Lent 5 2003

April 6, 2003 A+D
St. John 8:42-59

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Before Abraham was; before the tides waxed and waned or the continents were set into place; before any sound was heard or light was seen; before Aids and drugs and gangs and kidnapings; before racism and pedophilia; before armies, tanks, and cruise missiles; before divorce and single moms and latch-key children; before prozac, risperdol, or viagra; before heartbreak, loneliness, and depression; before anything; before everything: Jesus is. Not Jesus was. But Jesus is.

He is the great I AM, always in the present tense, without beginning or end. He is the One-in-Three that spoke from the bush that burned but was not consumed to make His people free, to deliver them from slavery. He is Alpha and Omega, the Creative Word of the Father’s Spirit, Love in the Flesh, who called all things that are to be. He is Mary’s Son and Mary’s Lord, the Lamb of God forsaken by and destroyed in Holy Wrath for sins that He did not commit and vindicated alive again and victorious out of the grave! Thus He rules at the right hand of His Father and sends His Holy Spirit. The nations are His inheritance.

But this is hard for men of fallen flesh. They think themselves more than they are. Malcontent, they are purposely deaf and blind for things they do not wish to hear or see. They do not want to be made small. They prefer the delusion that they are mighty, worthy of praise, and in control; that their thoughts and labors are lasting and important. Thus men erect monuments and wage war.

But worse still, worse than the terrible power and vastness of God, the smallness and trivial existence of man, is the mystery that this Almighty Creator would humble Himself to become One of us, even the weakest and seemingly most insignificant of us at that! If God would become Man than at least He should be the best that man is, the most beautiful, the strongest, the smartest, the most revered and honored. But this mere carpenter’s apprentice, of lowly birth, dares to stand before the rulers of Israel and tell them that despite appearance He is not only greater than they, but He is greater than any other man that ever walked the earth, greater even than Abraham! In His lowliness He represents them. They know an insult when they hear it.

So they do not rejoice. They are not Abraham’s true sons in humility. They do not hear God’s Word, for they are not of God. Rather they would be gods themselves. And so they hear only the Law. They oppose it, rise against it, revert to their naturally fallen state and rebel. They will not be emptied. They will not give up their imaginary honor and self-absorbed pride. They will not turn the other cheek or let Jesus wash their feet. For they will not admit that their feet stink. They will not beg for mercy or seek forgiveness. They kick hard against the iron rod for driving oxen, the goad, that bruised St. Paul’s foot. And thus the Stone the builders rejected, the One against whom they lifted up stones and sought to murder in the House of Prayer for all people, He falls upon them. And they are crushed. They reject the Name of the only-Begotten, the only Name in all the universe that brings salvation. They condemn themselves to Hell’s lonely fires.

There is, however, another way. There is submission to this Mighty Stone. Fall upon it and be broken! Let the Law have its way with you. Confess your sins, your pettiness and arrogance, your shameful self-centeredness. Repent. And look here – behold – the I AM of everlasting grace has not come in terror and in judgment. He has not come to steal your power, your honor, or your pleasure. He has come with healing in His wings, to intervene on your road to Damascus and turn you from yourself to Him. He has come to be your God, to win you back, to forgive your every sin, to satisfy your hunger and your need. Thus you need not sacrifice your sons. The Lord has provided. He has sacrificed His Son in your place.

Never was the end in doubt. Never was our God without mercy or compassion. For before Abraham was, before all of creation turned sour in the uprising of our first parents or we added our indecency to theirs, God had a plan to make you His. He knew your name before He formed in your mother’s womb. He planned your Baptism. He chose you through grace to live with Him forever in unadulterated delight. He provides. He stays Abraham’s knife. He lays Himself upon the Altar without complaint. A sacrifice of such magnitude our puny minds cannot contain it; a love beyond all human expression; a miracle that surpasses all our wildest hopes and expectations! God became Man to die in your stead and purge you of all sins, cleanse you for all holiness. He died. But He is not dead. He lives. And so, too, heir of Israel, shall you. You shall never see death. For the Word of God falls upon your ear and is placed upon your tongue to enter into your heart and wash your soul. You worship Him in spirit and in truth in the very things, even the external things, that He has given to you. You are the real sons of Abraham, set free by the Truth. Abraham is not dead. Neither shall you ever be.

Soon, the trumpets will sound. The One who was, who is, and ever shall be, He will complete what He has begun in you. He will call Abraham out of the grave and you will be revealed as His sons. All the lowly creatures of this planet will rejoice to see it. The promise spoke in heaven at your Baptism is still good. It always will be.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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