Stop Climbing; He Comes To You

Text:  Mark 11:1-10
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Over the last several weeks we have been hearing scripture passages that point us forward to the second coming of Christ, when Christ will come again at the end of the age.  These texts have called us to be ready for this second coming, to be alert, and to be awake.  These texts create anticipation in us.
Today though, we begin a new church year as we celebrate the first Sunday in Advent.  Now, keep in mind that the word ‘Advent’ means coming.  Thus, with the first Sunday in Advent, we are shifting gears a bit from anticipating and looking forward, to the theme of Jesus actually ‘coming’ to us. 
In thinking about this theme of ‘coming,’ we must also make note that the coming of the Lord is a very prevalent theme in the all of the scriptures.  For example, ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, the Lord promised them that salvation would come to mankind through one who would crush the head of the Evil One.  Therefore, the people of the Old Testament lived in anticipation as they awaited the coming of the Messiah.  With that said, how did the Messiah come to the people of the Old Testament?  He came to them in a manger, in the small town of Bethlehem. 
Like the people of the Old Testament, today we remember in our Advent services this same coming of Jesus in the manger, for this coming was not only a coming of the Messiah to the people of the Old Testament, but a coming of the Messiah for the whole entire world.
Furthermore, during this Advent Season we not only recall that Jesus came some two-thousand years ago, but we remember and confess that He will come to us at the end of the age to resurrect us.  Therefore, we live in between these two book ends: His first coming in a manger and His second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead. 
All of this said, there is another aspect that we are forgetting, and that is, the Lord continually comes to us in the here and now through His Word and Sacraments.  That’s right, we have a Lord that came to us, presently comes to us, and will come to us again.  Indeed, we have an active Lord; a Lord that invades history, time, and space. 
Understanding that we have a Lord that comes to us, it now makes sense why the Gospel reading for us today is on Jesus riding on a donkey towards Jerusalem.  You see, as Christ rode on the donkey, He was riding and coming towards us.   Permit me to explain a bit more. 
Two-thousand years ago Jesus Christ approached your sin in His birth and He approached your sin on the donkey as He rode into Jerusalem towards Calvary’s Cross.  Yes, at the cross there was a holy collision as Jesus came towards our sin, sin that resulted in His death—a death that should have been for you and for me.  Indeed, Jesus came towards our cross and encountered our sin, bore it upon Himself, was forsaken by the Father, endured hell, and then said, “It… Is... Finished!” 
Truly, we have a coming Messiah.  He came to us in the manger, came to us on a donkey to the cross, will come again to us in the second coming, and comes to us here in this church through His Word and Sacraments because He is for you and is for me.
Simply stated, the arrow is from the Lord to us.
Tragically the temptation for you and for me is that we can lose sight of this coming Lord.  We can invert the arrow, believing the myth that the arrow goes from us to the Lord.  Otherwise stated, we can begin to believe the error that we must come to Him.  As a result, we begin to believe that we have to construct metaphoric ladders between us and the Lord, so that we can industriously ascend up each step of the ladder closer and closer to the Lord.  (I call this ladder theology)  Whether we disbelieve the good news that the Lord comes to us or if we stubbornly want to be involved in drawing near to the Lord by our own efforts, the result is the same: we invert everything.  Yes, instead of seeing the Lord as one coming to us, we begin to convince ourselves that we must ascend to the Lord in order to draw closer to Him so that we can be whole. 
One of the ways that we do this is that climb our metaphoric ladder to God through developing, increasing, and perfecting our morals and standards.  We believe that if we become more moral, it will allow us to ascend a little higher.  We tell ourselves, “Every good deed draws me that much closer to the good Lord.”[1]
Another way we attempt to climb to the Lord is that we chase meaningless spiritual experiences.  We tell ourselves that if we can just woo our emotions or conjure up spiritualized feelings to make our hearts tingle with mystical feelings that we are somehow closer to the Lord.  We tell ourselves, “If I can experience and feel God, then I must be close to Him.  The more I feel spiritized feeling, the higher I must be.”[2]
Finally, but not least, we can attempt to draw close to the Lord through the pursuit of reflective rationale and being thoughtful of philosophical logic.  We tell ourselves that the key to drawing closer to the Lord is through intellectualizing God and logically figuring Him out.  We tell ourselves, “The more that God can be reasoned in our mind, the closer we must be to Him.” [3]  
Tragically, “All three of these conventional approaches to spirituality involve human beings’ expending strenuous effort to reach God, who is, by implication, an impassive observer, far above the fray, a goal that must be attained, a treasure that must be sought, discovered and earned.”[4]
Alas, this way of thinking is damning and futile at best.
Frankly put, if it is up to us to storm heaven’s gates and if it is up to us to come to the Lord, how will we know if we have an adequate amount of morality?  How will we know if our mystical experience is genuine enough?  How will we know if our reason is enlightened enough?  In looking at this ladder spirituality—this idea that you and I must climb to God in order to come to Him—you and I will never, I repeat, never have enough assurance.  If it depends on our climbing, how high do we have to climb and what happens when we slip, for we surely will?
Dear friends, if you are attempting to climb to the Lord, if you are attempting to come to the Lord through your own moral, mystical, and/or intellectual schemes, please listen: 
Repent, there is no ladder. 

