Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 27, 2013
Text: Luke 4:16-30

            For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12; ESV).  It’s a deadly thing, this Word of the Lord.  Then again, it’s a life-giving thing, this Word.  Because it is powerful.  Because it is performative.  Because it does what it says.  So in the Gospel this morning our Lord opens the Scriptures to the Prophet Isaiah and reads: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).  Then our Lord rolls up the scroll and sits down to preach.  (In those days, in the synagogue, the preacher sat and the people stood, so, you know… count your blessings.)  Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Jesus.  There was an anticipation in the room.  This was the hometown boy.  He grew up in this congregation.  He was a good boy then, and now He’s a clergyman, a rabbi, with disciples of His own.  What will He say?  Will He do us proud?  Undoubtedly.  And, at first, He doesn’t disappoint.  He says an amazing thing that the people don’t fully grasp.  Today,” He says, right now, at this very moment, “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).
            In this statement Jesus sums up our whole Christology, our whole theology of preaching, our theology of the Scriptures, our theology of the Church gathered around the Word of the Lord.  The people seem to have missed the point at first, although perhaps some of the more erudite among them were already scratching their heads at the implications.  Jesus, in saying what He says, is pointing to Himself and saying, “Messiah has come.”  He’s pointing to Himself and saying, “Right here, in the flesh, is the fulfillment of all the hopes of Israel, all the promises of God to His people, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms.  Wait for no further revelation from God.  I’m it!  For the One anointed by the Spirit to preach the Gospel to those who are poor and helpless, to those who are bound up in their sin and death, to those who are stumbling around blindly and desperately in spiritual darkness, to those who are oppressed by the threats and curse of the Law and the very devil himself, that One is here.  I AM.  I am He.” 
           Now, slowly, it began to dawn on the people who were marveling at His gracious words.  Wait a minute?  Is not this Joseph’s son?” (v. 22).  Isn’t this Mary’s boy?  Didn’t we change His diapers?  Where does He get this authority?  And that’s when things go south for the Preacher.  Because He starts to wield the living and active Word of God in such a way that it cuts deep, pierces to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Jesus starts to kill people with His Word.  Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’  What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well” (v. 23).  We came to see you do some miracles, Jesus.  We came to hear an inspiring and heart-warming message.  We came to be empowered to live life to our full potential.  But Jesus denies them what they want.  All He has to give them is death and resurrection.  And here’s the plain truth, Jesus says.  If you don’t want death and resurrection… if you don’t want the Lord’s Christ as He comes to you, in the flesh of a boy from Nazareth, to be killed and raised for your forgiveness, to kill you and raise you to new life with His Word… if you don’t want this Lord and this Word from this Lord, then you don’t have to have it.  I’ll take it to others.  Just as Elijah and Elisha were sent to Gentiles, the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, so I’ll take my Word and my salvation to the nations.  It’s a killing Word of Law that Jesus speaks.  It cuts to the heart.  Believe in me or die eternally.  As is often the fate of preachers, the people seek to kill Him.  They try to throw Him off a cliff.  He miraculously passes through their midst before they even know He’s gone.  His time has not yet come.  But it will.  This is why He came, to be killed by His people, for His people, and for all people… for you.
