Metamorphosis. The Transfiguration of our Lord 2019

February 10, 2019 Comments off

monarch.PNGThe Transfiguration of our Lord

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 17:1-9

February 10, 2019

Metamorphosis

Iesu iuva!

 

In second grade, Mrs. Higginbotham had a fish tank set up for us to watch a biological process that our science book called “metamorphosis.”

 

At the beginning of the year there was a striped caterpillar munching on milkweed or leaves.  But by this time in the year, February, we no longer saw the caterpillar.  Hanging from the fish tank’s cover was a metallic green-blue pod, almost like liquid turquoise—very beautiful.  Caterpillars that grow up to be moths usually build ugly, hairy cocoons, but this kind of caterpillar spun or wrapped itself up in a liquid sapphire coffin that Mrs. Higginbotham called a “chrysalis.”

 

Then through the winter and into the spring nothing happened.  The chrysalis just hung there in the upper corner of the fish tank.  But near the end of the school year, when spring had come and been here awhile, the appearance of the chrysalis began to change.  It started to become transparent.  The membrane became thinner and thinner.  You started to be able to see through it, and you could see that inside was something quite different from what had gone in.

 

I don’t remember the day the new creature came out, but I remember seeing it when it was ready and the whole class came outside to let it go on a day in May.  I remember watching it stretch its orange wings in the sun on a plant growing through a chain link fence outside the school.  It was a beautiful thing, a small wonder that God does many times every year.  He causes little creeping caterpillars to transform into bright orange flying things.  He causes some of His creatures to change their form, to transform from one thing into something else.

 

+

 

Today is the Transfiguration of our Lord.  Today we remember how the three disciples saw Jesus change His form, though it was not in exactly the same way.  The caterpillar became a butterfly and stopped being a caterpillar.  But Jesus did not change from man into God at His transfiguration.  Instead at His transfiguration one nature of Jesus appeared that was normally hidden—His divine nature appeared.  It was less like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly and more like the sun appearing after it is hidden by a cloud.

 

But when it came out the disciples wanted it to remain.  Peter said, Lord, it is good that we are here….I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.  (Matt. 17: 4) 

 

God rebuked Peter for saying that, but I know exactly, exactly how Peter felt, and I think you do too.  Don’t you want to see this world, or at least your world, or maybe yourself—transformed?

 

We have all experienced the wonder that my second grade class felt when the butterfly came out of the chrysalis and when my teacher took it outside and let it out into the world.  We were all second-graders once.

 

Now that we are older—even a few years older—we often can’t see the wonders God does around us because they are overshadowed by the pain of life in this world.  We would like to see the world transform so that the glory of God would not be covered by the sweat, the dirt, the thorns, the thistles.  Some people have been in this world too long to hope for so much, but even they reach out for little bits of something like glory that they think are still attainable, like being on time or having your bills paid or being in a church that is growing.  Age and bitter experience teaches you to accept the world as it is and not bash your head against a wall trying to have more.  But is there anyone here who can’t relate with Peter, who if they saw Jesus suddenly transfigured, wouldn’t want to stay there?

 

Yet God wasn’t pleased with this plan of Peter’s.  He isn’t pleased with any of our plans to carve out a piece of glory and lock it away.  Not because He doesn’t want us to have His glory, but because He wants us to have it all.  But He wants us to receive it as His gift, not to try to take it on our own terms.  The attempt to steal God’s glory is really a very old plan, and not one we invented.  It came to us from the serpent—the lie that we could have God’s glory for ourselves if we turned away from His Word.

 

And once we were infected by this lie and came under God’s curse, were exiled from His glory, condemned to work and sweat and experience futility and then to die, then old lie we bought tells us: you can find your way back.  You can see this in our world.  People don’t go to church, we all are aware of that.  Yet every day they come out with new technology and new medicines—and many of them are truly impressive.  They are supposed to make our lives better—and in some ways they do!  And yet people are even more unhappy today than they were when I was a child and we barely had computers, we had no internet access.  We had only just gotten cable.  We keep telling ourselves there is a way back to the garden of Eden—even if lots of Americans no longer believe in a literal garden of Eden.  They are looking to be transfigured, or for the world to be transfigured.

 

And we go to church, but we are looking for the same thing, most of the time or all of the time.  We in church think like Peter, James, and John: If Jesus would just show the glory we know He has to everybody, He would win over the whole world, and everything would be happy ever after.

 

But this is not the Father’s plan for the glory we see in Jesus.  So He says to Peter (and to us): This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.  Listen to Him.”  (Matthew 17: 5)  Jesus is the only Son of the Father.  He is also “the Son of Man”—that’s what He calls Himself.  He is the son of Adam.  He is one of us whose first ancestor was made by God from clay and had breath breathed into him.  He is one of us whose first ancestor turned away from God and exiled us from His glory.  But Jesus pleases the Father.  He knows the Father’s will.  He knows the way to His glory.  He is the only one who can take you there.  He is the only one who can transfigure us caterpillars into monarchs.  Listen to Him.

 

 

 

 

+

 

What Jesus told Peter and the other disciples six days previous was this: …that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Mt. 16:21)  He cannot stay up on the mountain and shine like the sun and have everyone marvel at Him.  He must go down from the mountain to Jerusalem where enemies are waiting for Him, where not just death but crucifixion await Him.

 

Jesus must go there, with His glory hidden.  What hides His glory is that He is like us. Jesus was indistinguishable from one of us.  Isaiah said of Him: He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.  (Is. 53: 2)  If Jesus sat next to you in the pew in the days of His earthly life, you wouldn’t know who He was.  He would just be some guy.  And when He went to the cross, He would be some guy you would move away from.

 

He hid His glory and came down to where we are.  All the way down.  Down farther than we want to admit we are.  How far?  Look at the cross where they pierced His hands, His feet, where, suffering, He cried I thirst.  The chief priests and scribes He said would kill him laughed about Him as He suffered.  Do you have pain?  Does it make you groan, or cry, or writhe, and when you do the heavens don’t respond to your tears?  Jesus, the beloved Son of God, came exactly where you are. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people, Jesus says through David in Psalm 22.  He joined you there and went further down: He was rejected by God.  He becomes lowly and loathsome to God because that is what we are through sin.  That is how He transfigures us, and through us, the world.

