Friday, April 2, 2010

4 of 7 Tre Ore Sermons

This year I will preach 4 of the 7 sermons at Tre Ore. Here they are.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified + (number 3)
When we ponder our Lord’s death, we ought also take this time to learn from Him, to ponder and learn from His example. And what do we see? Even as He is being put to death, even with the pain and agony He experiences, our Lord’s thoughts are not inward – are not about Himself. His thoughts are outward – His thoughts go towards His neighbor. We know this – for the very reason which He is being crucified is for us men and for our salvation. We know that Christ suffers for our sake.
We see so clearly that even in the midst of His passion that Christ’s focus is upon those whom He loves with these words – Woman, behold your son. Behold, your mother. This is one of the most amazing things Jesus says. Normally when the word “Behold” is used there is massive theological weight to it that points to Jesus. Behold, the virgin shall conceive. John the Baptist cries, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus often introduces parables with “behold”. Behold is the great “get ready word” – get ready for something of vast theological importance approaches.
Woman, behold your son. John, behold your mother. Mom, John will take care of you from now on – and John, take care of my mother. That is important – but at first blush it doesn’t seem to have the same ring as many of the other beholds – it doesn’t ring like Stephen crying “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But it is – it is as profound if not more so – and it is quite instructive for us.
We see the Crucifixion for what it is – God loves the world in this way, by the cross, by giving His Son over to death so that we might be forgiven. And even as this happens – even as God demonstrates in love in dying for us while we were yet sinners – behold, He teaches us how we are to love in our own lives. Love for the Christian is not simply a matter of casual aid given in a happenstance way. Love for the Christian is not a part-time, off again, on again thing. Jesus could have simply said, “John, care for her.” Instead, Jesus says, “Behold your mother.” Your mother. That is how you are to love, that is how you are to care for her – care for her as you would for your own family. Mary, behold your son. That is how you are to care for John, for this disciple whom I love – as though he were born from you, as though he was your little boy.
To love as a Christian implies closeness and sincere care and compassion. Indeed, Jesus is not speaking idly with these words. Indeed, being in Christ implies that you will love one another. This is what Christ taught us – While He was still speaking to the people, behold His mother and His brothers stood outside, asking to speak to Him. But He replied to the man who told Him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward the disciples, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Seven times our Lord speaks while on the Cross – and of all the things which He could choose, He chooses to teach, to reinforce this lesson again. His arms are stretched out upon the cross – and He teaches us to love – and love one another as though we were family – for indeed, in Christ we are. This is reality of our lives in Christ – that we are joined together, knit together in Him. That we are not distinct individuals who tend to ourselves, but rather that we are now united in Him, and that this truth is to flow out, to shape the love and care that we show to each other.
This is hard. In this effort, we often fail. We often treat those whom we are to love with disdain – sometimes the stranger, sometimes the acquaintance, sometimes even the very members of our own earthly family. We fail, but thanks be to God that Christ Jesus is a faithful brother to us – that He is faithful in the love He shows to us – faith even unto the point of death upon the cross. He does not fail in showing to us the very same love that He instructs us to show forth. Indeed, He goes to the Cross to die to atone for our failures, He goes to the Cross that He might pour out His Spirit to give us the strength to show this love. Thanks be to Thee, oh Christ, for Thy great love which Thou hast both given unto us and worked in and through us. Amen.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified + (number 5)
Two simple words, yet our Lord says us so much here. We are approaching the end now, and Jesus knows it. Everything is about to wrap up, and then Jesus speaks these simple words – I thirst. Let us ponder these words of our Lord.
John records for us that our Lord spoke these words to fulfill the Scripture. Once again our Lord makes reference to a Psalm, this time Psalm 69 where we hear “For my thirst they gave me sour wine.” To be honest, it’s not a connection I would have made had John not pointed it out for us, but we shouldn’t be surprised at this. Why? Because who is this on the cross? It is the very Word of God Himself, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the Word knows the Word of Scripture, knows His Word well. Over and over through His prophets in the Old Testament times, our Lord spoke about His coming, spoke about what He was going to do to win for us our salvation. This day we have even read some of the more poignant passages, Isaiah 53, Hosea 6, and others. Always, at all times and in all places our God seeks to draw peoples’ eyes unto Himself, to have us turn away from our own actions and look to God for forgiveness and comfort and salvation. And here we see God Himself upon the Cross, hanging upon the tree, making sure that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed, making sure that every glimpse and picture and hint He gave to His people would be fulfilled, so that we would clearly see that He is the true Messiah. This is the diligence of our Lord. Jesus in this Gospel is so concerned with establishing who He is, and we see clearly our Lord showing who He is here with these Words.
I Thirst. These words remind us not only that Jesus is indeed True God, the very Word of God, the promised Messiah, but also of another truth about Jesus – that He is indeed True Man. When God becomes Man, when the Lord takes on human flesh, He doesn’t skip any steps, He doesn’t give Himself any super perks – He rather becomes a real Man who experiences all the typical things of human life. I thirst. A simple, human thing - to be thirsty, to have your mouth dry and sticky, to know that cool water would quench, would relieve that thirst. Here we see such a vivid reminder of our Lord’s Human nature. This is no play-acting – God isn’t just going through the motions here. On the Cross we see True God and True Man in Christ Jesus, suffering and dying for the redemption of the world. And note that Jesus doesn’t use His divine power here – when sour wine, when vinegar is given, it isn’t changed into the sweetest wine, the coolest water – no, no comfort here for Christ. He drinks the cup of suffering by rights should be ours but that is now His, He follows His Father’s will, just as He prayed that He would in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Do you see what this means? Jesus, our Lord and Savior, truly understands our sufferings, our pains, our trials, because He Himself bore them. Our God isn’t distant, our God doesn’t keep us at arms length, but rather Christ Jesus our Lord comes crashing into the world and fully embraces and experiences and deals with the worst that this world can dish out to us – hunger in the desert, grief and suffering from the loss of loved ones, scorn from friends and family, rejection by loved ones, bitter thirst on the Cross, and even the approach of death. All these things, your Lord experienced. Your feelings, your fears, your hurts and concerns are not some strange thing to God, He knows – not academically, but viscerally and tangibly. Our God is a King who does not rest on His Kingly nature, but rather chooses the life of a peasant, who comes down to us and with us and not only shares in our suffering, but takes up our own suffering to Himself, makes it His own. That is really the Scripture that our Lord is fulfilling this day as He goes to the Cross, as He hands Himself over to the pain of death – Christ our Lord is attacking the cause of our suffering, doing the work of destroying sin, death, and the devil – there upon the Cross Christ takes upon Himself our suffering so that in the World to come we might be freed by His Grace and Mercy from any and all suffering, freed from any and all sin, wrested out of hell and the power of Satan into eternity in Heaven with the Triune God.
Indeed, Jesus thirsts – He feels the strife against Satan even that bit more, but He also sees the end. The final stroke of the battle is soon to come, and Satan’s joy at the death of Christ his foe will turn to Satan’s crushing defeat on the third day. God preserve us in the One True faith until our end, that we might share in Christ’s Victory.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified + (number 6)
The rebellion had started long ago. The man and woman had decided that they knew better than God, that they would not be content with simply being man, simply being woman. That they would not be content with a life of service, a life tending to the garden, a life showing love to each other. No, the serpent slithered in, whispered words of poison and death in their ear – told them that if they ate of the tree that they would be like God. Really? To be like God is to disobey God? It made no sense – but it was appealing. The assumption was that to be like God meant to have power – meant that you got to do whatever you pleased. We like those words for God – we like the “All-power” words. And so, there in the Garden, Adam and Eve ate, seeking to be this flawed image of God that the Devil had spun them – and they rebelled. They fell.
The rebellion went poorly. One cannot fight God and win. Satan knew that – Satan wasn’t hoping to “win” by tempting Adam and Eve, he merely wanted to spread the misery around. And Adam and Eve quickly found out the consequences of their sin. They were naked, they were ashamed, they felt their bodies age and break down as they moved towards death. They knew, they experienced the impacts of evil – and they despised it. They turned on each other, as would be expected. Everything fell apart. The earth crumbled. Pain increased. Sorrow grew while plants withered. And there was nothing Adam or Eve could do about it – no solution that was within their power.
Into this fallen world strides Christ Jesus – God become Man, God incarnation, God taking Man’s place. And He lives, and He suffers, and He goes to the cross and He says, “It is finished.” Christ Jesus puts an end to man’s rebellion. Ever since the fall, every son of Adam, every daughter of Eve shared in their parents rebellion. In sin our mothers bore us. The taint continued, the taint spread – until, most wondrously, God Himself takes on Human Flesh – is born not of the will of man or the will of the flesh, but of the Will of the Father. We see Man without Sin. Man as He would have been had Adam not rebel. Man living perfect. Man showing perfect love and care for His neighbor – tending to them as assuredly as Adam had tended the garden before the fall. And this Christ Jesus does perfectly and completely – Jesus does what man was supposed to do. He ends the Rebellion of man – He hangs there before His Father and cries out, “It is Finished!” It is finished – I have done away with this rebellion, I have lived the life of a righteous, unrebellious Man. It is complete, all the good that You would have Me do, it is done.