            That’s a scandalous word.  Jesus Christ came to be killed… by you… for you.  You don’t want to hear that.  You don’t want to hear that you killed the Lord of life.  You don’t want to hear that He had to be killed in order for you to live.  This Word of the cross kills you.  It puts you to death.  It crucifies you.  It takes you back to your Baptism where the Old Adam in you is drowned and dies daily.  It hurts, this Word of the cross.  That’s why there are things in God’s Word that you don’t like.  That’s why sometimes you cringe at the preaching from this pulpit.  Maybe you haven’t thought of throwing me off a cliff.  But you have been upset when God’s Word has cut too close.  So here we go, buckle up for the ride, because I’m about to make everyone in this room hate me.  Though I could name many examples of things that may have upset you, I’ll give you just one which is particularly appropriate on this 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (over 55,000,000 dead since that tragic decision).  I know for a fact that some of you cringe when I preach against the holocaust in this nation that is abortion.  And you do so perhaps because of your political persuasion, or because you know and love someone who has had an abortion, and you want to justify their actions in your mind.  It can’t be done.  Repent.  No one can be justified apart from Christ Jesus.  And this is beyond politics.  This is about the murder of the defenseless, of babies created by God, for whom Christ Jesus died.  On the other hand, I know for a fact that some of you start to feel pretty good about yourselves when I talk about abortion.  You start to feel self-righteous over against “those other people” who think differently than you, who have made mistakes, who have sinned.  Perhaps this is because of your political persuasion, or because you have no experience with the heartache of a woman who has been victimized by a society that offers no other alternative, no other choice, than to destroy her child.  As a result, not only are you full of pride, but you’ve failed to have compassion or to speak the forgiveness of Christ to one riddled with guilt over abortion.  The fact is that the blood of 55,000,000 babies is on all of our hands.  Scandalous things I’m saying here.  And yet the real scandalous thing is this: The only answer for any of it is to kill Jesus.  Christ crucified is the only answer for the 55,000,000 babies and the victimized women and the culture of death.  Christ crucified is the only answer for you, beloved, for idolizing your political party, for seeking justification for yourself and others elsewhere than in Christ, for pride, for lack of compassion and failure to speak the Gospel.  Christ crucified is the only answer.  That, and you have to die.  You have to die to yourself.  God’s Word will do it.  Your old Adam has to be killed.  That’s what Baptism is.  That’s what happens when a preacher comes wielding the sword of God’s Word.  It’s all a big, deadly scandal.  Christ is crucified.  And you die. 
            But God doesn’t leave it there.  Now that you’re dead, which is the ultimate poverty, there is Good News to be proclaimed!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!  And His Word bespeaks you righteous, as we sang in the opening hymn.  His Word forgives all your sins.  Which means His Word raises you to new life.  It happens completely outside of you.  God’s Word comes and takes hold of you, lifts you up, and breathes new life into you.  That, too, is what happens in Baptism.  That’s what happens whenever you encounter God in His Word.  I don’t know why you came today.  Maybe you came to see a miracle.  Maybe you came to hear an inspiring and heart-warming message (boy, were you disappointed!).  Maybe you came to be empowered to live life to its full potential.  I can’t give you any of that, and I won’t.  All I have is the living and active Word of God.  Which is to say, all I have for you is death and resurrection: Christ’s, and yours in Christ.  It’s a powerful Word that kills you and makes you alive.  The Holy Spirit is in that Word to lead you to repentance and faith in Christ.  This is a Word that does what it says.  In fact, Jesus Christ is really present in that Word, speaking you forgiven, speaking you righteous, speaking His Spirit and life into you.  Just as He’s present in the Supper, bodily, with His true body and blood, so He’s present with you in preaching.  I’m just the instrument He plays, the mouthpiece so to speak.  He’s the Preacher.  And if that’s the case (and it is), something amazing is happening right now: You who are poor, who have no righteousness of your own, no merit or worthiness, you are having the Good News preached to you by the very Savior of the world.  You who are captive to sin and death, groping around in Spiritual blindness, oppressed by sin, death, and the devil, to you the Lord Jesus is coming at this very moment to free you and give you sight.  That’s how God’s Word works.  It does what it says.  And that means that today, right now, as we speak, Christ Himself present in His Word, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.  Thank God there are no cliffs in Dorr.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 20, 2013
Text: John 2:1-11

            Times of celebration are marked by enjoyment of God’s abundance.  Today is Confirmation Day and New Member Sunday, and we’ll have cake.  Many of us enjoyed God’s abundance all too abundantly over the recent holidays.  As a result, some will go to the gym, and others of us will buy new pants.  Food and drink, feasting, naturally accompany celebration, even as fasting naturally accompanies repentance.  The people of God have always turned to Him in the day of trouble with fasting and tears, repenting of their sins, but also clinging in hope to His Word of Promise, that He will deliver, He will save, and He will usher in a new Kingdom by sending His beloved Son.  So also, the people of God have always celebrated the joy of the Kingdom by feasting, by enjoying food and drink with Gospel rejoicing and freedom.  And so one of the promises about that Kingdom, one of the indications that that Kingdom has arrived, is abundance of wine.  Listen to this beautiful promise from the Prophet Isaiah: “On this mountain,” Mt. Zion, “the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (25:6; ESV).  Wine gladdens the heart of man, as the Psalmist sings (104:15).  It can even have medicinal qualities, as the latest scientific research attests, and as St. Paul himself points out to Pastor Timothy: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23).  I suspect Paul throws that into his letter, not only for Timothy’s sake, but for those who thought they were somehow holier in God’s sight by denying themselves enjoyment of God’s good gifts.  This is called asceticism, blatant works-righteousness, and it’s a sickness that has infected the holy Christian Church from the beginning.  If all this talk about wine as a good thing is making you uncomfortable, repent.  Just read the Bible on this… you’ll be scandalized!  Wine is a good gift from God, to be enjoyed responsibly and with thanksgiving, and it is, in fact, a very clear indicator of God’s salvation delivered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Not only do we drink wine at the altar, wine which Jesus says is His true blood, but if we can believe the Bible (and I hope you’ll agree, we can), we’ll be drinking wine in heaven!  The unending celebration of the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, the wedding of Christ and His Church, is marked with feasting and drinking.  The Lord’s Supper is but a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. 
            So it is that Jesus attends a wedding feast with His disciples in Cana of Galilee.  His mother is apparently a guest of some standing.  Perhaps the happy couple is related to Jesus.  In any case, Jesus blesses it with His presence.  It is a lavish affair.  Jewish weddings typically lasted a whole week.  Seven days of feasting.  Can you imagine hosting a week-long wedding reception?  But there is a crisis at this particular wedding.  The wine has run out.  It is a great embarrassment.  I’m not sure we 21st Century Americans understand what a catastrophe this is.  This breaks all the rules of ancient near-eastern hospitality.  It shows a lack of planning, a lack of care, a lack of celebratory solemnity.  This is more than a party foul.  We want these kids to start off their married life on the right foot, after all.  And Mary knows what to do.  She brings the need to the attention of her Son.  What is amazing about this is that Jesus has not yet performed a miracle.  She knows He’s special.  She remembers the prophecies, the shepherds, the wise men, all the things she has pondered in her heart for the last thirty years.  She doesn’t know what He’ll do, or how He’ll do it, but she knows she can trust Him with it.  And in this, Mary becomes our model of faith.  In the day of trouble, we, too, call upon Jesus.  We don’t know what He’ll do, or how He’ll do it, but we know He will deliver us, because He promised it (Ps. 50:15).
            It’s frustrating, though, not knowing what He’ll do or how He’ll do it.  It would be much easier to prescribe the solution for Him, to tell Him what we want done, and how and when we want it done.  But that’s now our place, as Jesus makes clear to His mother in the text.  He’s almost rude, isn’t He?  Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4).  It’s as if He said to His mother, “Why should I care, woman?  And why do you care?  It’s none of our business.  Be quiet and sit down.”  What is the meaning of this strange response on the part of the Savior? 
            Jesus is Mary’s Son, and as her Son He perfectly fulfills the 4th Commandment.  He honors Mary and Joseph, serves and obeys them, loves and cherishes them, perfectly, in our place.  You and I have not honored our parents and other authorities as we should.  Jesus fulfills the Commandment for us, even as He takes our sin against this Commandment to the cross, where He dies for our forgiveness.  So the point is, Jesus is not a know-it-all kid smarting off to His mom.  Remember that Jesus is also Mary’s God, the only-begotten Son of the Father.  Jesus makes His response to Mary as her God.  And isn’t that what God so often does to us?  We come to Him with our problems, and He lets us suffer it for a little while.  He lets us bear the holy cross.  Sometimes it seems like God is rebuking us.  Sometimes it seems like He’s giving us the silent treatment.  He doesn’t always immediately remove the thorn in the flesh, but He says to us, as He said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  Sometimes He waits awhile before He gives us relief.  Sometimes relief comes only at our physical death, when we die and go to heaven.  He does this to bring us to the end of ourselves.  We’re so deluded.  We think we’re self-sufficient.  We think we can work things out on our own.  We think we can save ourselves.  The reality is, though, that not only can we not do it on our own, we can’t do it at all.  We can’t contribute in the least to our salvation.  We’re absolutely helpless.  Even our good works are damnable sins in the sight of God, filthy rags as Isaiah says (64:6).  Suffering leads us to despair of ourselves.  It acts as God’s Law to kill us so that He can raise us to new life in the Gospel of His Son.  God leaves us with no resources within ourselves so that He alone will be our help, our salvation, our joy, and so that we fall helplessly into His hands in faith that He will deliver.
            So what does Mary say to the servants after Jesus rebukes her?  Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).  He’ll take care of it.  And He does.  Six stone water jars are present for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding about twenty or thirty gallons.  Fill them with water, Jesus commands the servants.  They do.  And then, at Jesus’ command, they serve some to the master of the feast.  It’s the best wine he’s ever tasted, and he’s tasted some!  No box wine for Jesus.  This is vintage promise fulfilled, a feast of well-aged wine, well refined.  It’s a miracle, a “sign” as John calls it, Jesus’ first (v. 11).  The disciples recognize the prophecy fulfilled.  They experience an epiphany.  They believe.  This man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, is the Son of God.
            And notice how the Lord gives His gifts.  He bestows His gifts in rich measure, the very best, on people He knows will abuse those gifts.  He gives the best wine to drunks.  And yes, for all the good things I’ve said about wine, remember that drunkenness is sin.  It is an abuse of God’s good gift.  Jesus gives the best wine to drunks whose taste buds are unable to recognize and appreciate it.  That’s just how our God works.  He gives rich food to gluttons who will have to buy new pants.  He gives His grace to sinners who are unworthy.  We don’t deserve it.  It is by grace, apart from works, apart from deserving, so that no one can boast. 
            In fact, this whole event points us toward a greater reality that defies all reason.  Our Lord Jesus takes for Himself a Bride who has sold herself into prostitution.  He takes for Himself a Bride who cheats on Him with every lover crossing her path.  He takes for Himself a Bride who has despised Him, rejected Him, blasphemed Him.  So great is His love for her, He dies for her, to make her His own once again.  That Bride is the Church.  That Bride is you.  For all your sins, for all your unfaithfulness, for all your abusing of God’s good gifts, for your drunkenness and addictions, for all your despising of your parents and other authorities, for your rejection of God and His Word… Jesus dies.  To make you His own.  He cleanses you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He washes all of that filth away in His blood.  He gives you His righteousness as a gift.  He gives you eternal life in His death and resurrection.  Because as Your husband, everything that is His is yours.  As His wife, everything that is yours is His.  He takes what is yours and nails it to His cross.  He gives you what is His, His eternal life and righteousness, in words and water and bread and wine.  This is the feast of victory for our God.  It is a great wedding celebration.  The Table is set and the very best wine flows, His blood, shed for sinners, shed for you.  Mary tells you what to do: Do whatever He says.  And what He says is this: “Come, my beloved.  The feast is prepared.  Come and eat and drink and be merry in Me.  For my delight is in you (Is. 62:4).  You are my beloved, because I have said so.  And in Me, the very Kingdom of God has arrived.”  So, dear friends, let us lift the cup of salvation (Ps. 116:13) and drink to that.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.           

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2013
Text: Matt. 2:1-12

            Christmas is all about the ponderous mystery that God is born a Man.  Epiphany is all about the ponderous mystery that this Man is God.  Both Christmas and Epiphany are about the ponderous mystery that God has come in the flesh to save His people, all people, from their sins, including you and me.  Merry 13th Day of Christmas, the Epiphany of our Lord.
            The word “Epiphany” means “manifestation” or “revelation.”  Epiphany is the revelation of the ponderous mystery.  Today we hear and sing about God in Man made manifest.  God is one of us, and in the flesh of Jesus Christ He reveals Himself as a God for us, the God who does something about our sin and death… He dies for it.  Throughout the Epiphany Season we’ll get glimpses of who this Man is who is born for us, who dies on the cross for our sins, and who is now risen from the dead.  He’s God, as we’ll see with unmistakable clarity next Sunday when we observe the Baptism of our Lord, the Spirit descending upon Him as a dove and the voice of the Father from heaven declaring to Jesus: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22; ESV).  The next Sunday we’ll witness our Lord bless a marriage, making water into wine, something only God can do, a sure sign that He is the promised Messiah.  We’ll hear Him in the weeks ahead preaching good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, life to those dead in their trespasses and sins.  We’ll behold Him casting out demons, stamping out the devil’s kingdom.  And finally, on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and Lent, we’ll behold Him on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, with Moses and Elijah, as His divinity shines brilliantly through His humanity in the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when once again the Father declares to us all: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).  Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus Christ is God.
            All of this has been revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.  We have the scriptural testimony in abundance, especially in the New Testament.  But what is amazing is that some pagan astrologers, magi, students of the world’s wisdom, knew on the basis of Hebrew prophecy that when a certain star arose in the heavens (undoubtedly it was spectacular), then the King of the Jews, the Messiah had been born.  Magi, wise men, who were they?  We have no idea how many came, in spite of the tradition that there were three.  There may have been many more.  They came from the East, probably Persia, modern day Iran.  The East was known for its magi, and among them were some faithful worshipers of God, including the Prophet Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  I suppose since this is the case, it’s not all that surprising that the magi had some knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures.  But what was the prophecy about the star?  It’s an obscure passage from the book of Numbers, when Baalam was supposed to curse the Israelites, but ended up blessing them instead.  There he said: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).  Perhaps they also knew the prophecy of Isaiah in our Old Testament lesson: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Is. 60:1).  The light of the star was the sure indication that the glory of the LORD, His Christ, had come.  And Isaiah goes on in the same chapter to prophesy the coming of the magi: “A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.  They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD” (v. 6).
            So it is that the magi found the little Lord Jesus in a house in Bethlehem, with Mary, His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him (Matt. 2:11).  Beholding the Savior, they were no longer pagans.  Now they were Christians, and the good news was made manifest that this Savior is not for the Jews alone, but also for us Gentiles, for the whole world.  It was an epiphany.  The magi, beholding Jesus, now beheld true wisdom… foolishness in the eyes of the world, but the very wisdom of God who became a little baby, who became a man for us men and for our salvation.  And they brought Him gifts: Gold, for He is, after all, a King, the King of the Jews, and the King of the universe; frankincense, the incense offered to God in the Temple, for He is, after all, God the Son; and then myrrh.  Now that’s an interesting one.  It’s a burial spice.  This gift is a prophecy of our Lord’s death and burial.  All three gifts are a testament of our Lord’s identity.  Jesus is Lord, the King, our God in the flesh, come to die for our sins.