 

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  (Matthew 16: 24-25)  That is what Jesus told Peter 6 days before His transfiguration.  We cannot enshrine Jesus in a tabernacle and capture His glory, or a part of it, the way you capture a tiger in a zoo.  That is not the way we enter into paradise.

 

The way is Jesus, who puts aside His glory, and goes down the mountain to be crucified for us.

 

And He goes knowing that neither Peter nor we have it in us to go with Him to the cross.  So He goes alone, drops like a stone to the bottom of death, and rises again.  And all that He accomplished He puts on you and in you in Baptism.  All your life in this valley of tears he leads you, like a caterpillar to its chrysalis, to baptism, to be crucified with Him and resurrected with Him until the day when He comes to let you out into a new world.

 

Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Advertisements

2nd Sunday after Epiphany 2019–Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. No One Ever Hated His Own Flesh

February 5, 2019 Leave a comment

The Second Sunday After Epiphany—Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 2:1-11 (Eph. 5: 22-33)

January 20, 2019

No One Ever Hated His Own Flesh

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

The lifestyle we have in America is not free.  It comes with a price tag.  We pay for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as we understand those words today.

 

We are even paying this price in the church.  Christians are not immune.  We do not have clean hands.  Listen.  There are almost no small children making noise in church this morning.

 

Everyone who has had children knows that children are expensive.  They cost money and they cost so much time.  And you have to teach them everything.  You have to pay to educate them and you also have to teach them yourself.

 

Children get in the way of the American lifestyle; they get in the way of young men and women sampling all that the world has to offer; they get in the way of school and careers.  They get in the way of old people too—they cost money and time and energy for grandparents now that 40 percent of them are born out of wedlock and grandma becomes full time babysitter.

 

We have taught our kids by our words and our actions that children are undesirable.  Having too many children is looked on as a form of irresponsibility or craziness or both.  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them says Psalm 128.  Blessed is the man whom God gives many children.

 

But we know better than Psalm 128, and science has given us the ability to limit the fruit of the womb with pills and devices.  And now we don’t see children in church, because they have been discouraged.  When young people do have children, they generally don’t bring them to church, because they have long since learned that it is more important to do what makes you happy than to have God.

 

 

But since 1973, it has not just been a matter of people choosing to not have children or to put them off in favor of other things they considered more important.  Americans have been quietly allowing the killing of their children for 45 years now.  Some 61 million babies have been killed since then, which would be something like 1/3 of the babies conceived.  Imagine that.  We sacrifice 1 out of every three children we conceive in America.

 

And why do we do it?  Because we do not believe that God knows how to give us happiness.  If we have too many children we will not be happy.  We will be poorer and have less time to do what we consider meaningful; our lives will be consumed with the difficulty of feeding too many mouths.  If we have children at the wrong time we will be unhappy, we think.  And this may be true.  It is difficult to raise children if you are unmarried, for instance.  But we wouldn’t be dealing with this problem if we had not already turned away from God’s Word and sought to find happiness or true love or sexual pleasure apart from marriage.

 

We pay a price to be free from God and His Word and to seek happiness according to our own reason and our lusts, and the price is the loss of our children and even the sacrifice of our children and grandchildren.

 

It is not surprising that people don’t want to look at this because it is awful to contemplate that this is what we have done and are still doing in the modern world.  But none of us has clean hands.  We may not have had an abortion, we may not have supported it.  But we have all participated in the system that created legal abortion.  We have all loved ourselves more than our neighbor and tried to find our own happiness at the expense of loving and giving to the other human beings, created in the image of God, we find around us.  We consider them a burden, an impediment to our happiness.

 

Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding at Cana in Galilee.  At this wedding they ran out of wine—truly an embarrassment at a wedding party, to not have enough food and drink to put before your guests.  When Jesus’ mother brought this to the attention of our Lord, He said, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me?  My hour has not yet come.”  Not my problem, our Lord appears to be saying.  The hour has not yet come for me to be married and provide wine for the wedding feast.

 

Yet of course Jesus provides the wine, copious amounts of wine, and the master of the feast calls it “the best wine.”  He provides it by speaking His Word and transforming mere water into wine.  In so doing Jesus manifested His glory, which means that He showed that He is God.

 

How foolish we are to think that God is not able to give us pleasure, happiness—that God doesn’t understand our desire to be happy and our thirst for pleasure.  God invented wine.  He knows how wine makes you feel.  God invented marriage.  He invented sex.  He gave us the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of a man in a woman and a woman in a man.  How foolish we are to think that we know better than God the way to happiness and pleasure.

 

Taking God’s gifts apart from the way He gives it may give pleasure temporarily, but it always leads to death.  Wine is good, but abused, it destroys homes, brings shame, kills people.  Sex is good, but taken apart from marriage and children when God wills it destroys families, brings shame, and kills people.

 

But the good God knows not only how to give pleasure and happiness, and how we ought to live, He also knows how we are trapped.  How we constantly doubt Him and lust after what He has not given us, and how in our paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace we have not known, as it says in Romans 3 (16-17).

 

So He came to help us.  He came not only to tell us the right way to go—which would not help us, because He had already done that long ago in the ten commandments.  He came to unite Himself to us the way a husband is united to His wife.

 

Paul said in the Epistle: No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body.  Therefore a man shall leave His Father and mother and hold fast to His wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church.

 

Christ became “one flesh” with His Church.  God the Son left His Father and mother and was united to His bride, the Church.  He left His Father in that He laid aside the form of God and came in the appearance of a mortal man and a sinner, so that no one could see His glory.  And He joined Himself to His bride, the church, taking her to be one flesh with Him.  That meant He took to Himself her sin that she could not take away.  And He took it away, giving Himself for her on the cross.  In return He gave His bride Holy Baptism, in which He washed her and made her beautiful, without fault.  And He nourishes and cherishes the Church because each of her members is a member of His body, one flesh with Him.