But not only the good is finished. Wicked and evil is finished as well. Christ was good – Adam and his ilk were not – and so therefore punishment remained, the doom still hung over the rest of mankind, for they were not prefect as their brother Jesus. And so, Christ Jesus our Lord suffered as well – bore all the pains, the infirmaties, the things that man kind suffer in this fallen world. He does not live His life of service in the perfection of the garden, but His life of service takes Him to the wilds of the wilderness where there is hunger and thirst. His life of service takes Him to lands where people are set against people – Jew versus Roman, Galilean versus Judean, so on and so forth. He life of service takes Him to where He suffers scorn and insult and humiliation. All of these, the consequences of man’s rebellion, and Christ endures them though He in no way deserves them. He even endures torture and suffering and finally crucifixion. All of this, all which we deserve not only now for a time but for eternity He endured – and why? So that the punishment due sinful man might be used up in Him, might spend all it’s fury upon Him that we might be delivered from it. And in this, He is successful. He bears it all, and so He cries out, “It is finished”. The suffering due man is complete, it is fulfilled. Christ has done His job – and now He gives up His Spirit, pours it out upon us, that we might reap the benefits of His Work – that we might have our rebellion ended, that we might have our punishment lifted on to Him. The woe and wrath unleashed at the fall – it is finished. Thanks be to God, it all is finished by Christ.

In the Name of Christ the Crucified + (number 7)
There is one last thing for Jesus to do – one more drop of the cup of wrath and woe that the Father gives the Son to drink – one more drop in the cup that tormented Jesus in Gethsemane. Christ is to take upon the wages of our sin. What He suffers, He suffers in our stead, in our place. One more drop remains. The wages of sin is death.
The time approaches. The Lord of Life knows when life itself is eeking away. The time for that last drop is nigh. And so our Lord speaks – indeed, He cries, He shouts one last sermon “Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit!” And then the breath, the spirit of life leaves Him – and He dies.
We will often talk about our three adversaries – sin, death, and the devil. Death is a hard one to face. We often face it with panic and terror. That is the way of our sinful flesh – we know punishment when we see it. The sinful flesh knows it reaps what it sows, it sees the chickens coming home to roost, and it is terrified. Yet, as Christians, as those who behold Christ Jesus our Lord, we do not face death merely as those of sinful flesh. As the hymn says, we learn of Jesus Christ to die.
Note how our Lord dies. Where are His thoughts, where is His mind at as life is torn from His Body? Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit. Jesus dies in peace – Jesus dies trusting the Father. Jesus dies looking to God and trusting that though He breathes His last now, that it will in fact not be His last – that He will draw breath again, that this very Body of His will be restored to life again – the Father will raise Him up on the third day. And so He looks to the Father – I am in Your hands, Father. Do with me what is right and just.
Do with me what is right and just. It is hard for us to say that to God, sometimes. We know what we deserve. The guilty do not want justice. Yet I say to you, Christ shows us how to die. As we approach our own death – we are to say, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit,” we are to say, God, do with me what is right and just. And we say this, not because of who we are and what we have done – but rather because of who Christ is and what He has done for us upon the Cross, and what He has given us by His Word and Sacraments. Christ fights against our foes for us – fights sin and death and the devil. And He prepares us for our struggle against them as well.
Ponder this. Christ knows the struggle we face against death. He knows how terrifying death our foe can be. So all that He does, all that He gives us in His Church is meant to help us in this struggle against death – to help us at the hour of our death. You are Baptized. Do you not know you who have been Baptized have been Baptized into Christ’s death. Fear not God’s wrath towards you – you already received at Baptism. When the Water and the Word was poured upon you – you died – you died with Christ. Your Baptism tied you to this moment – so God beholds you and says, “There is no more punishment for you – there is no double jeopardy – the payment is made in full.” This is what Christ gives you – He gives you His death so that you might be free to live.
You receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in His Supper. What a fantastic weapon to fight death with. As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s Death until He comes. You receive the Body of the Crucified. Think on that. If our Lord died 2000 years ago, and simply remained defeated in death – what Body would there be to give? But no, our Lord defeats death, rises again, and He gives to you the Body that was crucified for you and now lives for you. Here, take My Body, take My Blood, it is the medicine of immortality, it is the medicine that gives life even after death – it is that which shows that the one who believes in Me, even though He die, yet shall He live. This is what our Lord gives you in His supper. And what do we sing afterwards. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. God, You can let me die – You have prepared me for it – I will die in peace, I will give up my spirit into Your hands – for I know that I will not simply fall into the grave, but that I will follow where Christ my Captain has trod, and I too shall walk out of the grave and with my own eyes, I will see my Lord face to face. This is what Christ saw when He laid down His life. This is what Christ teaches us to see as well. Amen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Padre, thanks for sharing these homilies.