            The Savior’s future is written in the stars, so to speak, or in the star, anyway.  For at the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the prophetic Scriptures, the magi follow the star to Judea.  They upset all Jerusalem with their talk about the One born King of the Jews.  They upset murderous Herod who is paranoid of kingly competition.  So from the very beginning, our Lord Jesus is a marked man.  “Where is the Christ to be born?” Herod asks the chief priests and scribes of the people.  In Bethlehem of Judea, as it is written in the Prophet Micah.  Go, dear magi, “search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him” (v. 8).  But Herod is duplicitous.  It is not worship he plans, but a bloodbath.  So what happens when the wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but to depart to their own country by another way?  Herod orders the cold blooded murder of every boy in Bethlehem two years old and younger.  A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (v. 18).  But don’t be too surprised.  We do the same thing here in America.  It’s called abortion.  The heartless idolatry of fallen man knows no bounds. 
            That’s why Jesus had to die.  He escaped Herod’s sword that time.  But only because it was not yet the time appointed.  Jesus came to die.  Jesus came to die for you.  He came to die for your inability to believe the Scriptures as the pagan magi did, your refusal to place yourself under God’s Word, to take your mind captive to Holy Writ, to be molded and shaped by the Word made flesh as He reveals Himself to you in the Old and New Testaments.  He came to die for your despising of preaching and God’s Word and His blessed Sacrament, your willingness to do just about anything other than kneel before the Child of Bethlehem, Mary’s Son, and worship Him by receiving His gifts to you.  He came to die for your greed and miserliness, your reluctance to yield up your time, your talents, your treasures for your Lord, as the wise men did who gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh, along with their very selves and their sin.  He came to die for you, and for abortionists, and for babies who are murdered, and mothers who didn’t know they had any other choice.  He came to die for Herod, and if Herod had only known that and believed it, he would be in heaven today with the Holy Innocents.  Beloved, Jesus Christ came to die for you and for the magi and for all people, for the forgiveness of all of your sins, whatever those sins might be.  The Epiphany is that God loves you in spite of your sin, that He delivers you from your sin by sending His Son, God in the flesh, to die for you on the cross, that you might live.
            The popular saying is that “wise men still seek Him.”  But the saying gets it backwards.  The surprise ending of the whole account is that, in spite of the fact that the magi travelled many miles to find the newborn King, it was, finally, Jesus who found them.  He sought them by His Spirit in His Word back in their homeland.  He brought them to Bethlehem.  They brought Him gifts, but the greater gift was that which Jesus gave to them.  His life for theirs.  Eternal life in His death and resurrection.  And, as it turns out, it is not that wise men seek Him.  It is that He makes men wise unto salvation, with the foolishness of God, the ponderous mystery, that this Man is God, that God dies on a cross, that the Man who is God has been raised from the dead and gives you eternal resurrection life.  Merry 13th Day of Christmas.  A blessed Epiphany of Our Lord.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Wedding Sermon

The Wedding of Dan Smith and Gayle Krenz
January 5, 2013
Text: Gen. 1-3

            It was Friday of Creation Week.  God spoke His creative Word: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26; ESV).  So from the dust of the ground God formed a man, Adam, and breathed into him the breath of life.  But in this otherwise good creation, there was found to be something that was “not good.”  It is not good that the man should be alone” (2:18).  For God, who has fellowship within Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, made man in His image, to be in fellowship, relationship, communion.  It is not good for a man to be alone.  So God spoke again: “I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Thus He caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, and from his side God formed a woman made especially for Adam, corresponding to him in every way, Eve, the mother of all the living.  God brought her to the man, and he said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (v. 23).  Man was no longer alone.  God instituted Holy Matrimony and gave it as a gift to the man in the person of his wife Eve.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).  As that Friday came to a conclusion, God saw everything that He had made, including the man and the woman living together in love and faithfulness, “and behold, it was very good” (1:31).  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
