Advent 1 (2013) - Ad Te Levavi
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 1, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 21:1-9

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Here it is again, the first Sunday of the Church Year, Advent 1, known for the Introit of the Day, “Ad Te Levavi” or in English, “To you, [O Lord,] I lift up my soul.” And here again is the gospel reading read also on Palm Sunday, the Triumphant Entry of our Lord Jesus into the holy city of Jerusalem, holy because it belongs to God, for Jerusalem was the city of His temple, where God dwelt with man on earth and where man had access to God.

Now the gospel reading is read also on Palm Sunday, but for different reasons than it is read today. It is read on Palm Sunday because Palm Sunday is one week before Easter, the beginning of Holy Week – the week that belongs to the Lord. Holy week began with our Lord entering Jerusalem on a donkey and her colt amid shouts of Hosanna, but ended with Him beaten and mocked with shouts of “Crucify Him!” Holy Week takes everything one day at a time, culminating in the Triduum, which is the heart of the Church Year and of the Christian. The rest of the year squashes or stretches time, but Holy Week dwells on the week of our Lord’s Passion, beginning with His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

But the Triumphant Entry is read today for a different reason. It is read today because it shows us how the Lord Jesus enters His holy city. Not Jerusalem, which was only a type and foreshadow, but His Church, which is the new Jerusalem come down from above. The Church is the true holy city in which God dwells with man on earth and where man has access to God. For just as outside of Jerusalem there was no place to properly praise and thank God and receive His blessing and benediction, so there is no place outside the Church to properly praise and thank God and receive His blessing and benediction.

But when I say “the Church” I don’t mean the organizations we call synods or even congregations constituted by constitutions and by-laws. Those things, organized around the agreements of men, are not properly church. We are not properly the Church in our voters’ meetings. They are called church because they are related to her and exist for her, but they are not her. The Church is all the souls that believe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who are waiting for His coming again and that look to Him for all good and blessings, especially the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. The Church is people.

So whether you are in here at the Lord’s gathering or out there in your vocation, you are the Church, the holy city of the holy God. You belong to Him and He is your Lord. And it is the Church – His new and everlasting temple – by which God dwells with man and through which man has access to God. So your unbelieving neighbor knows God through and by you as our Lord says they will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

That’s why you pray for those people in your life. You are the Church, collectively and individually. You are the place where God dwells on earth and where men can go to hear God and receive His blessings. So it is written, bless and do not curse for this is why you were called. This is not so because of you, but because of Him who has given you His Spirit so that you are the temple of the Most High. You are the holy city where God dwells.

So why come here if you are already the holy city where God dwells? Why continue with His gathering if you are already the Church? Because you are individually members of the Body. Because this gathering is the Lord’s and He gives it for you. Here the Lord dwells outside of you and for you, coming to you in and through His mysteries so that He might continue to dwell in you by faith. For His word and mysteries create faith in you so that you believe and call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

Your life – not the stuff you do, that is not your life. Your life is your living, your being, your very existence and perpetual existence. That is your life. And your life is given to you where and when God breathes into you His Spirit, making His home with you. The devil and the world would tell you that your life began at conception, but I tell you that it began long before that, for Jesus is the life of the world by which all of us live. He sustains us in our life and He gives to us eternal life. Life begins with Him who was and is and is to come.

And He who is makes Himself known to you in the breaking of the bread. He reveals Himself to you in the proclamation of His life, which has overcome death. He enters this world through His word and sacraments, His holy mysteries, where He comes for you and for all mankind so that this gathering is not something Christians do, it is something done for Christians and for all men by God almighty. Would that they believed and where gathered to Him.

This is how God almighty communicates with mankind: through His word and sacraments. This is how He blesses mankind: through His word and sacraments. This is His will for mankind, that they would hear and receive His word and sacraments. Everything else is mere happenstance which He orders and directs so that He may enter your heart and the hearts of all men. Just as He ordered and directed His disciples to go and get Him the donkey and her colt that He might enter the holy city, Jerusalem.

But when I say that He enters your heart, I do not mean the muscle in your chest. And I do not mean the place of your emotions or affections. In the ancient world the heart was not the seat of emotions, which came from the limbs and members of the body, which is why Paul says sin dwells in his members. But when the ancient world, when our Lord spoke of the heart, He spoke of the seat and source of the will and resolve of a man. That’s why we still say that someone who gives his all with great effort is all heart. His will and purpose are singular. His resolve is unmovable. He’s all heart. He won’t quit, give up, or change His course.

It is this that is meant when it is said that God makes His home in your heart. Not your emotions, but in your will and resolve so that you will the things of God and are resolved to obey and cling to Him alone. And the Lord enters your heart – your will and devotion – by His mysteries. Which is to say, He enters humbly and lowly, just as He entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and her colt. He enters without loud blasts and fanfare, though certainly the crowds that day and we here today receive Him loud shouts of “Hosanna” and “Thanks be to God” and other praises and hymns – some born of true faith and some not. But He doesn’t enter loudly or with great fanfare. He simply enters and dwells with you by His mysteries.

And His mysteries, His sacraments, are how He communicates and blesses us, which is to say, He communicates and blesses us through His word spoken to and over us and for us. So that when He blesses you with the benediction, that is the blessing of the Lord. When He says, “For you,” that is for your ears and your children’s ears. When He speaks to us it is not merely to educate us. When He speaks to us, as He is doing now, He does so to create faith in Him and to guard and keep us firm in His word and faith until we die.

So the Lord of Glory who has bought you rides into your heart meek and lowly, not with loud fanfare, but in quiet power. He gives you His Spirit by His Word, creating in you faith so that He dwells with you and you with Him. You are His holy city. You are His holy city that sings to Him praises of Hosanna in the highest. And you are His holy city wherein sin and shame are put to death in your flesh. You are His holy city wherein He rises from the dead and appears to you in the breaking of the bread. You are His holy city that receives your King not with the power and prestige of men, but in the power of God as He enters through your ears and finds His home within your heart.

+ In Nomine Iesu +