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St. Luke 21: 25-36
December 9, 2018 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ will come in glory and for those unprepared it will be horrific. The sight will fill them with fear. To be prepared to see Christ then in His glory you must see His glory now hidden in the Sacrament. Heaven must be shaken by this miracle and opened up so that you see the Son of Man, crucified but risen, standing as your Advocate before the Father, claiming you as His own, and feeding you with His own Body, that you may revere Him.
Moses was not permitted to enter the promised land, but the Lord’s mercy did enable him to view it from a distance. We have not yet been admitted to heavenly glory, but the Lord’s mercy enables us to see by faith the heavenly country that surrounds us already now. We see angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven by faith. They are gathered with us around Christ in His risen Body and Blood. There we revere and adore our Savior.
Our present sight is by faith. It is not yet what it will be. We do not yet see God face to face with our eyes. One day we will. And though we see now through a glass darkly, our present sight is not insufficient or flawed. We fear the God whose glory we see in His Word. We believe what He says of Himself. We stand in awe and respect of Him, fearing the loss of His affection or disappointing Him.
Our sight was foretold by Isaiah. He said: “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty; they will see a land that stretches afar” (Isaiah 33:17 ESV). Baptism is an illumination. It bestows the Holy Spirit who enables us to see the Face of God as He is crucified for the sins of the world. His beauty is not in the majesty of the mountains and the expanse of the sea. His beauty is where there was no comeliness. It is His weakness and self-giving. The cross is His beauty. For there He brings us into the glory of His mercy. Baptism raises us up as new beings with God’s own Name upon us. His birthright as our inheritance. It takes away the scales from our fallen reason and allows us to see Him and to kneel before His cross in fear.
Such claims strike unbelievers as crass mysticism and fantasy. They can see only bread and wine, a bit of water, a man long dead on a cross. They do not know the fear of sons but only slaves. They fear punishment. The only evil they recognize is pain. The only good is pleasure or happiness. But we are Baptized into Christ’s resurrection. We are not slaves. Jesus lives and we are His sons.
Some Christians refuse to see God’s glory on the cross and in the Sacrament. They do not recognize the presence of Christ in His Church as a Man, in His Body. They think His Words foretell only a disembodied, spiritual reality, as though His Body were stuck in the grave or trapped in heaven and kept from His Bride or He only seemed to be a Man or has ceased to be a Man. I suspect this is behind most of the dislike of crucifixes. It is anti-resurrection for it does not want Jesus with a Body. They like their Messiah as an abstraction instead of a Man. They fear Him but they are denied the comfort of His cross for they think of glory in worldly terms. They do not see Him in His beauty, God in the Flesh crucified. So also they see or receive the risen Man, forever co-joined in the Messiah to the Divine Nature, who gives Himself to us in His Body as a Bridegroom and as Food. But we do.
We see the glory of His humiliation. We are drawn to the cross like eagles to a Body. This is not simply a metaphor for a spiritual reality. We actually eat His Body and drink His Blood and are there joined to Him, forgiven our sins, and have our faith strengthened. We see the glory of His love that has not abandoned us or gone to spirit form. He is not an idea or a ghost. He comes to us as a Body, as a Man, bound to His Divine Nature, and hidden in humble bread. And we rejoice.
In this way we are prepared for what all men will see on the Last Day. The Lord tells us “
There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
If you do not see Christ’s glory now hidden in the Sacrament, if heaven is not shaken now by this miracle and opened up so that you see the Son of Man, crucified but risen, standing as your Advocate before the Father, claiming you as His own, and feeding you with His own Body, then you are ill-prepared to rejoice when His glory is revealed on the Last Day. Even if you do not fear God now, you will fear Him then and those who are unprepared will faint for fear.
If you are accustomed to seeing Him by faith and eating Him in faith and reverencing Him in the humble ways and things in which He comes now, then the Last Day will be a vision of beauty and a glorious vindication that your faith was right, your God true. His coming in glory will not take you as a thief for you expect it. Neither will it be strange or unusual. Rather it will be that for which you’ve been practicing and already enjoying your entire life.
Thus says the Lord When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
This sermon owes some its thoughts and language to the sermon “Reverence, a Belief in God’;s Presence” by John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 5 (London; Oxford; Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1868), 13-28.