Todd A. Peperkorn, STM Messiah Lutheran Church Kenosha, Wisconsin Ad Te Levavi (Advent 1), November 28, 2010 Matthew 21:1-11
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter 21. Happy new year! It is for the Church at least. We in God’s house seem to always be a little bit out of step with the rest of the world. But no matter. It is the year of our Lord, and like all new year celebrations, it is an opportunity for us to reflect upon God’s blessings for the year past and the years to come.
Of course for us here at Messiah Lutheran Church, this new year is not just any other new year. It is the beginning of our fiftieth anniversary. So as we begin the journey of fifty, and remember, rejoice and renew our lives together as His people, it is appropriate for us to begin the year by asking some very basic and simple questions.
Why are we here?
Maybe that seems like an obvious question. Maybe you don’t even ask yourself that question. So often after a few weeks or months, doing something becomes a habit, and that habit is one that we don’t even question after a time. The question of why are we here, though, is pretty fundamental to any Christian congregation. Fifty years ago I’m sure there are many answers to that question. The answers may have been to spread the Gospel, to serve our families, to establish the first LCMS church in Kenosha, and others. For us today, some of those answers may be true, others not so much. Today we have members who live in Kenosha, Pleasant Prairie, Racine, Mount Pleasant, Bristol, Union Grove, and perhaps even farther away. Distance is so much of a big deal to many people, at least not as much as it once was.
In the same way, one can hardly throw a rock in Kenosha without hitting some kind of church. Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, bible church, Baptist, Orthodox, you name it, and there is probably about every conceivable branch of Christianity represented here, all within 10 miles of us or less. It raises for us the question of what makes us stand out, what defines us as God’s people in this place? It is for this reason that we can recognize the perplexity the disciples must have felt at Jesus’ request for a donkey and a colt. “I know why we started here with you, Jesus, but this is getting a little peculiar. I mean, what do you want with a donkey?” Why are we here anyway?
What does God want and expect of us?
Our Lord told the disciples that if someone asked them why they were taking the donkey, they were to answer “the Lord has need of them.” What does God expect of us? He wants us to follow Him, pure and simple. He wants you and me to be His disciples, and to trust that where He leads is always, always good for us. Even if God asks you to go find Him a donkey. Even if God says take eat, this is my body, take drink, this is my blood. What God wants and expects of you first and foremost is that you trust Him as He has given Himself to you in His Word. God’s Word says that we are to gather together around His Word and Sacraments, and that through these means He will build His Church. The gates of hell itself will not overcome this Church. Fifty years says that Christ’s Church in this place has stood the test of time. Maybe things look different than they did in 1961. The hymns may be a little different, the liturgy, the people are certainly different. But God’s expectations are such that He says to you, “Come here. Gather together. Follow me. Listen to my Word. I will not let you down.”
Who are we?
So who are we? We are the listeners, the followers, the ones who keep His Word. This does not happen by our own power or strength. God is the one who defines who we are. He speaks and we listen. He leads and we follow. He gives us His Word and we by faith keep it. That is who we are. That identity as God’s disciples is not always easy. Like the disciples before us, we don’t always understand it when God asks us to go get a donkey.
What does God give to us, His children?
You know what is great about this, though? God may ask you to go get Him a donkey, but if He does, He does so for a very good reason. The entire history of the world really comes down to God’s love coming to us, humble and lowly. A donkey is a fitting animal for God Himself to enter into His city upon. He does this so that you won’t be afraid to follow Him. This Advent God draws us to Himself by His Word, humble and small. Fifty years may not be long in the global history of Christ’s Church, but it is our fifty years. It is fifty years of new beginnings. Fifty years of God’s ever present, ever consistent demonstration for His love for the sinners here on the north side of Kenosha. We cry with the people of Jerusalem, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Lord comes to you now, just as He did for those people many years ago. Trust that when He asks you for a donkey, He does so because He wants to give you the greatest and most beautiful of all possible gifts. He comes to give you Himself. Amen.