Rejoice in the Lord at all times! Once again I say: Rejoice!
Your kindness will be known to all people. The Lord is near.
Dear sisters and brothers,
we are in a difficult situation. Some heads of government even speak of a state of war. Many of us are rightly concerned. Many of us are asking ourselves today: What's next? What is still to come and what will our future look like?
And right now we hear the word of the apostle, we should rejoice? What does he mean, especially today, when we seem to have no reason to be happy? What does it mean: "Your goodness be known to all men"? what is he talking about
We find the answer and the solution further in the text of Philippians. Paul says, “Do not worry about anything, but in every situation, praying and supplicated, bring your requests before God with thanksgiving. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).
We are not alone and, as Christians, we are not hopelessly doomed, for our hope is in Christ! The Christ who yesterday raised Lazarus from the dead (cf. Jn. 11, 1-46), who healed Jesus the sick (cf. Matthew 15:30; John 5:3 ua), who made the deaf hear (Mark 7:31-37) and the mute to speak (Matthew 12:22), who fed the hungry (Luke 9:17) and came to the aid of the oppressed (Matthew 14:22-33), who was born in poverty (Matthew 1:18-25) and today in the kingdom of heaven (Eph. 1, 20) sits.
Today this Jesus is standing at the gates of Jerusalem and is cheered by the large crowd: “Blessed is he who comes, the king, in the name of the Lord! Peace be in heaven and glory on high!” (Matthew 19:38). It is his royal entry into the Eternal City. Today he is cheered by old and young, rich and poor. A colorful crowd stands in front of him, greets him with palm branches and lays down their clothes in front of him. Many of these people already knew Christ. They have enjoyed its saving power, have been healed, have been able to speak and hear. Many felt the power of his word and followed him. Many have heard of him and wanted to see him or were certain that he was the Messiah. But there were also those who wanted to forbid the crowd to praise Jesus, they wanted to kill him because he did not correspond to their ideas of the Messiah...
We too stand in this crowd today, some of us rejoicing with all our hearts, some have already allowed Jesus to come into us through the gates of the heart, others have experienced His miraculous power, others are standing just because someone asked them to still others oppress him, the Lord, and would like to forbid everyone to speak about him. Yet as the Lord answered the Pharisees then, so we answer with Him today: "If they [those who glorify God] are silent, the stones shall cry out" (Luke 19:40).
But even though everything looked so wonderful, the Lord knew that in a few days the same crowd would be crying out to Pontius Pilate, "Crucify him! Crucify him!”. For this entry into the Eternal City also signified the beginning of the Passion of Christ. The Lamb of God, who is being sacrificed for the sins of the world, weeps for those who want to see him, the Messiah, but do not want to understand the prophecy, saying: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you kill the prophets and stone the messengers who come to you are sent. How often have I wanted to gather your children as a hen takes her chicks under her wings; but you didn't want to" (Luke 23, 37).
And now he comes in greatest humility to carry out his work of salvation. God himself! And how does he do it? “He humbled himself and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him above all and bestowed on him the name that is above all names," says Paul in the Philippians 2:8-9. He describes how the Lord passes through suffering and death to resurrection and glory, taking with Him all who believe in Him. Here we encounter God's inexpressible love for us humans, which remains incomprehensible to many to this day. Paul says in Romans: "God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Roman 5.8). So often we don't understand what God is doing for us. But we should believe, at least today, without any illusions, that He, in His creative love, will care for us as He always has. And if we, just like Him, do not become hopeless and angry, especially in the greatest distress, but rather selflessly let our humility and kindness expand for the service of our neighbor, we will notice the closeness of God, who gives us strength and peace, "the surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4, 7).
Now the Lord stands at the gates of Jerusalem and enters the city. Here in the days to come will be fulfilled what many have prophesied about right now in the same city on the 40th. The day after his birth the aged Simeon had also prophesied: Jesus, the Lord, will become a sign of contradiction. By him many will fall and many will be raised up (Luke 2:34). Pharisees and scribes are in violent confrontation with the Lord until, after the Last Supper, during solitary prayer in Gethsemane, He is captured and, after inhuman tortures, crucified and then buried. He will destroy his opponents and will conquer death. He will give life in eternity to all those who believe in him and entrust themselves to him. That is why it is so important today that we open wide the gates of our hearts to receive the Lord. Because we know that only with Him and through Him do we have life in eternity, only He is our hope and only if we shape our lives according to His will and learn from His humility and goodness will we be sure that no affliction and no diseases can harm us. Those who have this certainty can wholeheartedly follow the words of the Holy Apostle who tells us: “Rejoice in the Lord always! Once again I say: Rejoice! Your kindness will be known to all people. The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:4-5).
May his blessing and his peace, which surpasses all understanding, be with you and strengthen you and keep you healthy in body and soul like yesterday and today, also in the eternity of eternities. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Diradur Sardaryan
Sermon on Palm Sunday, spoken on April 5th, 2020
in the Armenian Surb Khatsch Church Göppingen