Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Lord Has Need of It; Luke 19:28-40

We are coming to the end of Lent. We have reached Holy Week and find ourselves entering Jerusalem with Jesus. But in today’s somewhat familiar passage, I want us to identify with someone who lives outside of Jerusalem. We do not know the name of this family. They live in either Bethphage or Bethany. They may have been friends with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, who lived in Bethany. They may have known Simon, a healed leper, and a Pharisee. They may have known Jesus personally or they may have only heard of Him. I’m referring to the owners of the donkey colt that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Jesus sent His disciples ahead to retrieve this colt and told them to tell the owners, “The Lord has need of it.” Because the disciples use the word, “Lord” or “Master,” it is likely that this family were disciples of Jesus. Perhaps this agreement had already been prearranged privately between Jesus and this family, or perhaps it was totally unexpected. Regardless, the family responds in obedience and allow the disciples to take the colt. We have a prearranged agreement as well. We call this a covenant relationship. God initiated a covenant relationship with us. We broke the covenant, but Jesus died for us to renew that covenant. When we place our trust in Jesus, we receive Him as our Lord and Savior. Savior means that Christ rescued us from sin, death, and self and sets us apart for service to God. Lord means Master, Ruler, Owner. We become Jesus’s disciples. Jesus tells us to count the cost before we follow Him. He wants us to know what is required. When we receive Jesus, we receive His life in exchange for ours. It belongs to Him and it always did; we were never our own. But now He lives in and through us. We surrender our false illusion of self-control to the reality that God is in control and Jesus is literally Lord and Master. Do we really follow through with obedience to Jesus as our Lord like this family did? Remember that this colt was unbroken. It had never been ridden. It was something new, like the new toy we talked about in the children’s message. Remember that animals were a vital part of a family’s economy in Bible times. Donkeys were used as transportation. They were used to plow fields. They were used as pack animals to transport goods to market. They were valuable. Animals were investments. It takes resources and costs to feed and care for animals. In this case, the owners hadn’t even had a chance to try it out first. Are we so quick to lend our new things, things that are valuable, things in which we are invested? What do you consider valuable? Are you willing to give them to Jesus? I don’t know if any of you have been practicing giving up something during the season of Lent, but this discipline can be helpful for us to search out areas where it might be difficult for us to surrender something to the Lord should the Lord have need of it. Lent is a time to test our strongholds, to identify idols in our lives—the things we hold on to, give importance to, and yes, worship, before we worship God. The things we hesitate to surrender should the Lord say, “I have need of it” are idols. If we find it hard to give up certain behaviors, this indicates an area we may not have surrendered to the Lord. If we put other activities ahead of spending time with the Lord, these are idols in our lives. “Ah, yes,” you say, “but this is Jesus. Jesus would be responsible. Jesus was only going to borrow the donkey. He would return it. Jesus wouldn’t hurt it or damage it.” But this same Jesus has told as that as much as we do for the least of these, we do it to Him. It is still the Lord who has need of it. “Yes,” you say, “but the owners had advance notice that Jesus was going to need their donkey.” We know too in advance. We do not know all the details, but again, to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and our Savior is to acknowledge His absolute right to our lives and all we have. We have privileges and blessings; God has rights. God gives us only a few rights. One is to be called children of God: John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power, the right, the authority, to become the children of God, even to those that believe on His name.” From this one right extends privileges, such as being joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Think about a legal will for example. If you have or had a good relationship with your parents, you will likely be named in their will. Your parents don’t owe you anything. It is not your right to have an inheritance. But it is your privilege as their beloved child. They are probably happy to bless you and entrust you with their legacy. This is what God does for us. God doesn’t owe us anything. We are the ones that owe God everything. But God happily blesses us as beloved children in Christ and entrusts us with carrying forth the gospel, to spread God’s love to the world around us, to care for creation, and to use the gifts that God has given us for God’s glory. We discover those areas where we have yet to surrender to the Lord when we say we believe one thing and yet act differently. For example, I see people shacking up instead of choosing to get married because they really don’t believe God will provide for their financial needs. I see people stuck in jobs they hate when they feel called and know they would be more personally fulfilled if they were doing something else because they don’t believe God will provide for their needs. Whenever we act out of fear, we show areas we have not surrendered to the Lord. Because perfect love, God’s love, casts out all fear. We should be fearing disobedience to God as our only holy fear. What about if the Lord said I have need of your family, your child, your very life? Last month’s VOM magazine shared the story of Regina Wilson, whose village was attacked by Boko Haram. She knew that an attack was incredibly likely so she had made up her mind in advance that she would not deny Jesus. When Boko Haram came, she witnessed her husband and oldest son killed before her eyes. Her daughter was taken away, most likely married off or taken as a sex slave. Another son was so badly injured, they thought he had died and weren’t reunited with him until days later. Her youngest son lost an eye, and yet, they remained faithful to Jesus. They would not deny Him. Sometimes the things Jesus asks of us seem small in comparison, and yet we cannot let go. Other times, Jesus asks the most difficult things. But it all belongs to Jesus and we can surrender it or without it. What is Jesus worth to you compared to any earthly thing? Rev. Nathan Decker has written the following thought provoking litany: "The Lord needs it and will send it back." Give up my cup of coffee in the morning to feed an orphan! Absurd! "The Lord needs it and will send it back." Give up ten minutes of my 24 hours to pray! "The Lord needs it and will send it back." "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..." God gave us our resources. God gave us our time. "The Lord needs it and will send it back." Today, we give! May we not forget what God gave, what Jesus gave for us. How can we withhold anything from Him? Jesus asks for all of us, all that we, all that we will be, all that we have. We say, “Yes.” We sing, “I Surrender All,” but how often do we live like “I Surrender Some”? We sing, “Take My Life,” and in that song, it not only mentions various body parts, but our money as well—“not a mite would I withhold”. A mite was the smallest coin at one point in time. Do we really mean it? “A Brief Statement of Faith” from our Book of Confessions opens with “In life and in death, we belong to God,” a phrase taken straight from Romans 14:8, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord. God has the right to all we are and have and call for it at any time. Are you willing to surrender it? What are you holding on to so tightly that the Lord has need of it? What about when the Lord says, “I have need of you?” Will you respond in obedience? Maybe God is calling you to a new area of service, perhaps volunteer work or vocation. Maybe God is calling you to love someone difficult. Maybe God is calling you to surrender an addiction. Maybe God is calling you to live into a deeper level of holiness. Examine your heart. Have ears to hear God’s voice whether it comes through a messenger like the disciples to the owners of the colt or whether it be that prompting of the Holy Spirit moving through prayer, circumstances, and Scripture. Be ready to obey when it is said to you, “The Lord has need of it.”

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