Repent, you cannot climb. 

Repent, the arrow is not from you to the Lord, but from the Lord to you.

Repent, for you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.[5] 

You may be saying to yourself now,
“That makes sense Pastor, we do not climb to God but He comes to us.  However, how is that a good thing?  For I know deep down inside of me, that I am full of sin.  I also sin in thought, word, and deed.  So how is this good that the Lord comes to us and invades my world of sin and failure?  In fact, the more I think about the Lord coming to me, the less I want to climb and the more I want to run and hide.  Yes, I want to run and hide like Adam and Eve did when the Lord came to them after they sinned.  It is terrible to be in the hands of an angry God.”

Baptized Saints, take a moment and consider our Gospel reading for today.  The Lord came to Jerusalem humble and on a donkey.  He also wept over rebellious Jerusalem.  Furthermore, consider this Advent Season: He came to us in a manger as a babe.  Yes, Jesus came to you and me in a manger and on a donkey; He came to the cross to meet our sin in humility and compassion.  Yes, His first coming some two-thousand years ago was not in judgment but a coming of grace and mercy; a coming to replace the terror of sin with the joy of righteousness.    
Truly, the Messiah was born and came to die.  He came to die—for you.  He came to suffer—for you.  He put on human flesh so that He could take—your place on the cross.  He came to accomplish forgiveness—for you.   
What this means is that the coming of our Lord is not bad news, but good news.  It is a coming of redemption; it is a coming of forgiveness of sins.  Therefore, the coming of the Lord means that we don’t have to be terrified, that there is no ascending, that there is no need to construct ladders, and that there is absolutely no need to meet the Lord half-way.  He came fully for you; the mission was accomplished and He is coming back again to take you home.
Not only did He come some two-thousand years ago in a manger and upon a donkey and not only will He come at the end of the age, as previously mentioned He also comes to you right here and right now.  He comes to you in His Word, in the Waters of your baptism, and He comes to you in His flesh and blood as you eat that very flesh that He sacrificed for you on the cross and the very blood that He shed for you on the cross—for the forgiveness of your sins.
The Lord came, comes, and will come—for you.  This Advent Season we remember, hear, and confess that we have a Lord that comes to us.  He is not an impassive observer far above the fray or a goal that we must attain.  He is alive and active, one who enters into the present aeon to accomplish salvation and deliver us His gifts.   
Furthermore, we do not limit His coming to Christmas only but believe, teach, and confess that He comes to us continually in His Word and Sacraments in His Church—in this church—until He finally comes again to resurrect us unto Himself.
The Lord come; He comes for you.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Adolf Koberle, The Quest for Holiness: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Investigation (Eugene, OR: WIPF and STOCK Publishers, 2004), 2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Gene Edward Veith Jr., The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 23.
[5] Portion of the Small Catechism’s Explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed.

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Beautiful, and Thank you!!!