 

That’s why Jesus told His mother: My hour has not yet come.  He was saying, it’s not yet time for me to provide wine for my wedding feast.  Because when that hour came it would be the hour when He was joined to His wife in her sin and separation from God, in her lostness, nailed to the cross under a sky that was dark as night.

 

But the hour came.  We remember it every Sunday, how the night before He gave Himself for us He took the bread and the cup and said, “This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you.”  He transforms the bread and wine into His body and blood that were given to atone for our sins and release us from death.  He feeds us with the food of life, His body, and the wine of eternal joy, His blood.

We are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone.  This is why we embrace life, even when it comes with difficulty and suffering, because we know that joy and life do not come from the abundance of our possessions.  Joy and life do not come where there is no suffering and no cross.  Joy and life come from our bridegroom, the Son of God, who made Himself one flesh with us.  Joy and life come with His cross.

 

He sets us free from the price we have been paying for our so-called “freedom”.  He does not let you carry your sins—be they abortion, fornication, greed and selfishness.  He makes you a member of His own body and joins you to His own flesh and blood and He dies for your sins.  So that you may be His bride, that you may stand before Him in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.  This is what we remember and proclaim as we eat His body and drink His blood.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Epiphany 4 2019 Certain Death to Certain Life

February 3, 2019 1 comment

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 8:23-27

February 3, 2019

Certain Death to Certain Life

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Living in Chicago, most of us don’t know anything about the sea.  If we hear seagulls they are seagulls from the barges that have migrated to parking lots outside Target.  We have never experienced storms on the sea in small boat.

 

But we have experienced the prairie version of the storm on the Sea of Galilee—tornados.  Everyone who was alive in 1990 and lived around here has a memory of the tornado that hit Plainfield at the end of August that year.  It was an F-5 tornado, the most intense kind, which means that the winds were blowing somewhere between 261 and 318 miles per hour.  A lady from the church I used to visit had a son who was driving near St. Mary Immaculate Church in Plainfield, which was destroyed in that storm.  His car was picked up in the air and tossed by the tornado.  The injuries he sustained were with him for the rest of his life.

 

Another member of St. Peter who lives near downtown Plainfield had the back half of her house torn off by the wind.  Over 300 people were injured in that tornado almost thirty years ago.  Twenty-nine people were killed.  We don’t have experience with storms on the sea, like the disciples did.  But we have experienced storms.

 

Being in a storm like that, with the waves about to cover their little boat, it is not too surprising that the disciples’ prayer to Jesus sounded like it did.  Lord!  Save!  We perish!  3 short words in New Testament Greek.  But not words brimming with confidence or faith.  Words that sound desperate and doubtful.

 

We are about to die.  You are sleeping.  You just finished cleansing the leper, healing the centurion’s slave.  You seem to have forgotten us.  Maybe your power has run out?  Because here You are, sleeping in this storm, when it means certain death—for us and for You.

 

We can understand the fear of the disciples not only because we have seen storms that can kill, but because like them we are also in a little boat with Jesus on a wild sea.  The little boat is the Holy Christian Church, and it is tossed around on the waves of this world.  And it seems doomed, this little boat we are in.

 

Is that overdramatic?  Not to hear you tell it.  Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say something expressing worry over the future of St. Peter Church and, to some extent, the whole Christian Church.  We hear stories about the Lutheran Church growing in distant places.  But in our land we see few churches growing, and almost all the ones that do are those that have departed from the Word of God.  They say that Baptism is only water, the Lord’s Supper only bread; they rely on popular music and casual attitude to do what God’s Word seems not to be doing on its own—making Christians, saving people.  Meanwhile, the little boat in which we sit, the church in which we rely solely on Christ crucified, working through His Gospel and Sacraments—looks like it will be swamped by the tossing waves, broken by the raging wind.  We see many who have abandoned Christianity or the Divine Service as society has gone from encouraging Christianity to looking at it with contempt.  We see mounting hostility toward Christianity and wonder whether in our lifetimes the waves of open persecution will break over this boat at the very time in which we are weakest.

 

Sometimes we get up in arms as we see the Church’s influence in our country slipping away.  But more often we find ourselves in the place of the disciples. We are at our wits end.  We are tired.  We have done all we know how to do to help this boat called the church not sink, and nothing is working.  It looks like certain death, and we call out to Jesus—not with firm confidence, but with dismay, wondering why He is sleeping.

 

In fact, some may have even stopped calling to Him.  They have given up hope that Jesus will do anything to help them.

 

At this point, Jesus woke up, looked at His disciples in the middle of the raging waves swamping the boat, and said, Why are you fearful, little-in-faiths?  You would imagine Jesus would have to yell this over the crashing waves and the howling wind.  Why are you fearful, small-in-faiths?  It’s almost funny to imagine it, except for what comes next.  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and a great calm came to pass.  In an instant, certain death was changed into a great calm on the sea.

 

Jesus rebuked their lack of faith before He rebuked the wind and the sea because their little faith, and our little faith, is a bigger problem than the winds that threw their boat around, or the tornado that tore off the back of the house in Plainfield.  Or the church leaking members.  What is a bigger danger than all these things?  Our little faith in Jesus.  That we doubt whether Jesus is able to do anything to help us, or that we doubt whether He will help us.  It is a bigger danger than an F-5 tornado.  The tornado can only crush your house or take your life.  But the absence of faith in Jesus means the loss of salvation and the loss of the only one who is strong enough to help us.

 

He speaks His Word to help us who are small in faith, and He does it now in a much greater way than He did for the disciples then.  Then His Word only turned certain death into a great calm.

 

Now His Word that He speaks to us when we come trembling to Him turns certain death into certain life.

 

The Word Jesus speaks to us does not always make tornadoes stop in their tracks or replace the turmoil and danger of this world with a great calm.

 

The Word He speaks to us ends the power of tornadoes and storms and even the power of the devil, the world, and the flesh that seek to destroy the Church.

 

The Word He speaks takes away the power of death to those who receive it in faith, who believe it.

 

The Word He speaks takes away the guilt of sin and makes a great calm in the conscience of those who believe it.

 

The Word He speaks makes those who believe it rulers over the whole world.  If you believe what Jesus says to You, everything in the world becomes your servant.  Pain, weakness, your stumbles and falls, even death—they all serve you.  They don’t rule you.  They kneel before you and work for you.

