Thursday, March 29, 2012
To drink His cup... and enter His baptism...
Today is both the Annunciation of our Lord, the commemoration of the visit of the angel to Mary when our Lord was conceived within her womb, and the fifth Sunday in Lent. The Sundays in Lent take precedence. The traditional name for the fifth Sunday in Lent is Judica; it comes from the traditional Introit of the day: "Judge me, O God." I think most of us would rather talk about the event that comes nine months before Christmas than inviting God's scrutiny over us. But here we are in Lent, calling God to judge us.
Who would dare invite the scrutiny of God over our lives? Why we have forgotten more sins than we remembered to confess. Who would be foolish enough to ask the IRS to take a second look at your income tax return? That is exactly what this Sunday is all about but we are not the ones asking for God's judgment. Jesus is! He is headed to Jerusalem with a face like flint to face the judgment of God for our sin. Who dares to face sin and death square in the face? Not me. Not you. But Jesus is determined to face them for us – even if it means His death.
The disciples did not get it. They were too busy daydreaming about glory while Jesus spoke of His coming betrayal, death, and resurrection. They did not hear Jesus say: "I am going to die..." Blinded by dreams of glory, they were focused on who would get the good seats in glory, the places of honor in heaven, looking down from on high on the common saints below? They were so focused on this glory, they did not hear Jesus speak of the glory of the cross.
What about us? Which glory is our focus? Are we just as blinded by the dreams of present glory that we miss the glory of the cross? Blind to the glory of His suffering and death, are we as caught up in the moment as those disciples of old?
The truth is our focus is always on the present moment. We are always asking Jesus to do this for us or give us that – as if these things were the most important things of life. We treat the things of the moment as if they were the greatest treasures and then we treat the gift of heaven as if it were a dollar store trinket. It is simply the nature of our sin blinded hearts that we suffer from the short sighted vision that sees today clearly but eternity only darkly.
Like the disciples of old, we are always tempted to choose the happiness of the moment over the eternal contentment and peace Jesus has come to give. But Jesus loves us enough to awaken our hearts and minds to the glory of the cross. He loves us enough to point us to the cross even when we don’t fully understand what we are looking at.
James and John did not hear Jesus talk about the cross but they knew well enough that Jesus had the power to do mighty things. When they asked for seats of glory, the other disciples kicked themselves for not also asking Jesus to make their dreams come true. Jesus could have dismissed the whole thing as foolishness but He took James and John seriously. "Are you able to drink My cup or be baptized with My baptism? Asked Jesus. Just as blindly, James and John insist they are ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to get what they want. They did not realize that Jesus' cup and His baptism were the cross and death He had spoken about.
Jesus loves us so much that He sends us His Spirit to break the binders of sin. He not only awakens us to the eternal things of His kingdom. He offers us eternal things in this present moment. He allows us to drink from His cup and to be baptized with His baptism – not as a Savior who dies for the sins of the world but as the saved who receive what His death has won and as those baptized into His death to receive His gift of life.
None of us can die for the sins of the whole world but all of us will surely die. Each of us will face the scrutiny of God's judgement. Either we die alone and face God's judgment alone or we die in baptism our death with Christ to rise with Him to new life and we face God's judgment wearing the new clothing of Christ's righteousness in that baptism. None us will drink the cup of death for sin on a cross but in Christ we come today to drink Christ’s cup and receive the blessing won on that cross in forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Jesus dares to invite the judgment of God for our sin upon His shoulders. He willingly walks to the death of the cross for you and for me and for our salvation. We who share baptism into His death and who drink here the cup of His blood stand with Him both as the recipients of all that He won for us and as His people sent forth in His name to serve others as He has served us.
Apart from Christ the only glory there is empty glory, false dreams, and illusions that never come true. In Christ we have the true glory. From the cross His glory shines to us. It is not the glory of our dreams but the greater glory of His gift. He gives us the privilege not only of receiving its gift, but bearing that gift in cross shaped lives toward our neighbors. We daily die to self and rise up in Christ to manifest this profound love back to the Father from whence it came and out to the world for whom Christ also died.
That brings us back right back to Judica, to those who invite God's judgment and scrutiny upon them. In Christ we have no fear of God’s judgment or His scrutiny. Baptized in Christ, we rise up in righteousness to stand before Him and serve Him. Drinking the cup of Christ in this Holy Supper we are made new through forgiveness. As the baptized and those who drink from Christ’s cup, the Lord recognizes us as His own... for today.... and for eternity. Amen.