            On the seventh day, God rested, and that’s when tragedy struck.  God had given all creation for the man and his wife to enjoy, but there was a boundary, the observance of which was divine worship: Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Trust me on this one, God said.  You know the good.  You don’t want to know the evil.  If you eat of this fruit, you will surely die.  God had warned them.  But the devil never rests.  He slithered over and directed Eve’s attention to the forbidden fruit.  Eat of this, my dear, and you’ll be like God.  You’ll know good and evil.  You’ll determine your own course.  You won’t surely die.  Look, the fruit is beautiful and good for food.  So Eve took some, and she ate.  And Adam, the dope, was standing there the whole time, forsaking his divine vocation as head of the human household and preacher of God’s Word.  Eve gave some to Adam, and he ate.  Their eyes were opened.  They knew the good they had once enjoyed.  And now they knew evil, and it was them.  They were naked, ashamed, exposed.  They had sinned.  They had forsaken God.  They had made themselves gods, and impotent gods at that.  To be sure, they didn’t drop dead physically.  But they died spiritually.  They broke off their relationship with God.  They began to die physically.  They began to age and deteriorate.  And their consciences were painfully aware of the sentence for their crime: eternal death.  They were damned.  They turned against one another.  They blamed one another.  Their own relationship was broken.  Their children were doomed to repeat their mistakes in perpetuity.  There would be brokenness and disease and death now in the fallen creation.  Mankind was in bondage to sin and sentenced to death.  It was not good.  It was very, very bad.  And all was hopeless.  That is to say, until God stepped in.  Once again, God spoke, and His speaking was a Word of promise.  There will be a Savior from God, an Offspring of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head.  How?  By suffering the mortal wound of the serpent’s fang.
            It was Friday of Holy Week.  With deadly venom, the serpent struck the woman’s Offspring, the Son of Mary, the Son of God.  The sinless One, falsely charged, mocked, beaten, and crowned with thorns, was led to the hill outside the city and nailed to a cross.  The devil rejoiced as the Savior was lifted up, laughed at every twinge of pain and drop of blood, as the guilt of the whole world was heaped upon the Lord’s Christ.  But then, much to the serpent’s surprise, God spoke: “It is finished” (John 19:30), and all at once sin and death and hell were at an end.  The serpent’s head was crushed.  The Lord Jesus bowed His head and gave up his spirit.  He died the death of man on behalf of man that man might live eternally.  The relationship with God is healed, the tragedy of Eden undone.  His cross has become a life-giving tree for all who eat of its fruit, trusting in Him.  God and man are reconciled.  For God caused the Lord Jesus to fall into a deep sleep, the sleep of death, and from His side fashioned for His Son a holy Bride, the Church.  Water and blood poured forth as the soldier’s spear rent the Savior’s flesh, the water of the font from which the Church is born in Holy Baptism, the blood of the chalice from which the Church is nourished in the Holy Supper.  In other words, from the side of Christ, our New Adam, God fashioned His holy Bride, the Church, of whom you are a member.  This reality, beloved, is your reality.
            So it is that two Fridays go into the making of this Saturday upon which God here joins together a man and his wife.  The Lord Jesus has broken the curse and made you God’s own.  All is now full of joy and hope and life.  United to Christ, you can be united to one another in Holy Matrimony, taking your rest in Him this Saturday and every day henceforth.  This, even though the creation still groans with sadness and suffering and pain, awaiting her final deliverance.  There will be struggle and opportunity for confession and forgiveness in this, as in any other marriage.  There will be ups and downs and joys and heartaches.  Nevertheless, the old order of things is passing away.  You rest in Jesus and in one another.  And tomorrow is the first day of the new week, your first day as man and wife.  Fitting, for the Sunday after the Friday of Holy Week is the first day of the New Creation.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He lives!  He lives in love and faithfulness with His Bride the Church, pouring out joy on husbands and wives who serve in faith as icons, as living pictures of our Lord’s self-giving love and the Church’s holy submission to her Head.  God still speaks, today declaring you husband and wife.  God still speaks, forgiving your sins and breathing into you the breath of life, His Holy Spirit.  God still speaks in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, declaring: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).  And behold, it is very good.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.