MANY REASONS TO REJOICE
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For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place: "This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. There I will make a horn to sprout for David: I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine." Psalm 132:13-18
THE blessings of the church year bring us once again to the Sunday we call Laetare, which is the Latin word for Rejoice! It may seem odd to have such a Sunday in the middle of Lent which is a season of sorrow, but it is a good reminder of the Christian adage to, "Rejoice in the Lord always." There are plenty of reasons to be miserable, but there are many more to rejoice; powerful reasons that can only be grasped by faith, and today's Psalm enumerates them nicely for us.
David tells us that, "the Lord has chosen Zion." In the Old Testament Zion was the Lord's pet name for Jerusalem, but since the coming of Christ the earthly Jerusalem is no longer important. Today the church is Zion. We are the Lord's beloved and the home where He is pleased to dwell, but as earthly Jerusalem was a picture of the church to come, the church is the picture of Jerusalem above which is free, and which is our final destination, so whatever is going on around you today, there is another reality at work, a heavenly one, to which we are all heirs through Christ, and it fills us with joy, even in the midst of sorrow.
We rejoice today, too, because the Lord promises in the Psalm, "I will bless her provisions!" Like the people that Jesus taught and fed in the desert that day, we too have many needs, but provisions are scarce. We are always worried where our next dollar will come from, where our next meal will come from. That is natural in a sinful world. We might be able to coast for a time but when we cease to struggle we cease to live, and that makes us afraid, but there are no shortages with Jesus. Like God did in the Old Testament, Jesus provided manna in the wilderness to nourish and cheer His people, to make them glad and give them reason to rejoice. He did not only provide bread, but He Himself is the bread, the Bread of Life. He is the One who by the bloody sweat of His brow labored in suffering and death to provide an eternal banquet of salvation for us, to feed our hungry souls with bread that satisfies so that we will never hunger gain. As the Lord Himself says, "I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
Today we still pray for daily bread. A Christian should never lift a morsel of food to his lips without giving thanks to the One who provides all that he needs to support this body and life. Likewise, still today, we receive the heavenly manna, the body and blood of our Lord under the forms of bread and wine. As food nourishes and cheers the body, even so the Eucharist cheers and nourishes the drooping soul.
We have further reason to celebrate on this Laetare Sunday because the Lord says in the Psalm, "Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy." We are those priests, we are those saints. In the words of St. Peter, "...you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." Therefore leave the darkness behind you today, and walk the light of the Lord.
Finally we rejoice today because the Psalm says, "There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on Him, His crown will shine." Jesus is the Horn. Jesus is the Anointed. By His suffering and death He conquered our deadly enemies Satan, death and sin, but like dumb beasts who don't know what has happened to them, they continue to lumber about, to cause every sort of distress in the world. They trouble the Lord's church and the Lord's people, but they are lame ducks, and a date has been set for their final shame, and whatever damage they do, even now -- especially now -- our God counters by His grace. He makes all things work together for our good, even things we cannot understand, or comprehend, or fathom; things that we can only perceive as bad. He turns even these around for our ultimate advantage. Nothing was darker than our Lord's death. From Friday afternoon until early Sunday morning hope had been extinguished from the world. If the world could snuff out the only true light it had ever known, what hope could there possibly be? That's the way it seemed. Even the most ardent believer was slow to believe the Scriptures, as we all are, but that is not the way it really was! When David prayed the words, "but on Him His crown will shine," he was predicting the Lord's resurrection, the greatest reason there is for the world to rejoice, because now, in Christ, people who were slaves to sin, and subject to death are made free, are made alive never to die again.
It is no empty word when our Lord says, "...whoever lives and believes in me will never die!" Neither is it an empty word when St. Paul tells us that by baptism we are raised to newness of life with Christ, so let us live new lives. Put your old ways behind you, the sin and shame and sorrow, and all the reasons you have to be sad and, "rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice." Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras