Tuesday, April 2, 2013
How long. . .
Like restless children, we are impatient. How long? We ask. The only things that take too long are the things not in our control. Jesus is clear. The Kingdom of God will come in God's own timing. Until that day when all that is will be folded into what is to come, we wait but we wait around the means of grace, the Word and Sacraments. Jesus will not eat or drink again until the Kingdom comes but that is the wait of faith, the waiting of the people of God around the Table of the Lord. We wait best by eating the food of His flesh and drinking the cup of His blood.
How long will talk of sin and forgiveness dominate everything in Church? Until the Lord comes again, we meet Him always as His sinful but repentant children. We come to Him through confession and absolution to have our dirt removed, to be made clean again, and to be restored to righteousness through the voice of the Gospel.
And that is exactly where we meet each other. Wearing this clothing of flesh and blood means we will not progress past sin or outgrow the need of absolution – neither before God nor with one another. So we meet each other where we meet God. As those who come confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness, whether once or seven times or seventy times seven. How long? Until we sinners are raised up to heaven.
How long must we come to be stirred up to do good works, to be recalled from our detours away from the House and Table of the Lord? When will the day come when we do not grow weary, become distracted, or fail to need to be renewed and refreshed in the holy purpose of bearing God's fruit in our daily lives? Not until Christ comes again.
Just as God must daily reclaim us, so we must daily reclaim each other. What God did for us, we do for others in His name. Like Cain and Abel we must be reminded that we are our brother's keeper. As God has acted to seek us our, reclaim us, and restore us to righteousness in Christ, so is the work of the Church a never ending work of seeking the lost, reclaiming the wanderer, and restoring those who have exchanged Christ's holiness for the filthy rags of sin and rebellion. All so that none may be lost, as much as we can help it, anyway.
Holy long will we meet at this table to eat the food of Christ's body and blood? There is no exact date. This is where we meet the Lord until the Kingdom of God comes and this meal gives way to heaven's banquet feast. This is the place where salvation may be found until that day finally gives way to the day of judgment. Once Israel grew weary of the Passover and it became an empty ritual to them. That is the great danger among us as well – to define our spirituality and the center of our piety in some other locus than this place where Christ feeds us His flesh and gives us His blood to drink. When the Passover was fulfilled in Christ, the Jews were caught unawares; they had long ago given up hope of its fulfillment. Let it not happen to us. Let us remain vigorous in the faith and in the eating and drinking of this Holy Supper until Christ comes again.
Here is where we meet the Lord. Here is where His Spirit is at work in the means of grace. Here is where we find and have our identity as the children of God renewed. Here is where God meets us as He has promised. And it is here the Church comes, seeking the Lord where and while He may be found, while mercy is offered and judgment withheld.
Until the Kingdom of God comes to completion, this is where we come. Sinners to repentance, the weary stirred up to good works, the wanderers reclaimed, and hungry and thirsty fed and nourished upon the Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The house of the Lord and His table are not optional. God is here. Rich with salvation. Until He comes, this eating and drinking is also our witness to those who have fallen away and to the world that does not yet know Him. But the day is coming and is nearer still when all you see will be replaced by heaven's reality. Do not lose heart. Do not give up. Do not fall. Come... eat and drink. Until the Kingdom is fully come, this is our hope and our home.
There are many who believe that the book of Hebrews is actually a sermon from the early church. If that is the case, it certainly reaffirms the ongoing temptation before us and the ongoing need and life of the Church. Listen again.
15The Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
17then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.