Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. -- Ezekiel 22: 26 (KJV)
And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. -- Ezekiel 44: 23 (KJV)
So we come to Palm Sunday 2016. When considering what the write about today I was brought back to sermons past that correctly pointed out the significance of the crowd shouting praise unto God yet a week later would scream all the louder "crucify Him!" I considered the prophetic fulfillment achieved in the triumphal entry and the story immediately following where Jesus drove the money changers from the temple of God. All worthy topics to consider as we enter into what ought to be the most solemn of weeks in our faith. In just one week the event that changed all of human history would occur. Jesus Christ would defeat death and rise from the grave. The devil would be defeated and God would be reconciled to His people. Then I thought back to Resurrection Sunday just a year ago. Which saw the kick off of the wildly heretical AD Miniseries produced by ex-catholic mystic Roma Downey. How the Assemblies of God fully bought into this and how for 12 weeks we were led down an unbiblical trail of the Book of Acts. I remembered the mega church sermon for Resurrection Sunday that centered on a Star Wars theme. Another that tried to glean life lessons for us from the crucifixion of Jesus Christ such as:
1. Someone will always kick you when you are down (Thief on the cross mocking Jesus)
2. Darkness is not forever (Lasted from Noon to 3PM according to Gospel of Mark)
3. It will seem sometimes as if God has left you (Why have You forsaken me?)
4. People will always want to add vinegar to your pain (When they offered Jesus vinegar)
These are of course absurd observations that have nothing to do with the crucifixion account. God did not write this account so we could focus on ourselves but rather on Christ and His sacrifice. Talk about missing the point! God leaves Jesus at the very moment He takes on the sins of you and I, yet this "pastor" thinks it means that we too will feel sometimes as if God leaves us. How ridiculous.
I remember these things not as some form of torture but to remind myself that the church today has a serious problem in confusing the holy with the profane. As this is Palm Sunday we have one week left this year to reconsider the proper place of what should be holy in our lives and the profane we allow in within the walls of our church. During last year alone we saw worship in mega churches include ACDC's Highway to Hell, I Like to Move It; Move It, and Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball. We saw sermons based on our favorite television commercials and classic movies we love. We saw the pastor with the largest church in America say that we only worship God for ourselves. We saw that same church undertake a campaign to raise 30 million dollars to pay off the remainder of the 120 million they needed to purchase the arena they meet in. Joseph Prince spent 500 million on his new facility. One pastor thought nothing of asking for 70 million for a new Learjet. Beloved, time is running out and far too many in Christendom are simply going through the motions. Dressing up each Sunday and playing church. Not a care in the world about correct doctrine, without which there is no true Christian unity. Not a care in the world about purity in worship. Complete spiritual apathy mixed with an alarming rate of biblical illiteracy. But there is a week left. A week left to consider returning the sacred to the status of sacred and the profane to where it belongs. Outside the church.
It starts with Resurrection Sunday. Please note that I did not say Easter. I am not going to get into any debate about the pagan origins of Easter as a holiday. That is not even the point. The point is what Easter represents within our culture and whether it has anything to do with what should be the most important day in our faith. Chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps have nothing to do with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. By the way, I am not even speaking to how Christians raise their children. I am merely speaking about what the church should be in the business of condoning and promoting. I know local churches that do Easter egg hunts and have someone dress up as the bunny in the sanctuary! At the altar! It is bad enough that the church distracts people from Jesus all year round we ought to at least let nothing distract from Him on the day He defeated death for us!
But preacher! Shouldn't we be relevant to the culture around us? Absolutely not. The culture around us is what is sending people to hell. The culture around us should be the last thing we want to be relevant to. The Bible says we are to be salt and light to a dying world. We are supposed to be different. A shining city on a hill. The world is supposed to look at the church and see something radically different than it sees every day. It should see peace in the storm. Love for our enemies. Humility instead of pride. It should see next Sunday that we are focusing on Jesus Christ and His resurrection not painting eggs. The very last thing they should see when they walk into our sanctuaries is the Easter bunny! We are supposed to be a peculiar people. A people set apart. I have had pastors say in response to such notions that I take things too seriously. Well it seems God took things pretty seriously when He sacrificed His only Son for me. Perhaps it would serve pastors well to watch the Passion of the Christ on Palm Sunday in preparation for writing their Resurrection Sunday sermon. Yes it had way too many catholic overtones but the picture of suffering is so extreme and we forget the sacrifice. We think of it as a Veggie Tale or a few verses from the Gospel before we go fellowship at the diner. We need to see the scourging Jesus took on our behalf. Historians agree that many did not even survive the Roman scourging process and make it to be crucified. Consider this description when you see a pastor dressed up as Han Solo for Resurrection Sunday:
"The usual instrument was a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions. The severity of the scourging depended on the disposition of the lictors and was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death. As the Roman soldiers repeatedly struck the victim's back with full force, the iron balls would cause deep contusions, and the leather thongs and sheep bones would cut into the skin and subcutaneous tissues. Then, as the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. Pain and blood loss generally set the stage for circulatory shock. The extent of blood loss may well have determined how long the victim would survive on the cross."
And you want me to glean life lessons from this so I can have my best life now? Seriously? They ripped His beard out! They spat on Him and mocked Him! He had to carry the instrument of His very death, after the scourging! They forcibly crushed a crown of thorns into His head until His own blood filled His eyes! Oh is this too graphic for our delicate sensibilities? Good because it ought to be! As gruesome as the portrayal of the sufferings of Christ is in the Passion, experts agree that it does not come close to the true brutality. When we think of these things we also need to remember that this punishment was supposed to be ours!
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. -- Isaiah 53: 4-6 (ESV)
He was crushed for our sins beloved. We have all gone astray and the Lord in His infinite mercy has laid upon His only Son the iniquity of us all. Yet we approach next Sunday as if we have to strategize how to have our guests return to our little church building. That is what purpose driven guru Rick Warren taught pastors a few years back. He actually said that pastors should not preach the Gospel on Resurrection Sunday. Nope. You should start a series instead on how to improve your marriage. His rationale was he wanted to give the unsaved visitors a reason to come back the following week. If it was not so pathetic it would be tragic. Only the Gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of men and you want to use the one chance you have to speak to them be about improving their marriage? This is Resurrection Sunday not the Newlywed Game! On that hill called Calvary thousands of years ago the Roman soldiers were driving spikes through His wrists and feet and you honor that holy sacrifice by teaching carnal relationship principles? Dear God forgive us.