 

What is this word He speaks to you?  It is the good news.  He proclaims to you that He has become what you are, that God has become a human being, joined Himself to you, reconciled you to Himself, and taken your sin upon Himself.

 

The reason God came in the flesh was to turn certain death into certain life.  We are caught in a storm, in certain death.  We are born in sin.  All our lives sin storms within us.  Then our conscience is overwhelmed with the waves of God’s wrath pouring in from His Law, revealing to us that we have fallen short of what He demands of us.  We have not trusted Him above all things, but turned aside to what our own hands could build.  We have not believed what He tells us, but trusted what we could see with our eyes and touch with our hands.

 

This is certain death.  Certain damnation.

 

But Jesus entered into our human nature and He took on the form of us who were in bondage to death.  That’s why He got tired and fell asleep, just like we do.  Later, He would die and be buried, like we are, even though He is the Creator of human beings, the Maker and the giver of life.

 

He entered into our flesh and blood, which is doomed to die.  And He turned certain death into certain life.

 

That is what lies ahead in the church year.  The storm of our sin descending on Him in His passion.  Then, in Easter, He arises and comes into the locked room where they are overcome by the waves of guilt, sin, and death; and He says, Peace be with you.

 

When certain death is around us, we should not despair.  We should rejoice.  Jesus is with us.  His Word that He speaks to us—that He spoke when you were baptized ,that He will speak to you in the sacrament of His body and blood—turns certain death into certain life.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Shine Forth. Epiphany 3 2019

January 28, 2019 Leave a comment

jesus centurion.PNGThe Third Sunday after the Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Matthew 8:1-11

January 27, 2019

“Shine Forth”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.  (Ps. 80:1)

 

We sang that in Advent.  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, the angels on the ark of the covenant in the most Holy place—shine forth.  Reveal yourself.  Do an Epiphany.

 

In the Gospel reading our Lord is just beginning to shine forth; it’s only the eighth chapter of Matthew’s gospel.  There are twenty more to go.

 

Yet some have already seen Him shine forth, seen His glory break forth.

 

One is a leper.  The other, the commander of armed men who keep the Jews from revolting, the commander of a hundred Roman soldiers.

 

Jesus is coming down from the mountain where He taught His disciples what we now call the Sermon on the Mount.  Like Moses on Sinai He went up on the mountain and gave His disciples the Law and Instruction of God.  He taught people what they did not know about God’s Law even though they were the people who had been given God’s Law and were supposed to make it known to the world.

 

He taught them murder was not done only with swords and knives, but also with the tongue and in the heart, and that those who murder their neighbors by anger, grudges, curses, bitter words are liable to hellfire.  He taught them that God commanded them not only to love their friends and neighbors but also their enemies.  And He taught them that He had not come to relax any of these commandments, make any of them easier, or simply take them away—He had come to fulfill them.

 

And the people were amazed because He spoke as one with authority, like Moses, but more so.  Like a man who had not only heard from God but knew His mind.

 

But unlike Mt. Sinai, there was no fire, no smoke, no thundering voice from heaven to terrify the people.  There was only Jesus.

 

Yet the leper saw God shining forth from the man who came down the mountain.

 

That was strange not only because there was no visible glory on Jesus.  It was strange because lepers could not see the God who is enthroned on the cherubim.  Lepers were unclean according to God’s Law, and since he was unclean He couldn’t come near the dwelling place of God at the temple.

 

He couldn’t even draw near to see the priest who went into the holy place where God dwelt and then came out to bless the people in the name of the Lord.  Not until he was cleansed of his leprosy.

 

Yet, still unclean, this leper saw God shining forth.  He believed that Jesus was the shepherd of Israel, the LORD.  He saw the shepherd of Israel not sitting on His throne made of angels but coming out to find him, unclean, sick, and dying.  He believed that this man would do for him what the Law of Moses did not provide and what the priests could not do—that Jesus would not only show him his sickness, but would make him clean.  Heal him of this awful disease wasting away his skin.

 

Likewise the centurion had also never seen God shine forth from His throne upon the cherubim, in the holy of holies, on the ark of the covenant.  The centurion was an uncircumcised Gentile.  Going into the courts of the temple uncircumcised, unclean, would be like one who is unbaptized receiving the body and blood of Christ.  It would be unthinkable.  Without circumcision he was not part of God’s holy people.  He was unclean.

 

He was unable to approach the Lord who is, as we sing Holy, Holy, Holy—who is set apart; whom even the angels, the seraphim, as they fly around his throne, singing His praise, use two wings to cover their unstained feet and two to cover their eyes.

 

And yet he had also seen God’s glory shine forth.  He told Jesus: Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  And I say to this one, Go, and he goes, and to this one, Come, and he comes…(Mt. 8:8-9)

 

He believed that Jesus had power to command sickness the way he gave orders to his soldiers.  His word was law among his men, and so, he believed in Jesus’ word with sickness and death, powers that do not obey human beings.  He believed Jesus was so powerful and yet he was not afraid to come to Jesus and ask for help for his servant, even though he as not part of God’s people.

 

Jesus is amazed by him and says, I have not found such faith in Israel.

 

Faith that believes that Jesus is God in the flesh is the way we see God’s glory shine forth.  Faith sees God present in this man Jesus.  Faith sees in Jesus God leaving His throne in the most holy place with the angels to come to the unclean and make them well and bring them into His presence.

 

The leper couldn’t have come to God according to the law, in the temple.  He was unclean.  He wasn’t even allowed to go near the people of God, and whenever he did, the law required him to announce himself by crying “Unclean” so that he wouldn’t pollute anyone else.  If  he had not believed that Jesus wanted him to come to him, he wouldn’t have dared to approach Jesus.

 

The centurion couldn’t draw near to God in the temple either.  He wasn’t allowed in until he left the ways of his people, worshipping idols, committing sexual immorality, eating unclean meat.  Then he had to be circumcised.

 

And yet they both saw God shining forth, revealing Himself.  God came to them.  He didn’t wait for the centurion to be circumcised and separate himself from the wickedness of his pagan culture.  He didn’t wait for the leper to heal himself.

 

God became a human being and came to them so they would see His glory and be cleansed by it and not destroyed.  When we believe that Jesus is the holy God become one of us in order to bring us near to Him and make us clean, make us whole, we see His glory.

 

Because His glory is not simply the great power by which He made the heavens and the earth.  It isn’t the splendor and light of His face which is hidden from human eyes—it’s not simply that.  The fullness of God’s glory is that He comes in mercy to those who are sick and lost and dying to restore us.

 

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth we sang in Advent.  Now during Epiphany we see God do what we asked.

 

He led wise men from the pagan east to Himself by a miraculous star.

 

He shone forth and took up our sins in His baptism, and the Father declared Him to be His only Son, and the Spirit descended upon Him, revealing the Triune God.

 

He turned water into wine by His mere Word, as God spoke the light, the water, the land, air, and all living creatures into being.

 

Now He shines forth by coming out from His holy throne to those who are unclean and unable to approach God.  I will He says.  Be clean.

 

He does this to those who are unclean not merely with bodily disease, but those who are infected by the rot of the soul that is sin.  That makes us murder our neighbor in our hearts, commit adultery in our hearts.  That makes us commit idolatry in our hearts.  That makes our hearts fountains of uncleanness.

 

He comes to you who are suffering from this and says, I will; be clean.

 

And He does it not merely by a word from His lips, but by the blood from His veins and the flesh from His bones.

 

At the end of His life, and the end of Matthew’s Gospel there was another Roman soldier who saw Jesus’ glory shine forth.

 

From the cross under which that centurion stood, Jesus cried out, Eli, eli, lema sebachthani.  Then He cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His Spirit.

 

And the curtain in the temple tore, exposing the cherubim on which the Lord was enthroned under the old covenant.  And the earth shook, the rocks split, the tombs were opened, the bodies of many saints were raised, and the centurion and those who were with him were filled with awe and said, Truly this was the Son of God. 

 

God shone forth—not only coming to the leper and the centurion to heal but to cleanse them of all uncleanness by His cross.

 

Do you see Him come to you this morning?  He is coming to you with cleansing, to give you His pierced body and the blood He poured out for you, so that you might not be estranged from God any longer, but sin down among His friends, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  To bring you in out of the outer darkness so that you may sit at His table and see the light of His face.

 

And not only to do this for you today, but also to bring those who are far off to eat and drink at this same table—even strong enemies (like the Romans were) will come out of the darkness and see His glory shine forth.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Almost Blasphemous. The Baptism of our Lord 2019.

January 13, 2019 Leave a comment

jesus baptismThe Baptism of our Lord

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 3:13-17

January 13, 2019

Almost Blasphemous

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

It almost seems blasphemous, this baptism.  How can it be right for a man who has never sinned and has no need of repentance to receive a baptism of repentance?  How can it be right for a person who has never sinned to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins?  That’s why John tries to stop Jesus from being baptized.  It seems almost blasphemous to him, too.

 

Does it not also seem blasphemous to God?  Does God not know who has sinned and who hasn’t, who needs repentance and who doesn’t?  Of course He does.  Does God play make-believe?  Of course not.  God is God of truth, not make believe.  What He says comes into being.  He speaks and the world is created.

 

So when Jesus comes to John’s baptism, a baptism of repentance, it could not please God unless it were real.  Unless Jesus was actually coming to be baptized bearing sin.

 

Jesus is being baptized into your sin.  He is baptized and He becomes responsible for it and bears it.

 

That may seem almost blasphemous too.  How can the Son of the Father, the eternal Word through whom the heavens were made, become the bearer of your wicked thoughts, your godless words, your selfish deeds?  He is pure and clear as the light; He is the holy one.  Moments from now, moments before His Word comes to the bread and the wine made from grapes that grow in the dirt and make them His body and blood, we will sing the Sanctus: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  How seldom we take to heart the weight of these words, that God is holy!

 

And now the Holy One is to become a sinner—and not just a sinner.  The sinner; Luther says, “The world’s only sinner”!  He alone is going to bear it, the punishment and the shame of the way we have casually broken His commandments, as though we were God and He were not.

 

It seems almost blasphemous.  It is almost unthinkable.  This is why almost all religions refuse to accept it.  This is a dangerous teaching, they say.  It leads people away from the hard path of working out your salvation and obeying God.  It leads people to shrug and say, “Well, Jesus took my sin away, so now I can sin without worrying about it.”  That’s the criticism.

 

And the criticism is valid.  This is how many people use the gospel.  In fact, you may have misused the gospel in just this way—as a license not to serve God or follow Jesus.

 

And yet none of this changes the reality of what happens here, at Jesus’ baptism.  Jesus who has no sin steps forward to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  The baptizer tries to stop him and Jesus says, Let it be so now, for it is proper to do this to fulfill all righteousness.  (Mt. 3:15)  And after Jesus is baptized, heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends on Him, the voice of God the Father affirms what Jesus has done by saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.

 

Jesus has claimed as his own the world’s sins, and the Father has approved what Jesus did.  He says that Jesus’ action of taking the sins of the world pleases Him well.

 

God is not well-pleased with sin.  No, Catholics, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, whatever religions there are that you may recognize as being strict—they are all correct when they say that God is not pleased with sin, that He is not just mildly dissatisfied with it but is willing to overlook it.  God hates sin.  He loves righteousness.  In fact He hates sin more than any religion of works can comprehend.  He is not willing to tolerate any sin—not the sin that you do willfully, not the sin you do in weakness, not the sin you can’t help doing.  He is satisfied with no sin.  Only righteousness pleases God.

 

But the good news is in front of us today.  Jesus, the beloved Son of God was baptized by John, and in being baptized He took your sin as His own.  He didn’t wait for you to decide He could take your sin onto Himself.  He did it already, long before you knew about it, or decided that you would follow Him.

 

And He did so knowing what it meant.  Once He took the sins of the world on Himself, He would have to pay for those sins.  That is why God the Father says, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.  Jesus is not taking our sins upon Himself so that they can remain before God but so that they can be put away from His sight forever when Jesus suffers and is buried.

