Everyday Serving Text:  Numbers 13 & 14

April 14, 2019 Rev. Donald W. Hackett, D.Min.         

Centre Presbyterian Church New Park, PA

Faith Conversations with Children

  • Why do we say hosanna and wave palms today?  Give me a “V” for victory
  • Hosanna Psalm 118:25, which says, “Save us, we pray, O LORD “Hoshana” which means “to save, rescue” or “savior.” This word was only used when referring to Jesus and particularly to “the Son of David.” https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/08/15/what-does-hosanna-mean-a-biblical-definition-of-hosanna/
  • Palms welcome home a king or war hero similar to rolling out the red carpet 
  • Romans honored champions of the games and the military  https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/why-wave-palm-leaves/
  • Palms grew at Jericho and Engedi and along the banks of the Jordan.
  • In ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness, well-being, and victory. They were often depicted on coins and important buildings. King Solomon had palm branches carved into the walls and doors of the temple:
  • On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.” (1 Kings 6:29)
  • At the end of the Bible, again people from every nation raised palm branches to honor Jesus:  “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9) https://www.thoughtco.com/palm-branches-bible-story-summary-701202

Background

We are looking at what it means to walk with God.  Our passage today comes from the Old Testament book of Numbers. Why are we reading from the book of Numbers on Palm Sunday?  We should be talking about palms, people cheering, and Jesus riding on a donkey.  We will come back to the Palm Sunday story, but first we want to remember what is true about God from the beginning and helps us make sense of Palm Sunday.  What is true about God? What is key attitude God alway working to develop in you and me? Trust.

In this account of the Hebrew people approaching the Promise Land for the first time.  As they come to this time for action, there is an issue to settle.  

Would they trust God even if the task was hard and maybe seemed impossible?  Learning to trusting God in the hard times is what we will explore today.  As we read together this passage from Numbers 13 and 14, look for the people in this story who catch God’s attention. Who is trusting God here? Please read with me the scripture printed in your bulletin.

Scripture Text     Scripture  Numbers 13 & 14

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.”

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 

If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. 

The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 

But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

Introduction

The Hebrew people, the former slaves, are brought to the edge of the land God promised to give them.  They send a scouting party out to get the lay of the land.  These men come back with good news and bad news. The good news is that the land is fruitful and settled with great housing and infrastructure. The bad news is that people are already living there and they are pretty intimidating. When the Hebrews heard this and were upset, angry and ready to stone Caleb and Joshua.  The bad news had captured their hearts and minds.  They felt defeated already and like this whole trip out of Egypt was a terrible mistake. They probably thought, “Thanks for nothing, God!”

We can feel that way too.  We try to follow God, love our neighbor, do what is right and we get burned. 

  • Ever hold the door for someone and they just grunt at you?  
  • Every go out of your way to help a neighbor and they never say thanks?  
  • Have you every given money to someone and never got paid back?  You may think to yourself, “Is it worth it?”  
  • How about something big in your life?  You are looking to God for that decent job or meaningful relationship and it has not happened?  
  • You or someone close to you is hurting and there is no relief in sight?  We can be tempted to think: “Where is God when you need him?!”

It is easy to get walking down the road of discouragement and frustration.  We are surrounded by negative people and negative messages on social media and television.  They can set us down that bitter path.  What can we do?  What can help us come to new and healthy place with God?

 

Caleb and Joshua

In this account, who is not caught up in the bad news?  Joshua and Caleb!  They were in that same scouting party and had a whole different perspective.              They said: 

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord.”

What did they see that everyone had forgotten?  They saw God.  They saw the God who came to them in Egypt and fought for them.  They saw the God who open the sea for them to cross safely and closed it to swallow up their enemies.  They saw the God that led them through the wilderness and fed them with manna and quail. This same God had brought them to the edge of the Promise Land. He had them sent out scouts for forty days to see all that was waiting for them.  They believe the same God who gave them victory over the Egyptians would give the victory here as well. They saw God work in the past.  They remember that God was still with them.  The trusted God’s promise to guide them to a better future.    In our passage God says: 

But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

When we move out on what God has promised us, we enter the promised land he has for us. We have victory. It was not easy for Caleb and Joshua to follow God.  The people wanted to stone them.  They persisted and God kept his promise to them. God wants us to carry the same spirit, one the follows God wholeheartedly everyday, not matter what is in front of us. 

