CARRIERS OF THE PROMISE
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Psalm 19:1
WHEN man rebelled against God he lost his most precious possession. He cut himself off from the source of his life, and from the only One capable of satisfying his deepest desires. He was now a fish out of water, a bird without wings. It was the biggest blunder of history, and unless the Lord had been on our side, we would be lost forever. However, that was unacceptable to the One who loves His whole creation. Our God came to the rescue! He intervened with a promise that was sweeter than honey and more precious than gold; the promise of a Savior to make us whole again.
Adam and Eve who carried the seed of death, also became carriers of the promise that God, in Christ, would atone for our sins, and restore us to the fullness of joy, and though our first parents eventually died, the promise did not! It was passed on from generation to generation, side by side with the curse, until in the fullness of time the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.
Though scripture does not give us all the details, it does enable us to trace the promise throughout history, from Adam to Immanuel, and by the blessings of church history from Immanuel to our altar on this holy day.
Noah was one of those carriers and God confirmed it for him with a rainbow. So was Joseph, who also received the confirming rainbow, but now in the form of a coat of many colors. Finally the promise was given to the One we call Lord who is the fulfillment of all that the law and the prophets foretold. He, too, wore a coat of many colors; emblazoned onto his holy flesh with whip and thorns, and with a scarlet cloak that cruel men draped over him in undisguised mockery.
Yet it was necessary for the Christ to suffer these things in order to fix history that Adam broke, to right what he made so wrong, and what we continue to make wrong by our own voracious appetite for forbidden fruit. It was necessary, too, that He complete redemption's course by rising again from the dead so that by holy baptism we, too, might walk in newness of life.
Although the promise is fulfilled in the One Representative Man, it was not exhausted, nor will it ever be for as long as a single sinner stands in need of redemption. It is still alive, still passed on from generation to generation as far as the curse is found, and you are now the bearer of it; not you in the singular, but you in the plural. Remember that in a day like ours when the church seems to atomize before our very eyes, when every pastor is a little pope, every parish a little parliament, and every man does what is right in his own eyes with no regard for tradition, good order, the unity of the Spirit or the bond of peace. The Body, of which Christ is the Head, is the carrier of the promise, and so is each Christian in as much as he partakes of the Body, for as the Lord says; apart from me you can do nothing.
In his day, David was a carrier of the promise. As Israel's priest and king he was qualified to compose liturgies for God's perfect praise and to submit them to the choir so that human tongues might even here, even now learn to speak the language of heaven; not only as a matter of privilege, but also in rehearsal for the glorious inheritance which we possess by virtue of our baptismal connection to Christ.
What David did then, the church of the ages continues to do still, because on Pentecost, she became the carrier of the promise! In keeping with her task she turned her best and mightiest efforts to developing sensible liturgies so that men might worship God as He wants to be worshiped; in spirit and in truth. Through such worship experience we have true fellowship with God, and it is by these that prayer of David's Psalm is answered: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Yet the promise is more than just talking points. Salvation resides in the church's worship, in the mass we celebrate, for it IS the Word of God, mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled. In her worship the church proclaims the Gospel in its truth and purity, transmits salvation to sinners, and teaches all who believe it how to live a new life, for finally our faith must become incarnate by our works.
What works? Based on today's Old Testament lesson we should call to mind the commandments with their Christian meaning, which we all learned in the catechism* once upon a time, and remembering let us diligently seek to do them, for they are joy to the heart, light to the eyes and in the keeping of them there is great reward!
Based on today's Gospel lesson, let us recall our duty to forgive those who sin against us: as the Lord forgave those who crucified Him; as St. Paul admonishes God's people who come to the altar to, "forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you;" as St. Stephen and the whole company of martyrs pardoned those who did them such harm, even so let us whose debt has been paid to the last penny by Jesus, freely forgive those who owe a tiny debt to us. Thus by our words, our worship and our works let us join the heavens above in declaring the glory of God. Amen
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras