In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. None of us lives the ideal. None of us has the glossy photo life a woman’s magazine: a perfect little home with a white picket fence, two cars in a spotless garage, a gourmet dinner on the table, 2.5 immaculate, well-heeled children, and an adoring husband or wife. The best things in our lives are nonetheless less than perfect. They are marred in ways both small and great, but never in ways inconsequential. We all suffer from the sin that is around us. We lock our doors at night. We avoid certain areas within our city. We try to not look the homeless man in the eye. We’ve all been afraid, and we’ve all be hurt.
We’ve also added our own sins to the mess. We were born in sin. Our broken, hurting lives show it. Our inability to pay our bills, discipline our children, or sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our spouses are all directly related to our innate pride. We want our own way, the honor and adoration of men, a life of pleasure and ease. At one time or another, we’ve all been mean, cruel, wrong, selfish. We’ve all cheated and lied. We’ve behaved in ways that if our mothers knew would make our mothers blush. Our mothers bore us in sin. They bestowed the inheritance of Adam, an impossible and inescapable burden. Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will gather. Wherever there is evil, wherever there is temptation, wherever there is trouble, there we are to exploit it, to tear down and hurt, to devour our brothers.
Be warned. You cannot hide from the coming judgment. Repent. You cannot stand upon your own works and dare God to judge you by them. You are not immune from the tribulations and troubles of this world, some of which have been caused by your own guilt. Repent. Turn from your self, from your ambitions and pride, from your desires and from your fear. Turn to the God of living mercy. Be an eagle drawn by the Blood of the Carcass on the cross, eager to eat the good fruit thereof. Was there ever evil, ever trouble, ever anything so wrong as the unjust execution of the Man born of a virgin? And yet, was there ever anything so wonderful, so giving, so perfectly without-conditions-loving? Gather there! For the Jerusalem gallows are stained with the blood of the prophets, with the blood of murdered Abel, crying to the skies for justice. But they are silenced by the Blood of the Lamb spilled in the most unjust act of all time. That Blood stains the souls of guilty men, murderers and thieves, clean as the new fallen snow. The Father declares them as pure as His only begotten. The Body of Jesus crucified and raised is food for the righteous. Let us gather about that sacrifice and find forgiveness. For there in the heart of evil, in the depths of man’s depravity, in the devil’s most wicked hour, there was the Christ, the Son of Man making men His sons, standing in the breech for us, laying down His Life in fulfillment of His Father’s will, putting death to death. That Carcass, slain from the foundation of the world, lives and is meat for His children. His execution is His glory. His scars are the badge of His holy, forgiving Office. His death is the birth of life and the sending of the Spirit.
Therefore I would not want you to be ignorant concerning those who have gone early to the judgment. For those who have fallen asleep in Jesus are not dead. They are alive in Him even as He is most certainly alive. They have been spared the longer trial. Their journey is complete. They have come to the reward of those declared just by grace. Soon, you shall join them. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. The dead in Christ will rise first. They have the honor. Lo, these many years, while the grace of God held back the destructive winds and delayed His wrath so that all the elect might be sealed in the waters of Holy Baptism, the souls of the saints have waited in joy in heaven. Then, upon the end and completion of all things, their bodies will be returned to them. They will rise, perfected for life. They confessed the faith in this living death while on earth. They were delivered by the Sacrifice of the Innocent in their place, brought through death into life. Their bodies were laid to rest in the grave for a time, but not forever. When He comes again in glory, they will they be reunited and whole, flawless and good, at their proper place, with their souls in Abraham’s bosom.
And then, immediately after they rise, all those who are still enduring in the flesh will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Their bodies, too, will be made perfect at the same instant as their souls. Their joy will be complete, for they will be with their Lord, their Savior and Redeemer, the Lamb of God, their heavenly Bridegroom, who takes away the sins of the world.
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No man, that is for sure. But all things are possible with God. His mercy has determined to rescue men for the sake of His own love. He brings a clean thing out of an unclean, a perfect family, holy men and women, pleasing to Him in every way, out of struggling sinners curved in on themselves. He makes all things right. He restores all things to goodness. He forgives all sins. Ah, for the lightening of joy! The goodness of war, bloodshed, and fear, of oppression and terror. For these are the signs of the end. Our Lord returns! We have not been forgotten. Trouble and sorrow we have aplenty but they will not last. For we are forgiven. We are loved. By grace, we belong to Him. The end is near.
In these last days, amidst the lightening and turmoil, the danger and pain, the suffering and broken hearts, let us be where that Carcass made alive is. Let us gather about the Altar of the Lord and soar up on the wind of redemption on wings like an eagle’s. There, in the Holy Communion, the Lord will renew your strength. You will run and not be weary, walk and not grow faint, be laid to rest in this body of sorrow, and not die. You will live.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana