Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fr. Campbell's Sermon for Palm Sunday 2015

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Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015

“Obedient Unto Death” (Phil.2:8)

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem to the hosannas of the crowd, He knows that their desire to make Him their King is motivated by expectations of earthly glory. As King, they expect, He would throw off the yoke of the Romans and restore Israel to the glory it enjoyed under David and Solomon. And so they shout, “Blessed is he who comes as king, in the name of the Lord” (Lk.19:38).

Jesus accepts their hosannas, for He is truly their King, but He must refuse an earthly crown, for His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn.18:36). Even after the Resurrection, and just before the Ascension, some of them were still asking, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b). But before receiving His Kingdom from the Father, He must go the way of humility and obedience, that of the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

Christ was always obedient to the will of the Father. His famous words during His agony in the garden were, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me; yet not as I will, but as thou willest” (Mt.26:39b). He said to the Jews who opposed Him: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that of myself I do nothing: but that I preach only what the Father has taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I do always the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:28,29).

Where can we look to find such evidence of obedience today, even among those who call themselves Christian? Like the Israelites who apostatized and adored the golden calf in obscene revelries at the foot of Mt. Sinai, many Christians have abandoned the true way and taken to themselves the false gods of pleasure, wealth and power. Their religion is a façade that will soon be torn away by a dose of reality. God’s judgment is near. 

We must turn now in obedience to Christ, Who considered the keeping of His commandments the test of true love: “If you love me, keep my commandments…” (Jn.14:15). The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. The will of God the Father is absolute, and the Son and the Holy Ghost are of one will with Him. The angels and the saints are in complete conformity to the holy will of God, and we must be also, especially in these times of disobedience.

The world in general takes after its father, the devil. It is characterized by disobedience. Disobedience is a far worse sin that most people think. Nothing takes us away from God more quickly. Even lesser sins of disobedience put us on dangerous ground. What was the sin of Lucifer, into which he was led by his pride? Disobedience! What was the sin of Adam and Eve? Disobedience! And the human race has been in disobedience and rebellion ever since.

On the other hand we have Jesus Christ – whom Isaiah called in prophecy, “the obedient Servant of God” – obedient to the Father’s will even unto death, death on a cross. Nothing is more Christlike than obedience.

Practice the virtue of obedience in imitation of Jesus Himself. The virtues must be practiced if we are to become His true disciples. This is especially true of obedience. This is not easy, because obedience is not valued by the world. The importance of obedience should be carefully explained to the children, with patience and kindness. They should know that they are expected to be obedient because Jesus was obedient.

We adults, too, should do a careful examination of conscience about obedience. It is up to us to give the example. The Commandments themselves accuse us, and our conscience condemns us. Unlike Jesus, Who prayed to the Father seeking His will, we make decisions and all kinds of plans without praying about them. God just might want to be consulted! And then we expect God to take the responsibility for the unhappy results. Jesus would never do that. His prayer was always, “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” If we are not to be hypocrites, we must mean what we say when we pray, as Jesus taught us, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross. Therefore God also has exalted him and has bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus is in the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:5-11).