Sunday, April 1, 2007
Opening song and greeting time:
Ok, that will do it for today! Thanks for coming! April Fools!
We are doing a few things differently today…I’ll explain as we go along. Let’s start by getting acquainted with someone you don’t know who is your same age in years…like I’m 33. No cheating on your age, or just finding someone you know. I’m giving you 5 minutes…go!
We are going to celebrate today with 26 people who are being baptized. Baptism is to the Christian life what a wedding is to married life. A wedding is the official, public act that unites a couple in marriage. The wedding only lasts a few minutes; the marriage lasts a lifetime. In the same way, baptism is the official, public act that unites you with Jesus and the Christian community. It takes only a few minutes, but your relationship with Jesus lasts forever.
The word “baptize” means “to immerse”. It was used of a ship that sunk to the bottom of the sea, of cucumbers immersed in brine to become pickles, of a cloth that was immersed in dye to change its color. We baptize by full immersion; we dunk you in that tank, and put you all the way under. Immersion symbolizes that you have died with Christ, are buried with Christ, and are raised to new life with Christ.
Romans 6:2-4 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Baptism identifies you with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; because of what Jesus did for you, you are a new person. The old you has died and been buried with Christ. The new you has been raised to live a new life. This is the gospel—the good news—we have been transformed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If you haven’t been baptized since you’ve begun to follow Jesus, stop by the resource center, pick up the complimentary CD and sign up to be baptized.
Bobby is going to introduce those being baptized; when you hear your name, stand up and let us cheer for you.
If you have a friend or family member being baptized, you are welcome to come pray with them, and stand with them as they’re baptized.
Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. We’re going to take some extra time to worship Jesus and to take communion. Do you know why we call it Palm Sunday? This was the day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, welcomed by cheering crowds who thought he was their long-awaited Messiah, a king who would free them from Roman oppression. We call it “the triumphal entry.”
ILL: Imagine having a foreign army conquer your country, and then be garrisoned there. Imagine these troops being able to do what they want and take what they want anytime they want, with impunity. Imagine being ruled by a foreign power which taxed you heavily, and forced you to obey laws that you hated, and took away your liberties. You’d dream of freedom, and when your liberators finally arrived, you’d go nuts!
You’ve all seen photos like these of the liberation of Paris on August 15, 1944, after several years of Nazi occupation. Thousands of people lined the streets, many waving American flags, to welcome the liberators.
This is what Palm Sunday was like. The Jewish people were desperate for freedom, and many believed that this miracle-working man Jesus would be their Messiah, their God-sent liberator. So they lined the road into Jerusalem cheering for Him, and they cut down palm branches and waved them (which is why we call this Palm Sunday).
John 12:13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”
Palm branches were waved in homage and praise for a conqueror, a victor. A century and a half earlier, when the Simon Maccabaeus had delivered Jerusalem from the Syrians, he was welcomed with waving palm branches. The palm had become a symbol of freedom and victory.
They’re waving palm branches and cheering, “Hosanna,” which means “Save us now.” Imagine the crowd chanting, “Save us, save us, save us.” It was a cry for deliverance, mixed with praises of anticipation.
So they’re cheering, waving palms, and they covered the road with their coats and with palm branches. What would we call that today? Rolling out the red carpet. They rolled out the red carpet for Jesus—they welcomed him in a way that was fitting for royalty…a welcome fit for a king. Luke adds one thing in his account of the triumphal entry.
Luke 19:36-40 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
The religious leaders objected to crowd’s praise, and asked Jesus to calm their enthusiasm. “Rebuke your disciples—stop them, Jesus.”
Notice Jesus’ response: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Jesus is so deserving of praise that if we don’t give it, inanimate creation will break out in praise. Our Creator and Redeemer has come; if we don’t praise Him, the rocks will cry out!
This cheering crowd didn’t understand that Jesus had come to Jerusalem to die. They didn’t understand that He would save them, not from the Romans, but from themselves, from their own sin. They praised him with misunderstanding, but Jesus accepted their praise…because even if they were mixed up, He still deserved their praise. If they didn’t praise Him, the rocks would cry out.
So here’s the deal. It’s Palm Sunday. Our king, our creator, our redeemer has come! And we know what He’s done for us, that He’s died to free us and bring us back to God and make us new! So let’s roll out the red carpet! Let’s give Him our praise! We could even wave our palms! You’ve got them…right there on the end of your arms are two palms. There are many places in the Bible that talk about raising our hands to the Lord in prayer or in praise.
Psalm 63:3-4 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 134:2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.
Have you ever noticed people doing that here and wondered, “Why are they raising their hands?” It’s an act of praise and worship, and today I’m giving you permission to try it if you never have. It’s Palm Sunday—wave your palms.
Let’s have a little Triumphal Entry right here at Life Center! If we don’t praise Him, the rocks will cry out!