Jesus’ Road to Victory

This same trust is what Jesus demonstrates for us on Palm Sunday.  The Palm Sunday account is recorded in all four the the Gospel narratives (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12).  Jesus had left his home base in Galilee for the last time.  He now entered the final stage of his mission. As he headed through Jericho, he encountered Zacchaeus.  This little man was up in a tree trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus.  Jesus calls him by name and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home.  What a surprise and a life-changer for this despised tax collector! Zacchaeus probably thought no-one wanted to be with him. You see, Jesus never stops loving and serving. That is what the Spirit of Jesus is all about, everyday trusting, loving and serving, even when it is hard.  

Jesus leaves Jericho and heads the 14 miles west to Jerusalem.  In the trip he climbs up over 3000 feet. Jesus knew that the hardest part of his mission is still ahead.  All along the way he is telling his disciples the secret plan:

On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”  Matthew 20:17-19

This did not make sense to the disciples.  It confused them.  They started arguing about who would be the greatest in this new kingdom.  Jesus had to remind them why he came: to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).   Jesus was like Caleb and Joshua here.  He knew God had been with him in the past.  He knew God was with him in the present moment.  He knew God would fully restore him in victory.  He needed to continue to trust God with each step.  

Jesus walks on. He knows he is the Savior.  That is what the name Jesus means, Savior. He sends a few his disciples ahead to borrow a donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem. As he comes into town, people welcome as a king.  They shout the words from Psalm 118: “Hosanna!” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  They were looking for victory over the Romans.  They wanted a messiah to save them from their hard and oppressed lives.  Jesus had a different strategy and goal in mind.

Jesus sent to be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus would set up his kingdom one heart at a time.  By serving in this way, Jesus would open the door to his house for all people, in all cultures, in all ages to live free and restored in God.  Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Christ, the anointed one for coming to save us.

Everyday serving

How does serving God work for us?  Is it something we schedule to do once in a while like an oil change for our car?  Is it a weekly appointment you set?  Is it an item on our do-list to check off each day?  “Let me see, I have made the lunches, run my errands, showed up and did my work today on the job, watched my favorite show and, oh yeah, I still need to serve God today.”  That is it, is it?  That is not what God is looking for in you and me.

What does God desire?  God wants you and me to trust God throughout the day. We start our days with a prayer to connect us with God and then we check in with God all through the day and night.  Prayers before we eat. Prayers as we see or hear of someone in need.  We pray as we drive.  We talked with God and then do the things the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts.  We trust and move out. Just like Caleb and Joshua.  Just like Jesus the Anointed One.  

Let us pray:

You are on your way to Jerusalem, precious Lord.

You are one your way to suffering and to death

for the sake of our freedom and our salvation.

This is mystery and wonder.

Our hearts overflow into songs of praise.

“Hosanna!”, we cry with the crowds.

“Blessed are you who comes in God’s name!”

Yet, you puzzle us:

you puzzle us with your suffering love

that is more powerful than our brokenness;

you puzzle us with your freely chosen humility

that brings blessings in our weary places;

you puzzle us with your forgiveness

that summons us beyond our hurt.

Liberating Saviour,

you make us uncomfortable

so that you can lead us

into more life

and deeper wonder;

so that God can take who we are

and break us open,

and bless us

and give us to the world.

Grant us grace

to welcome this holy restlessness,

that we may live by the power of your Spirit,

and in your name. Amen.

~ posted on Christine Jerrett. https://christinejerrett.wordpress.com/

April 14, 2019 – Palm Sunday 

Preparation Prayer: As we enter Holy Week, Lord, please give us ears to hear you and eyes to see as you pour out your love for us. In Christ, Amen.

Prelude                 Kathleen Wilson 

Moment for Sharing                                                 Elder Reed Anderson

Faith Conversations with Children Pastor Don Hackett

*Hymn #126  Hosanna, Loud Hosanna

*Call to Worship Responsive Reading (Psalm 118)

One:  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.

All:  Let Israel now proclaim, “His mercy endures forever.” 

One:  Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.  “This is the gate of the Lord; he who is righteous may enter.”

All: I will give thanks to you, for you answered me and have become my salvation.

One:  The same stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

All:  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Invocation & Lord’s Prayer

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. We come praying the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us, saying:  Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Anthem

Prayers of the Church      Missionary Focus: Hands Across the Street in Columbia, Pa

The Offering  

Offertory

*Doxology     

*Prayer of Dedication 

Hymn # 139 What Wondrous Love Is This

Scripture  Numbers 13 & 14

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey!Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.”

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 

If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 

But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

Sermon   “Everyday Serving”   Pastor Don Hackett

Next Week’s Text: Matthew 20:25-28                

*Hymn #143 Lift High the Cross

*Benediction  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20–21)*Congregational Choral Amen

Postlude