grave ... it is all too much to bear.
But not too much. In a sense we will be living Good Friday and Holy Saturday for several weeks - that period of time when the disciples and all believers had to be apart from their Lord. As they survived what was surely the darkest day that any group of persons ever suffered, so shall we.
PRAY THE LORD'S PRAYER TOGETHER ALOUD:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
PRAY THE MORNING PRAYER TOGETHER ALOUD
“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”
V: The Lord bless us and keep us, the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us, the Lord lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace.
R: Amen, Amen, Amen.
(a moment for silent reflection and prayer)
LEADER: The Service is ended, go in peace.
Let all go about the gift of this day with joy and confidence.