‘Death is broken’

Psalm 24:10
Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

            Hallelujah! Just as we have sung, He is the King of Glory! Jesus Christ the Righteous! The Lord of the angelic hosts and the armies of all the saints. The one who has defeated death. And this wonderous, and strange Psalm, a song written by King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and prayed by God’s people ever since. But what does it mean, and why has the Church decided that we pray it today as we commemorate all the saints?

            Well, this day, we celebrate and commemorate, because Jesus Christ is Lord of us all, not just you, this parish, not just our LCA, nor the Christians we know; but all Christians across this world, and also all the Christians, the saints, who have passed through death and await Christ’s return. All the saints in warfare; that’s us as we struggle against the enemies of humanity, against sin, death and the devil. And all the saints at rest; those who’ve gone before us in faith, by grace into the presence of God, to await the return of Christ, the New Creation, the Final Resurrection. This is a celebration of all God’s people. That we are one people. In Christ we are not even separated by death, for death is defeated.

            And this is what our Psalm today proclaims! This Psalm was used in the time of David every Saturday evening, for the Hebrews the beginning of the first day of the week, of what we call Sunday. Written for when they ascended with the ark of the Covenant mount Zion, the mountain Jerusalem was built on, the mount on which the Tabernacle then the Temple stood.
Singing, proclaiming, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the whole world and those who dwell in! For it is He who founded it on the chaotic, dark, deep seas, on the shifting and flowing streams. These words echoing the Creation accounts in Genesis, in the beginning the deep waters, chaotic and empty, a picture of falling into the deep dark ocean in the midst of a storm. Yet God brings order to the chaos, He fills the earth with good things, He overcomes the sea with its chaos and darkness by setting down His kingdom and bringing light to the world. Now high above the sea, who could come to stand with Him?
For those ancient Israelites chanting this as they step toward the Temple, up atop mount Zion. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Who will stand in God’s Holy Place? Jesus the clean and pure. Yet also us, as we confess our sins and Christ Himself washes us clean in the absolution, takes away our sin and guilt, defeating it on the Cross (Ephesians 5:25-27). As we approach God, His Word and service to us here today, we don’t lift up our souls, we don’t offer ourselves to what is false, nor lie, but with a true heart by God’s grace we have confessed our sins, and according to His Promise God has forgiven you, cleansed you, purified you. This is one reason we have Confession and Absolution before we hear God speak to us, and the reason why some have it before coming to receive Christ, His Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood. For now forgiven we receive blessing from God in His Divine service to us here, we receive righteousness from God our Salvation.
And now the Israelites are at the gates of Jerusalem, The King of Glory sees these doors and demands they rise up to the honour of having Him enter. But who is this King of Glory? When Jesus entered on that donkey, who is this King riding in? When the devil deceived Judas Iscariot, did he really understand who he was dealing with? The Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle, The Lord of Hosts; Jesus Christ the Victor, He is the King of Glory! And the doors, they open.

            Now that last part, with the doors and the King of Glory, I wonder, as a child did you ever hurt someone, or do something wrong, and run and hide behind a door? Like a little boy who took the car keys or something. The dad comes to the door and says, ‘open it up’. The boy asks, ‘who is it?’ not wanting to open the door. The dad replies, ‘it’s the man who owns this house.’ ‘Yeah, but who’s there?’ ‘It’s your father.’ ‘Who?’ and the dad breaks the doors open.

            Everything in all creation is God Almighty’s. And yet the devil by deception sought to claim some for his own. This is the serpent, Adam and Eve, the Fall and the beginning of death. From that time on many people have died, fallen into deaths arms, into the grave and covered over with the doors of death closed and locked to them. Even many of God’s own people, King David and those ancient singing Israelites, claimed by death. This is not the way it should be! This is not what God created us for! He made Adam and Eve for life everlasting with Him, just look at their names, Adam means humanity, Eve means life. And yet after the Fall it was no longer Adam and Eve, but Adam and death. Who could fix such a thing, such a horrific thing; Who could defeat death?

            Thanks be the God through Jesus Christ our saviour! The King of Glory, The Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle, The Lord God of Hosts! The King of Glory, crowned on the Cross. Jesus, God incarnate, ascended Mount Zion with clean hands, never having done evil or wrong, with a pure heart; He came to that which was His own and yet His own did not recognise Him, His people, His Creation, had been gripped by fear of death. We were owned by death in the power it held over us. So the King of Glory died on the Cross. But when He came to death, to those doors that are made to divide us from our lost loved ones, when He came to those gates of Hades they did not prevail (Matthew 16:18)! Like Samson before (Judges 16:3), Christ broke those ancient doors and threw them down, He tied up the devil, that strong man (Matthew 12:29) was no match for Jesus, and Christ took back what is rightfully His, all the saints who have gone before. Although we here might not remember it, the Church still commemorates this wonderful truth in her art and her liturgy. Just as those ancient Israelites sang this Psalm on Saturday evening, still many Christians in Eastern Europe sing this Psalm in the evening of Easter Saturday; remembering and reliving Christ’s destruction of the power of death just before He rises to proclaim this victory to Mary Magdalene and His disciples.

            This Psalm proclaims the truth, and points us, as all scripture does, to Jesus and His victory, this wonderful news for you and all people. He has defeated death, He is life everlasting, and according to God’s trustworthy Word we are joined with Him, just as all the saints are for that is what a saint is, one trusting Christ. When we commune with Him, The Lord of Hosts, it is not just Jesus we are united with, it is also the great hosts of all the saints, those across this world, those who have gone before; in God’s mercy those we have lost.

            In Christ we are not cut off from those who have died, because death cannot hold us. Christ has smashed down those doors. So we may be comforted by the Gospel, Christ’s Victory over death, and thank Him for those faithful who have gone before us, look to them for examples of a life trusting Christ, and pray for mercy and strength to persevere unto the end; knowing that The Lord of Glory will return in power to set things right, to destroy all evil and death, and to raise up all the saints in renewed, glorified bodies, and that we all will live with Him forever together.

            And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the end. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.