 

Now this morning you may be here weighed down by your sins.  You have sins that weigh on your conscience and you struggle to believe that they are forgiven.  You have anguish and fear of God’s wrath.  Or perhaps you simply are struggling with your own apathy.  You are not anguished over your sins, and that causes you, in its own way, anguish.

 

Listen to the Gospel this morning, then.  See how Jesus has come to be baptized even though He had no sin.  He did it because He was coming to take your sins upon Himself.  And this was no joke.  He insisted on being baptized when John wanted to stop Him.  He insisted on taking your sins on Himself so that you would be released from them.  And the Father in heaven set His seal upon Jesus’ baptism into your sin by sending His Spirit and claiming Jesus from heaven, declaring—this one who is baptized is My only-begotten, beloved Son, and what He is doing—being baptized into the sins of the world—pleases Me.

 

On the other hand, you may be here this morning not weighed down by your sins.  In fact, that is quite likely, because our flesh usually doesn’t feel our bondage to sin, and the world denies the depth of our problem with sin.  You are worried and bothered about many things, but not with the one thing that should be uppermost in your mind—that you do the will of God.

 

Then the baptism of your Lord Jesus Christ calls you to repent.  See how Jesus had no sin and already did God’s will with all His heart.  You have not fulfilled all righteousness, and yet you are worried about other things, as though they were more important.

 

But see, your Lord comes and is baptized into your sins.  You don’t even know them all.  But He knows them all because He takes them all and He pays for them all as He is nailed to the cross, rejected by God, cast away for your sins.  Your sins should press on your conscience; but all too often, they don’t.  But see how they would not go away unless the Holy One took them all on Himself.  Then, even if you can’t feel them, you will see your need to come to Him who went to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness by suffering and putting away your sins.

 

It seems almost blasphemous that Jesus should be baptized.  And to many Christians it seems almost blasphemous what we say about our baptism.  We say, “it works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.”  We say, little children and babies are brought to Jesus and saved when they are baptized.  But some say, “that’s blasphemous.  A little baby can’t understand what Jesus did or choose to believe in Him.  A baby can’t do what is necessary to be saved.

 

It may seem blasphemous to our reason that God should be gracious and give forgiveness of sins apart from works, apart from us doing anything.  But that is how God saves.  It is the only way He saves.

 

In Baptism Jesus comes and gives forgiveness of sins and the faith that receives it through His Word, even to little children.  He does it without our thinking of it or asking, just as He came to be baptized and carry our sins without anyone asking Him.

 

In your Baptism all 3 persons of the Trinity were present just as at Jesus’ baptism.  The Holy Spirit came to you to give you the gift of faith.  The Father claimed you as His Son, in whom He is well pleased.  He says that about you because you were baptized into Jesus.  He was baptized into our sins so that He might take them out of the way on the wood of the cross.  We are baptized into Him and covered with the righteousness of the one who rose victorious over death.

 

This is why we remember our Baptism by invoking the name of God and making the sign of the cross.  We don’t remember the day when we saved ourselves.  We remember how God claimed us, how God worked in us.  And as often as you remember your baptism you can rightly claim for yourself what happened to Jesus at his baptism.  You can say, heaven is now open to me.  The Holy Spirit has descended on me like the dove that came out of Noah’s ark when the world began again after the flood.  And the Father claims me as His beloved Son.  He is well-pleased with me for Jesus’ sake.”

 

That is not blasphemous; it is the good news.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Epiphany of our Lord 2018

jesus epiphany.PNGThe Epiphany of our Lord (Reception by transfer of Wilke family)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 2:1-12

January 6, 2018

 

Iesu iuva!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

In the days of Herod the King, behold, wise men from the east arrived in Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1). 

 

Behold, out of nowhere when Jesus is born in Judea, the land of the tribe of Judah, wise men show up from Babylon or Persia, the places we now call Iraq and Iran.  These are all distant places, foreign places to us.  Babylon and Persia were much closer to Judea than the Romans who ruled Judea, and even more close than the barbaric tribes that lived in Northern Europe at the time, who most of us here today (but not all of us) have as ancestors.

 

But different is different.  Babylon and Persia were the people who took the Jews captive and ended their kingdom, their self-rule.  So try for a moment to imagine the shock in Jerusalem when wise men from Babylon or Persia appeared, asking about the King of the Jews, saying, “We have come to worship your king.”  They never would have expected such people to arrive—but they did, out of nowhere—and they announced the birth of their long-awaited Messiah, whom the people of Judea did not even know had been born.

 

And how did they find out that the King of the Jews had been born?  We have seen His star, they said.  The Jews brought their Scriptures with them to Babylon and Persia, and maybe the wise men of those lands learned something about the King of the Jews from them.  The Scriptures call the King of the Jews a star coming out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), but they never say anything about a certain star rising to announce His birth.  God sent a miraculous star to lead these foreign wise men to His Son, just as He sent an angel to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields around Bethlehem.

 

All this came as a shock to the people of Judea, the people whose king had come.

 

Meditating on God’s Word about the wise men, thinking about this story, my mind looked over all the people in the last decade who have come to St. Peter like the wise men came to Jerusalem.  They came out of nowhere, unexpectedly.  People who had grown up here but then for whatever reason not come to church for decades and then—God brought them back.  Some of you here this morning, this is your story.

 

Others lived in the neighborhood and they just came to St. Peter because it was a church and it was nearby.  Or for other reasons I don’t know.

 

A few came here from Lutheran churches in other places, like the Wilke family is doing today.

 

I don’t think any were wise men—except for one, who had a doctorate from an Ivy League school.  But most of them were, in a certain sense, strangers.  This wasn’t the church they grew up in.  Many times they didn’t know the people.  Maybe they did at one time but they didn’t anymore.

 

And maybe they knew why they were coming, or thought they did.  But very few came up to us and said, Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?  We have come to worship Him. 

 

The truth is, most of us here today I think were strangers to St. Peter at one time.  There are a lot of you who grew up here, but many of you, at one time, came in here, not knowing anyone.  It wasn’t your church yet.  You may not have even had a church.  Maybe we knew what we were looking for here, or thought we did, but even if we did we only partly knew the person we were looking for.

