141123 Matthew 27:27-31

Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Matthew 27:27-31
Theme: Spread Your Trophies At The Feet Of The King

"If you chase two rabbits, both will escape." That's pretty good advice for the start of deer hunting season, but the quote also applies to the rest of us who are not communing with God in nature this weekend. This Sunday marks the final Sunday of the church year, Christ the King Sunday. Today we celebrate Jesus' victory over sin and death and the devil. Today we rejoice because Jesus is ruling over all things for the good of his church.

At St. Matthew's today's service also has a stewardship focus as we prepare for our annual Commitment Sunday, which is two weeks from today. On December 7 and 8 all members of St. Matthew's are encouraged to bring their commitments to church and place them on the Lord's altar. Those cards are not just pieces of paper. In a way, they represent our commitment to the Lord and our commitment to carry out the Lord's work.

If we aren't careful though, if we try to chase both rabbits, if we try to give our worship a double focus this morning, there is a danger that we will end up with no focus at all. So how can we avoid that pitfall? What do we need to do to make sure that doesn't happen?

Actually we don't need to do anything to bring together Christ the King Sunday and Stewardship Sunday because Edward Perronet already has. He was the man who composed the hymn we just sang. He was the one who wrote: "Sinners whose love can ne'er forget The wormwood and the gall, Go, spread your trophies at his feet And crown him Lord of all" (CW 370:3).

The love of God is what unifies our worship today. Out of love Christ gave up his heavenly throne. Out of love Jesus gave up his life. His sacrificial, unconditional love is what saved us. And his love motivates us to love him, to worship him, to commit our lives to him, or to borrow a phrase from Edward Perronet, to...

Spread Your Trophies At The Feet Of The King

It was a Friday, the day of preparation for the Sabbath, when Pontius Pilate had Jesus flogged. A few hours earlier Pilate had asked him if he was the King of the Jews, and Jesus told him the truth. Jesus was a king, but not the kind of ruler Pilate was accustomed to.

It didn't take the Roman governor long to realize that there was something different about this man. His silence. His confidence. His fearlessness in the presence of the man who could release him or execute him. Truth be told, Pilate was the one who was afraid. He knew that Jesus was innocent, but he had to do something to satisfy the people. And he hoped that a public beating would be enough.

It was a tragic day when the Roman soldiers got their hands on Jesus. They didn't want to be stationed in the hot Judean desert, far away from home. They didn't want to deal with these religious fanatics, with their strange customs and constant uprisings. So they decided to take out their frustrations on Jesus as they led him into the Praetorium.

It was a tragic day when dozens of those soldiers crowded around Jesus. They stripped the clothes off his back, and they stripped him of his dignity when his bruised and bloody body was exposed for all to see.

It was a tragic day when the soldiers threw a tattered purple coat over Jesus' shoulders, a far cry from the royal robes of King Herod or Pontius Pilate. To continue the charade they fashioned a makeshift crown out of some thorny branches and pressed it down on his head.

It was a tragic day when the soldiers knelt down before Jesus and proclaimed, "Hail, king of the Jews." After they mocked him to his face they spit in his face, not knowing that the man who stood before them was more powerful than any king who had ever lived.

It was a tragic day when one of the soldiers ripped the make believe scepter out of Jesus' hand and struck him repeatedly over the head, pushing the thorns deeper and deeper into his skull with every blow.

It was a tragic day when the Roman justice system failed. Deep down Pontius Pilate knew that he should set Jesus free, but instead he washed his hands and handed him over to be crucified. And when Jesus' life was all but beaten out of him, then and only then did the soldiers lead him out to Calvary. And they forced him to carry his own cross.

We wouldn't wish these things on our worst enemy, much less on the sinless Son of God. But the real tragedy of Good Friday is not what the Roman soldiers did or what Pilate failed to do. The real tragedy is what made it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die in the first place.

We can look at the outside world and point out all the terrible things that happen every day. You can turn on the news and see the senseless violence and moral corruption and sexual perversion, but even the most unspeakable crimes are only symptoms of a much deeper problem.

The sins of the world aren't confined to the outside world. The same sins can be found here. The exact same sins can be found hidden right in here. When God examines our hearts, he sees hate. He sees greed. He sees lust. He sees rebellion. In every human heart there is a would-be king who wants to create his own kingdom and live by his own rules. It sounds so appealing. It feels so liberating. But what is packaged and sold as freedom from God is really slavery to sin.

There was a time when sin ruled our hearts, but our King has changed all that. Jesus willingly wore a crown of thorns... for us. Jesus silently endured the pain and shame of Good Friday to make complete payment for our sin. Jesus allowed himself to be humiliated and even executed, because he loves us more than he loved life itself.

"The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now" is the opening line of another favorite Christ the King hymn. Those words assure us that the tragic events of Good Friday have given way to the glorious events of Easter Sunday and beyond. Our King has set aside his crown of thorns, and in its place he now wears a crown of glory.

Jesus ascended into heaven two thousand years ago. So what has Jesus been doing since he left? What is he doing now? The apostle Paul gives us a detailed description of Jesus' kingly duties in his letter to the Ephesians:

"(God) raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (1:20-23).

I guess you could say that Jesus is pretty busy. He isn't ruling a country or a continent or even a hemisphere. Jesus is in complete control of all things. He is ruling over everything in his heavenly glory.

That means no matter what happens, no matter what happens in this world, no matter what happens in our lives, our King is always in control. That gives us great comfort, but the Christian can draw even greater comfort from God's Word.

On one occasion some religious leaders came to Jesus and asked him when the kingdom of God would come. Jesus replied: "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21).

Not only is Jesus ruling over the whole world. He is also ruling in the hearts of his people. Jesus has marched into our hearts and planted the flag of faith and declared victory...for himself...and for us. The devil controls us no longer. Thanks to our King we are free. We don't have to spend all of our time and energy trying (and failing) to make up for our mistakes. Thanks to our King our sins are forgiven. And we no longer want to use our time and money to serve ourselves. Thanks to our King our lives have a much higher purpose.

We live for the one who died for us. We live to thank him for everything he has done for us. We want to thank and praise and serve and obey him. And in two weeks the members of St. Matthew's will have a unique opportunity to spread our trophies at the feet of our King.

This is supposed to be a trophy, huh? It doesn't look very shiny. It doesn't look like much of a trophy at all. But in God's eyes this little piece of paper is precious. This commitment card has great value regardless of the amount of the commitment. When God looks at our commitment cards he sees grateful hearts. He sees people who are committed to him. He sees people who are committed to carrying out his work. And the Lord is allowing us see the fruits of our labor in our little corner of the kingdom.

4. That's the number of baptisms that were performed at St. Matthew's last month. Four little hearts washed clean by the water and the Word. Four more lives touched by God's grace. Lord willing, four children of God who will continue to grow in God's grace. Every one of them is a blessing made possible through the power of God's Word and through the generosity of God's people.

140. That's the number of students enrolled at St. Matthew's Lutheran School, and 34, the number of St. Matthew's students who attend Luther Prep and Lakeside. 174 young Christians who are receiving a Christ-centered education, learning about the wonders of God's creation in the light of God's Word, being prepared to be salt and light and Christian leaders in the world.

5000. That's the number of flyers that were printed for the Live Nativity on December 6. Literally thousands of opportunities for us to reach out into our community and introduce people to Christ our newborn King. And I personally invite and encourage you to join us when we blanket the city of Oconomowoc with those invitations this afternoon.

Talking about numbers is great, as long as we understand that this Sunday is not about numbers. And it's not about patting ourselves on the back for everything we are doing either. It's about honoring God. It's about thanking God for everything he has done for us and for all the things he does through us. It is about dedicating our lives to Christ our King and committing ourselves his soul saving work.

Edward Perronet may have written the hymn we just sang in the 1700s, but if you just look at the words themselves you might be tempted to think that he was commissioned to compose it for us today. And whether he knew it or not, he was addressing us when he wrote: "Sinners whose love can ne'er forget the wormwood and the gall, Go, spread your trophies at his feet And crown him Lord of all." Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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Sunday
8:00 A.M. & 10:30 A.M.

9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
262-912-6060

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