I’ve seen some of you this week. I’ve talked to more. There has been some sadness; the Bayer’s neighbor passed away. There as always in such times has been some fear and anger. It is amazing the small things that can be an excuse to let it rip. We should attempt to kind when someone is at tilt, because we are going to hit that point as well sometime. But it has also been a time of some honest reflection I feel. Not much from anything going by the word “news”, but by individuals. It feels a bit like what the word apocalypse originally meant – a revelation. The veil that we often keep over our deepest thoughts, the ones that we only half know ourseves, has been lifted a bit.
This coming Sunday is Lent 5. The texts for the week and the Introit are lit. (The link to the service for those online is below.) A valley of dry bones. Lazarus from the tomb. In other words death. Yea! In the midst of plague, a week of dead things. (/Snark off.) But there is an important spiritual insight that this helps us think about.
The fancy word is atonement. You were probably taught in confirmation that atonement is at-one-ment, how we are made at one with God. And the theory of the atonement that we normally work with is substitutionary. The wages of sin are death. Because humanity sinned, death came into the world. A payment had to be made against that. A payment that none of us sinners could pay. So Jesus, the sinless Son of God, made that payment on the cross. It is a Good Friday centric understanding. It is also a simple historical understanding.
I don’t know how many of you are Sci-Fi or Star Trek fans, but one of the tropes of that genre is that the future can be a cause of the past. I’m not commenting on the reality of that trope, but there is a psychological reality to it. Hebrews 2:14-15 turns the causality around for a second. Instead of sin bringing about death, it is death that brings about sin and our state.
Because God’s children are human beings– made of flesh and blood– the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Heb. 2:14-15 NLT)
Did you catch it? Because of our fear of death, we have lived as slaves, slaves to sin. Because we feared death, we reached for everything possible, as if the one who dies with the most toys wins. Or more likely, like our Silicon Valley folks today, we think mystically if we’ve got all this stuff we can buy off death. Even back in the garden in that innocent state it is our very dependence upon God that causes fear. Eve, God is not a good guy, he wants to keep you down. Take the apple now, before you don’t have the chance. It is our fear of our contingency, our fear of dying, that drives much of our actions. The ones we keep under the veil.
It is to this fear that Lent 5 speaks. Can these bones live? The theory is Christ the Victor. My favorite line expressing this comes from an Advent hymn, Hark the Glad Sound LSB 349. He comes the prisoners to release/in Satan’s bondage held/the gates of brass before Him burst/the iron fetters yield. I’m jumping the gun. This is the theory of Easter. Sheol’s gates have been wrecked from the inside as Christ kicked them open. We no longer need fear death, because the eternal welcome of our God has been displayed in flesh and blood. God himself died, and God himself rose, and our brother Jesus has given us the victory.
Our victory over death is not an excuse to ignore good advice, but it is a call to put down the worry. To stop grabbing for every last thing here. Beacuse everything here is going away. Some sooner and some later. But there is a far country, one holding a victory celebration. And everything we need has already been prepared.
Maybe getting the handle on things. So this is the plan right now.
- I will be at church on Sunday at 9 AM and 11 AM. I will stream those services at the same place as this past week ( https://zoom.us/j/6458485288 ). I will also be attempting to improve the audio, I think I’ve got it.
- Nobody is required to be at church. If you are in a high risk category, please stay home. Please join us online. But if you are healthy and wish to join me at church, that is also fine. We should be under 10 in each. Everyone will have their own pew.
- The liturgy will be Responsive Prayer 2 (LSB 285). Here is the link to the service, so if you are online you can participate instead of watching. https://www.saintmarkslutheran.org/wp-content/uploads/services/March%2029%202020%20Service.pdf
- If you have prayer requests, we will collect them during the service, but I’d also request that if you can please email or text them to me.
- I encouraged folks who didn’t have a hymnal at home to borrow one from the pews and take it home with them this past week. Likewise if you don’t have one, and you would like one to follow along with, please stop in and grab one for the time being.
- I am in the offfice roughly 10AM to 5 PM. Any time during those hours I will be available for private confession and communion. My cell is 585-524-7909 if you want to check beforehand. If you would like outside of those hours, just contact me and I’m sure we can work it out. (I can also come out, but I thought we might all be tired of our walls, and need another place.)