 

And how welcome did we feel when we came in here as strangers?  Some very welcome.  But not everyone.  Not everyone.  Some even now feel a little bit like strangers even though they have been at St. Peter for many years.

 

And that is not good if people feel unwelcomed, if St. Peter is unwelcoming.  The people of Jerusalem were arguably not very welcoming to the wise men from the East, and that was not a good thing either.  But there is something even bigger at stake.  The question is, what brings people to wander into the doors of this church—really quite a few of them—in a broken down part of town, in a neighborhood that has had a bad reputation for decades?  How is it that people come here from the east, or the west side, or Rockdale, or Bolingbrook, or Oregon?

 

They are led here by the Lord so that they may find Him who has been born King of the Jews.

 

And—if you are drifting off, now is the time to return—they are led here by God to lead us to Him.

 

God sent a miraculous star to the wise men so that they would come find the King of the Jews.  He somehow caused them to know that this baby was not only for the Jews, but also for them, and that they should come worship Him.  People in Babylon and Persia worshipped their kings as gods, so there are those who think that the wise men were not worshipping Jesus in the sense that we mean when we say it—honoring Him as the only true God.  But the fact that they came to worship the king of another nation, and that they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy when they were led to Him, indicates that they believed that the King of the Jews was their King—the King of all Kings, the God of Gods.

 

This was a miracle.  And if God could draw the wise men miraculously like this, He could have done without sending them to Jerusalem to deal with Herod, the present ruler of the Jews, and the chief priests and scribes, the “wise men” of the Jews.

 

But God sent them to Jerusalem anyway.  And there is a twofold reason for this.  The first is that God always leads us to His Word to find Him.  That is where He wants to be found.  Even when St. Paul had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus sent Him to Ananias to be taught the Word and baptized.  Luther wrote in the Smalcald Articles, one of our Lutheran Confessions of faith from the Book of Concord: God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the external Word and the Sacraments.

 

But the second reason was so that the chief priests and scribes and Herod and the people of Jerusalem would be led to their King.  So that they would go with these foreigners, these wise men, to their King and their God to worship Him with exceedingly great joy.

 

The priests and scribes knew right away where the King of the Jews would be born and they quoted the Scriptures from Micah.  And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel (Matt. 2:6).  That is what was prophesied about this ruler, the Messiah—He would shepherd Israel.  Shepherding includes ruling, but an even bigger part of shepherding is calling and gathering and keeping the flock together.

 

And that was what Jesus was doing.  He revealed Himself as the King of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, the true God of the Jews, but also of the Babylonians and Persians who had oppressed them, and of all the nations who were far off.  That is what Epiphany means—shining forth.  It refers to God revealing Himself.

 

He revealed Himself to the Gentiles and when they came looking for Him He also revealed Himself to the people He had made a covenant with, the people of Israel.  They too needed to be gathered to Him, to come and worship Him.

 

The fact that Israel had been made God’s people did not mean that they had God in their back pocket and could forget about Him.  Faith in God is not the same as knowing about God.  Faith in God makes you go to God and seek Him.  It means you not only believe that He exists, but you say, “He is my God.  He is the one I trust.  He is the treasure I delight in.”

 

That was why the wise men were sent to Jerusalem.  But the sad and terrifying thing was that the wise men of Jerusalem did not want to come and worship their King.

 

The scriptures had foretold that in the last days the Gentiles would come and seek out the God of Israel.  This was a sign to the Jews, but they did not heed it, because they were not looking for their God.

 

When God sends people to us, He is also calling us.  When people come looking for the King of the Jews, what do you do?  You tell them where He is—in the Word.  In the Sacraments.  Or maybe you say “Go ask the pastor.”  But God is calling us to go with them—to go and worship the King of the Jews who is found among us.

 

He gathers us like a shepherd, not like an irritated hireling.  God wants to gather those who are far off.  That’s why He has gathered the Gentiles from the ends of the earth so that we are included with the people of Israel and are called His people.  That’s why He came into the world as a little baby to fulfill God’s Law for us, to take away our sins, to open to us not the treasures of the East but the treasures of heaven.

 

To give us forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  To give us love, peace, exceedingly great joy.  Even though we don’t see these gifts among Christians in great measure, it’s not because He doesn’t have them, or they don’t really exist.  It’s because they are gifts that are hard to open and hard to keep on earth, and we have to go to Him to receive them.  But He has come to open these treasures for us.  And above all He gives us this treasure—to know and be in communion with the true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  To be right with Him and to begin to participate in His life and work.

 

And what is the true God’s work?  It is to gather those who are in darkness into His light.

 

It is not merely His will to send people to us.  He has placed us here to shine the light of Christ into the darkness around us.  To work together as His body in this place to do this.  To offer our gold and treasures so that it may be done in distant places.

 

And this is joy—to find the one who has been born king of the Jews and to participate in the work of His Kingdom.  We find Him with the sign hung above His head where He hung on the cross accomplishing our salvation in full.  We find Him and receive Him as He gives us that same body crucified to eat.  And we commune with Jesus in His work of gathering the lost as we leave His table.  We offer Him not only our wealth but our lives as our spiritual worship.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

The Image of the Man From Heaven. Funeral Sermon

In Memoriam + Lucille Surdey

Carlson-Holmquist-Sayles Funeral Home

1 Corinthians 15:35-49

January 5, 2019

The Image of the Man of Heaven

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Donna, Bill,

Bill Jr., Beth,

And each of Lucille’s seven great-grandchildren,

All of her family, friends, and members of her church:

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

His word for our comfort this morning is from the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians: Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.  (verse 49)

 

When I visited your mother, your grandmother Lucille, I was there with what you could say is a limited purpose—to deliver to her the body and blood of Christ.  Probably that means I also saw a limited side of Lucille and her life and her personality.

 

But there are some things that can’t be hidden, especially when you come into someone’s home.   So you could hardly miss the treasures and the joys of Lucille’s life.  They were in front of her all the time, all along the walls; pictures of Donna and Bill, Beth and Bill, all four together, and all the great grandchildren.  Are there any greater treasures in this world, really, than your children, grandchildren, your flesh and blood?  Today many people my age and younger seem to think so, yet sometimes it appears that even though we are wealthier and have greater advantages than any of our ancestors, we are also more sad and angry than the generations before us.

 

Before her eyes were her offspring, and what was always on Lucille’s lips when I came to see her?  Thankfulness.  She would talk about how much God had given her.  What a blessing it was that she could live in her own home.

 

For a long time I would try sometimes, as subtly as I could, to get her to complain a little.  Sometimes it is good to give voice to your suffering and even to voice your complaint to God, as the Psalms say.

 

But as I have thought about it more I think maybe Lucille was right and not me.  Or at least I and maybe others in my generation could learn something from her in this regard.  Maybe she knew on a gut level what I ought to know better—that this world is not paradise, that we are not meant to be happy all the time here.  I know this from Sunday School and seminary and the Bible—we are fallen and this world, as Luther’s catechism says, is a “vale of tears” or a “valley of sorrows.”  Yet for me and I think many around my age, it’s hard to let go of the dream that, like Oprah or whoever we are going to transcend the limitations of human existence.  It could be just me that has unrealistic expectations like these, but I don’t think so.  Look around.  Look on the internet; everybody wants to be famous, everybody wants to be the star, the hero.

 

Lucille would talk about how when she was growing up her family had very little in the way of wealth.  They had their land and their hard work and they could lift up their heads.  But she said, “We didn’t notice that we didn’t have much.”  They were happy because they were busy working and they had each other, and not a lot of time for other things.

 

And probably from her childhood, she learned to work hard, to be faithful, and to be thankful for the gifts God gives you instead of always groaning over what you wish you had.  She had dignity in living that way.  And although it was by no means a perfect happiness she had happiness in the good gifts God gives in this world—especially in you, her family members and friends who are here to honor her today.

 

It is a hard pill to swallow that in this life we are not going to become gods and heroes.  In a certain sense we are already; we live longer and have advantages none of our ancestors did, and yet paradise always eludes our grasp and remains off on the horizon.  It’s hard—really impossible, humanly speaking—to accept what Paul said in the epistle reading: that we bear the image of the man of dust.  We are just like the first man.  Our bodies are formed from the dust of the earth and animated by a living soul.  We were created to live forever in communion with God.  But the first man of dust turned against the one who formed his body and breathed into him his soul; Adam wanted to be a god in his own right.  And so he came under the curse.  His life would be full of painful toil—sweat, failure, pain, lowliness—and then he would return to the dirt from which he was made.  Like Cinderella, sort of, who went back to being a nobody at the stroke of midnight—we were created in God’s image, but when we got proud and wanted to be gods on our own, we returned to the dust.  And we have the same image.  Adam’s sin became our sin, even before we made any choices.

 

We came from dust and we return to dust and there is no escaping it, not even for those who seem to be gods in this world.  And even worse—we will face judgment after that.  We will have to give an account to God for what we have done in the body—for every idle word, every evil thought, and all the deeds we try to hide from other people.

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ does give us joy, peace, and happiness in this world, but that is not the good news.  The good news is that we who bear the image of the man of dust, that Lucille bore and that you, her offspring also bear, and her friends and relations—that you will bear the image of the man of heaven, Jesus Christ, if you believe His good news.

 

God made Adam’s body from the dust and breathed into him and, the man became a living soul according to Genesis (2: 7).  But the last Adam is not merely living, but a life-giving Spirit.  He was with the Father in the beginning.  Through Him Adam was created.  But then in the fullness of time He assumed a human nature from Mary the virgin.  In that body He bore our curse and humiliation and death and brought it to an end on the cross.  And from His body flows the Holy Spirit, who hovered over the waters of creation, whom we call “the Lord and giver of life.”  Jesus’ body is the fountain of life to all of us who were born with the image of the man of dust.

 

Now that He has risen from the dead, destroying it, conquering it, He plants His heavenly life in us who are of the earth.  He does that through means that appear to be of the earth and of the dirt.  He uses water.  He uses bread and wine.  He uses words from human mouths.  But they are not merely earthly—not merely earthly water, not merely grain that grows in the ground and wine pressed out of grapes.  They are heavenly because they are joined to His Word through which the water and the dirt and the grapes and the grain and human beings came into being.

 

Through these means Jesus, God and man, proclaims the good news.  I have become what you are, He says.  I have redeemed you from death.  I have taken away your sins.  He says it in preaching, in the Bible, in baptism, in absolution.

 

Through those means He gives us His Spirit.  He plants the everlasting life in us.  Not a life like Adam had, but a life like His—the eternal life, the unending life of God.

St. Paul says that this is the glory and the life that our bodies will have when they are raised from the graves on the last day.  They will be like Jesus’ body, and so they will live forever as He lives forever in His body, the same body that was pierced by the nails and wrapped in the linen cloths.

 

They will be like Jesus’ body, so they will share in the glory of God.  The light of God will shine from our bodies; the way Moses’ face shone when He came out of the tent of meeting where He spoke with God.  The glory in the bodies of Christians will be greater.  It will not be a reflected glory but a glory within us—just as Jesus’ face shone like the sun when He was transfigured.

 

Our bodies will be like Jesus’ body so they will be filled with the power of God.  We will not be subject to weakness and sickness, bent backs, bodies wracked with pain, minds full of turmoil.  God will dwell in our bodies.

 

This is the hope in which we lay Lucille’s body into the earth; in trust in Jesus, who has promised to raise up His believers in the image of His glory.  In this world she accepted that she was a child of Adam, subject to his curse.  But her Lord made her a promise that she would rise glorious with Him.

 

It’s hard for us to set our hope on the resurrection, which we have never seen, and which we can barely imagine.  But today as we lay Lucille to rest to await the resurrection, let us lift up our hearts to God and ask Him to give us His holy Spirit so that we set our hope on that day, the day when our bodies share fully in Jesus’ easter.  And to comfort us that when that day comes we will see Lucille emerged from the earth, planted and risen bearing the glory of God her Father and Jesus Christ her Lord.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

%d bloggers like this: