This sermon is a bit more philosophical that I typically get. It is also leaning of a work of systematic or dogmatic theology I’ve been reading by the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson. Classic theology is build around what in Latin are loci. In English it is much less impressive, merely subjects of focus. And the classic first loci is God.
There is a blatant problem with that. Absent revelation we can know nothing about God. Most everybody would disagree with that. That is the inspiration for every rational and forced mystic quest for God. It is the thinking behind “seeking”. And all those quests seem to have the same goal, to get under or behind or beneath our existence to the eternal timeless reality. But the God of revelation is not timeless; He is the creator of time.
This sermon invites us not to be driven by fear into seeking some unchanging reality, but to hear Jesus is risen as the invitation to a way through time, through God’s good creation from alpha to omega.
This was our children’s program, so the order is slightly different. It was also slightly different for us this year. Each year who you have changes, so you work around that. This year we had a bunch of late elementary. So less dress up, also less absolute perfection, but still perfect in its way. Part of the riotous glory of the creation my meditation speaks about the Christ child coming to save. He made it good, and came to live with us. Announced by Angels, to shepherds and sages. Proclaimed by silly preachers and humble children. Come and Worship, Christ, the newborn king.
We are continuing our reading of Ephesians Chapter 3. The formal assigned reading begins at verse 14, but to me just picking up Paul there clips off the entire thrust of his story in this chapter. Verse 14 forward is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (and all the people of God) based on the revelation in the prior verses. Verse 10 – “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph. 3:10 NLT)” – is the hinge to me. Prior I hope we know from the book of Acts of Galatians and the first two chapters of Ephesians. But Paul adds this rich line about God’s purpose. This sermon examines that line in all its richness and terror. And then it seeks to understand Paul’s prayer for us in light of that calling to display the wisdom of God. This is the Christian life in its cosmic purpose. This is the Christian life connected to its deep meaning.
This is the third and last sermon on the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6. The typical and easiest way to understand the entire discourse where Jesus says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood is as a reference to the Lord’s Supper. That isn’t wrong, but we do have to ignore that fact that when Jesus said it the crowds who heard it had no recourse to the sacrament. What this sermon attempts to do is proclaim the gospel from this most perplexing text with the sacrament not as first resource but as an gift that embodies for all time the truth.
What I latch onto is Jesus’ embellishment of eating the flesh and blood as the gateway or image of Christ abiding or indwelling in us. Just as the Father dwells in Christ or Christ as the perfect icon of the Father, by eating Christ he dwells in us. Creation has always been about building a dwelling place or a temple for God. In Christ we have the perfect temple, and we are made the living stones as God dwells in us. As Christ is the icon of God, we become the body of Christ and icon of a sort (although that might be a little strong this side of the New Jerusalem). That flesh and spirit incarnation is always a scandal to the world which wants to keep them separate.
Yet as Peter says – these are the words of eternal life. The second part of the gospel explored is Peter sequence where we believe first and then come to know. We must eat first – take Christ into us – to know. The body and blood of Christ give us a sure foundation. We can know because he is the bread that has come down. If we keep it outside of us, we can’t know. Belief comes first and it is belief from the heart.
My Daughter had an interesting assignment this week that merged in with the Gospel Text. The text includes John 3:16 of course, the “gospel in a nutshell”, but that never gave the passage around it (or the whole discourse with Nicodemus which is comes from) due credit. Yes, we are saved by the love of God, but there is something dangerous in our natural understanding of that. The things we naturally love all lovely, or as the sermon will start out with, they have something that attracts us to them. God’s love is not given to things naturally attractive, but creates what pleases it. In out case, in the case of the world that he loves, the love of God justifies sinners through faith in his Son. The love of God changes us and invites us into the light. And such love is reflected through the cross. This world that loves darkness might not recognize that as love. It is not lovely in itself, but it is the love God, and the love of the Christian working in God.
The text and the church occasion is the baptism of Jesus. This sermon uses as a theme what Mark says happened at the beginning and at the end of his gospel – Heaven Torn Open. First at the baptism when Jesus becomes willingly the new Adam, taking our baptism. Then at the cross, when the veil to the holy place is torn open. Jesus counts himself with us sinners, so that we might be counted in the holy place. He doesn’t abandon or crush his creation, he redeems it.
I wish I had caught a good recording of the hymn post the sermon. It is LSB 404 – Jesus Once with Sinners Numbered. It is a great hymn and spot on. Here is a link to someone with a great voice singing it.