Monday, April 27, 2015

How can you rest at a time like this?


There are many who say, "Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!"  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:6-8

THE Psalms are about Jesus.  He is the Lord of the Psalms, the Lord who became flesh and came to dwell among us full of grace and truth, but while they are written by David and are a record of his inmost prayer, they are inspired by the Holy Spirit.  They are the true voice of the Gospel that unites us by faith to the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord who was handed over for our sins, and raised again for our justification.

When we hear these words on David's lips they make perfect sense.  He faced so many challenges in his life, and suffered so many reverses due to his own sins, and because of his enemies, that he often had to cry out, "Who will show us some good?"  In spite of his numerous enemies and scores of sins David was also a man of faith, a man who knew where to turn when clouds gathered and the darkness thickened, so that at the end of the day he could say with full confidence, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

May God's word here given help us to do the same, because while we might find temporary relief here or there for the things that threaten us, true joy is found only in Christ, the Lord we commune with in the church each Sunday.

These words make perfect sense on our lips, too.  There are those times when, as the hymn says, "all things seem against us, to drive us to despair;" times when we pay dearly because of our sins, or when we suffer due to the sins of others; times when we are persecuted for our faith, when we are dismissed as foolish, naive, intolerant or out of step with the times.

Above  all, the words of this Psalm fit best on the lips of Jesus who is the incarnate Lord of the Psalms, who as a man prayed them, but who as God answers them for us!

Whenever Jesus was distressed, as He often was in His earthly life, He prayed.  When the Light of the World encountered the utter spiritual darkness of men, or when His soul was sorrowful to the point of death in Gethsemane, or when He was dying the shameful and protracted death of the cross, innocent of all sin, but suffering silently for the sins of all; even then He  possessed the unwavering confidence of our Psalm.  Even then He trusted that He would not be abandoned to the grave but that God would watch over Him and raise Him up again.  "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  So it was on the seventh day the Lord rested in the tomb from all His labors, so that he might grant eternal rest to us from the labor of our sins.

That is the holy Christian faith we confess, but unlike Buddhism or other contemplative creeds where religion is only a notion residing in ones mind, ours in incarnational.  That means it has flesh and blood, that it can be known not only by faith, but by the five senses as well.  Most important in the matter is the flesh and blood of Jesus; God who humbled Himself and became true man in order to redeem sinful men and return them to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls.  His body was truly sacrificed in violent death in our place, as our substitute, so that we might be made whole.  We encounter this Lord in the Scriptures which thrill our ears because whenever they are read we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling us away from this world to follow Him in a life of sacrificial love to our neighbor; to follow him to the cross, to the grave and finally to the resurrection from the dead.

Unlike those Johnny-come-lately versions of the Christian faith which are faulty in so many ways, the Lutheran faith we hold is crisp, clear, fully formed and developed in the mass we celebrate each Sunday.  It engages all of our senses as it teaches the whole counsel of God to us.  It proclaims the Law to check the Old Adam, and the Gospel to comfort us in the face of his corrupting influence.  It gives us opportunity to sing and to pray, to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and to believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead so that we will be saved by faith in Him.

There is also holy communion where we taste of the Messianic Banquet, where we partake of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb only to find that we are both guest and Bride in a marriage made in heaven.   The Eucharist makes us giddy with heavenly visions which, like St. Paul's, defy verbal description, but that fill us with longing for our true home. the city whose builder and maker is God.  

This holy catholic faith into which we are eternally baptized also gives for us a heart of wisdom so that even here and now, in this scattered world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we are enabled to comprehend divine and eternal realities.  We are authorized and empowered to live as servants of the most high God and to provide light and salt to the dark, bland world.

Overflowing as we are then with "every spiritual blessing in Christ," we too may confidently pary the words of David and of David's son at the end of each day, and at the end of all of our days,  "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavourus

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