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
The last week of Jesus’ life started on Palm Sunday with the Triumphal Entry. By Thursday night, He was alone with 12 of His followers in an upper room. Knowing that He’d already been betrayed, and that He was about to give His life on cross, Jesus took bread and broke it and said, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.” And He took the cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins; do this in remembrance of me.” Jesus took the staples of life—food and drink—and made them a memorial of Him. “This is my body; this is my blood. Remember Me.”
Memorials are important. We forget easily. I was reading Judges this week in my daily time with God. It says that as long as Joshua and his generation that had seen God’s great works were alive, the Israelites worshiped the Lord. But when they died, the next generation grew up and it says “they didn’t know the Lord or what He had done for Israel.” They forgot God and got swallowed up by the cultures around them. What had God done for Israel? They had been slaves in Egypt, the mightiest empire on the planet, and God had set them free. God rescued them from Egypt through a series of miracles, and then God gave them the Passover Meal as a reminder. But after Joshua, they stopped celebrating the Passover, and they forgot what God had done.
We’re no different. We forget easily. So Jesus gave us a reminder, a memorial meal, and every time we eat the bread and drink the cup we’re to remember Him. Remember what He did for us. Remember that He gave His body and blood. Remember that He died for our sins. Remember.
ILL: One of the many war memorials in our capital, Washington D.C. is The Wall…a memorial to all the vets of the Viet Nam War. It’s a wall of polished black granite engraved with the names of 58,253 men and women who gave their lives. The Wall is a memorial to these who died, but also to the 2.7 million American men and women who served in the war zone. If you ever go to The Wall, you may see a scene like this (picture). This beautiful image is entitled “Daddy’s girl”. They’ve come to find his name, and remember.
When someone sacrifices for us, sacrifices to serve us, sacrifices to save us…we remember.
Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave His life to rescue you. You and I were slaves to sin, stuck on ourselves, unable to live the life God wanted for us. We were far from God, and unable to find Him on our own. So He came and found us and rescued us and gave us new life…by giving His life. “This is my body broken for you. This is my blood shed for you. Remember me.” Remember.
ILL: This is a picture of my son, Jeff. It’s his high school graduation picture. It sits up in my office along with Andy, Sally, Amy and Michael’s graduation pictures. There’s a copy on our wall at home too. And there other pictures of Jeff are scattered around our house. Sometimes I hold this picture or one of the other pictures of Jeff, and I look at it, and I remember. It helps me remember. I don’t want to forget.
Jesus left us this picture of Himself and His sacrifice: the bread and the cup. As you hold it, remember. Remember what He’s done for you.
We’re going to take a few more minutes to sing and worship, and while we do that, we’ll pass out the bread and the cup. (Ushers come.) Please take them and hang on to them. As you hold it, remember. I’ll come back in a few minutes and lead us in taking communion together.
Let’s pray. (Lead everyone in prayer about…)
· Thank Jesus for giving His life for you.
· Thank God for His love.
· For rescuing you.
· For forgiveness.
· For new life.
How many of you have ever shared communion at your home? This Friday, Good Friday, the day that Jesus died, get some bread and juice and invite whoever is at your home that evening to remember with you. Remember Jesus and what He did for you. It could be very powerful.
Announcements and offering: ushers come first.
Easter at the Arena next Sunday at 10:30. Let’s do a lot of find-tell-bring. Use the cards to invite your friends and family. We’ve got a great service planned and over 8000 seats! Also we need 50 more volunteer for childcare (back of tear-off). We’ll have a service here at 6 PM this Saturday for you volunteers.
Conspiracy of Hope week—watch for teams (junior/senior high and college students, adults) in West Central and Hilyard neighborhoods, and downtown.
Bloomsday 2008 Bible give-away. Huge thank you…you gave almost $14,000 last Sunday. You are so generous! I haven’t heard yet the total from the other churches; I’ll let you know when I do. But you rocked the house! Way to go!
ILL: A few years ago, a lady found Jesus here at Life Center, and it changed her life—big transformation. She naturally started doing find-tell-bring. The first person she found was the person closest to her: her husband. She told him what had happened to her, and he saw the change, so when she invited him to church, he came. This man had a history of addiction. Jesus set him free. He got into our recovery groups, got sober and became a new man. Now both of them are doing find-tell-bring, and they start with the people closest to them: their grown kids. One by one, they shared with their kids what had happened to them and invited them to church. At first, the kids said no. But they saw the change in their parents, and some of them were struggling with addiction as well, so eventually, one by one, they came.
One day after a service, this mom is standing in front of me with one of her sons. It was his first time at Life Center. He started telling me everything he had done, how he’d messed up his life, and he asked me what he should do. I smiled and said, "Start over." We prayed, he surrendered to Jesus, and he started over, and he’s living a new life too.
Who do you know that needs to start over? Who do you know that might be one invitation away from a new life? I hope you’ll invite them to join you next Sunday for Easter at the Arena. And when we’re done, if they ask you what to do, tell them, “Start over…with Jesus.”
Lord, help each of us find someone who needs you, share what you’ve done in our lives, and bring them with us next Sunday! Amen.