Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (A)

January 26, 2014
Text: Matt. 4:12-25

            What the Prophet Isaiah writes of the world of his time is just as true of the world in our time: “behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples” (Is. 60:2; ESV).  It is the darkness of unbelief.  It is the darkness of sin and death.  It is the darkness of demonic deception.  The whole world was plunged head-long into that darkness when our first parents, Adam and Eve, took that first forbidden taste.  And you know that darkness.  For it is not just out there, in the world, in the terror and tragedies reported on the evening news.  It is in you.  It is in your heart and soul.  It is in your mind and body.  It is in your thoughts and desires, your words and your deeds.  It is the siren song of the unbelieving world.  It is your own sinful flesh.  It leads you by the hand down its dark paths.  It turns you inward.  It turns you away from others.  It wreaks havoc on your relationships.  It hurts others.  It destroys you.  And worst of all, it separates you from God.  And so you hate that darkness with every fiber of the new creation that is you in Baptism.  But you cannot free yourself from its enveloping grip.  There is no light within you that can dispel it.  The light must come from outside of you.  The only Light that can dispel this darkness is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. 
            And He comes.  That is the great Good News proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah, and fulfilled by Jesus in our Holy Gospel: “the people dwelling in darkness,” that’s you and me, “have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,” again, you and me, “on them a light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16).  The Light is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coming into the world, in the flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, coming right into our darkness and bearing it, bearing our sin, bearing our death, bearing our brokenness, and taking it to the cross to nail it there, killing it, and burying it in His tomb forever.  Jesus Christ is the only Light that can dispel the darkness once and for all.  As St. John writes, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  So victorious is our Lord Jesus over the darkness that He marches freely and willingly right into the darkness of death for you and for me, and that darkness cannot contain Him.  Even there the Light dispels the darkness, for Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  And He will raise you, too, on the Last Day, in your body, and in the meantime, He gives you eternal life now, in your Baptism into Him. 
            It’s not just that the Light came into the darkness long ago, when Christ was born, when He was visibly present in His earthly ministry.  That is certainly true, and it is true on a cosmic level.  That is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  But so also Jesus Christ, your Light, comes to you right here and now, today, in the very midst of your darkness.  He does it in His Word preached.  In fact, that is how He spread His Light in His earthly ministry, as recorded in our Holy Gospel.  What did Jesus do in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy?  He began to preach.  That is what St. Matthew tells us: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 4:17).  Repent, which is to say, confess that you are in darkness and unable to do anything about it.  Confess your sin.  Confess your doubt.  Confess your dying and death.  And then know for certain this glorious Good News that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Not just near, as some English translations have it.  That gives the impression that it isn’t quite here yet.  No, the Kingdom is at hand, the Kingdom has arrived, it is upon you, it is right here, right now, in the flesh, in the person of the Savior who preaches and is preached.  So for you in your darkness, the cure for your darkness is right here where Jesus is preached for the forgiveness of your sins.
            So often when we feel the pervasive and engulfing darkness all around us, the devil deceives us so that we think the last place we should be is at Church.  Maybe he has convinced us that we aren’t worthy to be here, as if the Church were anything other than a hospital for sinners, as if it is only the healthy who need a physician and not the sick, as if the Savior came only to call the righteous (whoever they are) and not sinners.  Or perhaps the devil has convinced us that being at Church won’t really help anyway, as if the Church is some dispensary of advice that may or may not apply instead of the House of God where the living Lord Jesus Christ is really present for us with His Word and with His Body and Blood, to forgive our sins, to heal our very real maladies, and to give us life eternal and abundant.  Maybe we are afraid that Church will make us feel bad about ourselves, because we know that the Word of God has this way of exposing our sin, dragging it out of the darkness, shining the Light of Christ upon it, so that it must be dealt with in repentance and the blood-soaked forgiveness of our crucified Savior.  The devil twists this in our minds into bad news instead of good.  Because it is a painful experience.  Like life-saving surgery, it is always good news when it can be performed, but it isn’t a pleasant experience.  The plain fact is that, though we loathe the darkness, we are, by nature, more comfortable in the dark than in the light, as St. John puts it in his Gospel: “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
            But this is the radical thing that Jesus does when He is in our midst.  He takes the darkness and makes it light.  And that is to create something out of nothing.  What is darkness?  It is not a substance.  It is rather an absence, an absence of light.  Light is something.  Light is made of particles.  Light is made of rays.  And where there is light, there is no darkness.  The two do not go together.  You cannot have nothing where there is something.  Darkness only exists where light is deficient or not present.  So when the perfect Light that is Jesus Christ comes into your darkness, the darkness cannot abide.  It’s gone.  Where there was nothing, there is now something.  Where there was sin, there is now righteousness.  Where there was Judgment, there is now forgiveness.  Where there was death, there is now life.  Where the devil once reigned, the Kingdom of heaven is at hand in the person of Jesus, who has snatched you from the devil and made you His own to live under Him in His Kingdom.  And this has far reaching consequences for all the places the darkness has wreaked havoc and destruction in your life.  This Light now claims your heart and soul, your mind and body for Himself.  As He called Andrew and Simon, James and John, to be His disciples, to follow Him, so He calls you to be His disciples, to follow Him, to hear and believe His preaching and teaching, and to confess His Name as fishers of men.  He reconciles you to God.  As Jesus went about healing diseases and afflictions and casting out demons, so He brings health and healing to you, spiritually now, and maybe even physically, although that is not the promise…  The promise is complete spiritual and Physical restoration and healing in the Resurrection of the dead.  And, of course, where Jesus is, the demons must flee. If you acknowledge that the devil and his demons are real, and if you know that they delight to bring you into this darkness, then I’ll tell you this: You must come to Church when they are oppressing you.  You must flee to the Word of Christ and His Sacrament when the darkness envelops you.  There is no other place to be than where Christ is for you!  For there the demons and the darkness cannot abide.
            For this Light brings you out of the darkness, out of yourself, and turns you (repents you!) toward God in faith in His mercy, and toward your neighbor in love.  That means it will even help you in your relationships.  The Light of Christ turns a husband toward his wife in such a way that he gives himself up for her, as Christ gave Himself up into death for the Church in love.  It turns a wife toward her husband in such a way that she willingly submits to him in love and humility, as the Church submits to Christ.  It turns the hearts of parents toward their children, and children toward their parents.  It turns your heart to forgive as you have been forgiven.  It turns your heart to mercy, as you have been shown mercy.  Because where all these things did not exist in the nothingness that is the darkness, they now exist in the very real something that is the Light of Christ, which is His gift to you.

            So, beloved, Good News this morning: “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light [Christ!], and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light [Christ!] has dawned.”  It is happening right now in the preaching, and it will happen in a few moments in the Holy Supper.  Christ, your Light, now rises upon you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.             


Blogger ellen boyce said...

Thanks for the Word. I am learning so much about Christ's death. A new comprehension of how he died for the sins of the world...past , present and future. I am baptized into His death. Through forgiveness all those awful things I loved through have been buried and they no longer exist! They cannot hurt me any more. They are gone.

The Scriptures open wide to me. Every page is strengthening me in the Gospel. God's Word is amazing...beyond words and I am drinking the Water of Life!

3:14 PM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Amen. Thanks Ellen.

4:04 PM  

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