August 16, 2020 A+D
St. Luke 19:41-48
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus is on His way to the cross. He will be lifted up from the earth and forsaken by His Father in order to make atonement for His rebellious children. On His way there, He catches a glimpse of Jerusalem. He weeps for the futility — not because He must pay for the sins of the world, but because so many refuse the benefit of what He does and insist on their own way.
Jerusalem should have known better. They had the Scriptures. They had the Temple. They had eye witness accounts galore. They knew He was sent from God. But they would not listen. It was too inconvenient. They loved pleasure and the status quo. They thought they could get away with it, that there would be a chance to repent. They mistook God’s patience for weakness and indulgence.
In the city of peace, they did not know what makes for peace. They would not receive the Prince of peace. Because they did not know the time of their visitation. They sat down to eat as though nothing were wrong. They rose up to play as though their pleasure was all that mattered and they had all the time in the world. They murdered Jesus because they hated what was good and preferred darkness to light but they pretended it was a lark. Then they laid Him in the ground and tried to forget. They worked hard at ignoring what followed, insisting that the guards were drunk. At last the Roman General Titus laid siege to them and showed them where self-worship leads and what cruelty is.
All of it was easily avoidable. They could have simply believed in Jesus, trusted in Him. The repentant thief did it. Mary Magdalene did it. Even Nicodemus and Zacchaues and Jesus’ own brothers came around. They all accepted the Law’s accusations and the futility of their efforts at finding happiness in sin. They repented and believed and therein found relief, joy, and fulfillment in Christ.
This requires no great effort or sacrifice, no horrific loss. The things that we are called to leave behind do not lead to peace. What do you lose if you give up carousing? The embarrassment, the incredible expense, the loss of health, a hangover? Are those shallow and crude imitations of laughter worth it? Do you enjoy fighting with your friends and ruining your clothes, risking your driver’s license, endangering children? What do you lose if you do not commit adultery or engage self-abuse or sick fantasies spurned by digital images? The shame, the disfunction, the loss of masculinity and purpose?
The devil is more cunning than any beast of the field or human that walks the earth. He knows how to sell. He told Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would make her like God. She would know good and evil. Did it work? Of course not. He is a liar and the father of lies. It did not lead to happiness or fulfillment. It led to hiding in the garden with fig leaves, surrounded by mosquitos and predators and a husband that she could not trust. But God visited her in the garden and she received Him. She was restored by the promise, returned to God’s fellowship, made an heir of heaven and kin to God Himself.
Don’t be like Jerusalem. Be like Eve. Now is the hour of visitation. You have sinned but it is not too late. Christ comes today with healing. The liturgy bids us to lift up our hearts, to dismiss earthly thoughts. Christ Himself comes to us. He is the peace that passes all understanding. He is here for us in His crucified and risen Body and Blood. Do you not know that He makes for peace? That is why the pastor holds the Body and Blood before us, just before we eat and drink it, and says, “The Peace of the Lord be with you always” and you say, “Amen. Yes, yes, it shall be so.”
Can we pay attention? Can we lift up our hearts? Can we banish wicked daydreams for a few minutes? With the help of God, we can. God forbid that we don’t! God forbid that we take this Sacrament and its benefit for granted or treat it in any way irreverent or common or less than essential.
What happens here is no less a miracle than God walking in the garden, seeking to restore Adam and Eve. This is no less than Jesus gazing over Jerusalem, ready to lay down His life. He is here in His risen Body and Blood. He makes Himself to be food for repentant sinners. He puts His immortal Body into your mortal body and joins you to Himself. He is the antidote to sin, death, and the devil. He is here to lift you beyond the pods meant for pigs, beyond the need to look after yourself, to amuse yourself, to better yourself.
He is not here for your pleasure in the way that men count pleasure. He is here for your good, for your humanity, to make you a man or a woman in His own image, after His own heart, to fulfill you and give you purpose and meaning. This is the hour of your visitation, of forgiveness. Lift up your hearts. Give thanks. Trust in Christ. He comes in and for and with peace.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.