Friday, April 1, 2016

It will be said, "We waited for Him that He might save us"


And it will be said on that day: behold this is our God we waited for Him that He might save us; this is the Lord,  we waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. Isaiah 25:9

ONE of the greatest gifts God gave His church is the prophets, and chief among them is Isaiah from whom we get our Old Testament lesson for the Feast of the Resurrection.

God charged these men with a three-fold mission. The first was to condemn the sins of His people, to prosecute them in God’s court, to drag out their violations one by one and to display them in all their gory detail. Not only to condemn the sin, as people like to say today, but to condemn the sinner as well. Their job was to make proud people quake in their boots; to make base people kneel in repentance; or barring that, to look over their shoulder for the rest of their days for the judgment that would swiftly over-take them.

Their second duty was to forecast the coming tsunami that would wash away all who did not repent. These prophecies were usually made decades in advance because there is no “three strikes and you are out” with God. With God we get many strikes, and it must be so because we are so thick, spiritually speaking, but please do not mistake kindness for weakness, or use God’s mercy as a license to sin because when you are out, you are really out. In Dante’s Inferno the sign over hell’s entrance reads: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here. You don’t want to go there.

The third and most imporant task of the prophets was to foretell how God would solve man’s problem for him. This too they saw not only decades, but centuries in advance as they comforted afflicted sinners with myriad promises of the coming Christ; of His death, burial and life-giving resurrection from the dead -- the very thing we celebrate today -- and how by rising from the dead Jesus would turn the tide of all things in our favor and restore to us double all that sin has taken away.

Yes, ever since the Fall God has been busy working out all things for our good, not only in a general sense but for each of us in our own lives, for our own sins, our own troubles and the particular problems that vex us so sorely each day. Don’t ever doubt it, dear Christians, but believe it with all your heart and be glad and rejoice, because God is preparing a Feast for us of the richest food, a Feast of the finest wine! The wine Isaiah speaks of is no common wine, but wine that is well-fermented, well-aged and finely filtered; wine that is both strong and clear; wine that is able to make glad the heart of man; wine that teaches us three important things about our salvation:

First, because it is the best that can be had. It is of divine and not human origin. The same is true of our salvation. All of man’s plans to make the world a better place or to “save” us from who knows what are nothing; less than nothing, and in actual fact they are but deceptive attempts to own us, control us, enslave and tyrannize us. But God’s way, which is to re-create sinners in the image of His Son is everything, and if the Son sets you free you are free indeed!

Secondly, the wine that Isaiah speaks of takes much patience and time to make. In the same way God’s salvation in Christ developed slowly, running like a golden thread through all the generations of human history. His entire Will down to the last detail, such as the spear that pierced the Lord’s side so that, “not a bone of His body would be broken,” was perfected and played out in time. This lets us know that all things must bend to His good and gracious will for us, and that no opposing force can stop God’s Spirit from renewing the face of the earth.

Thirdly, it is a prophecy of the incarnate Christ who became incarnate to sacrifice His holy life for “the life of the world.” Not only of Him but also of the Sacrament He established in which we take the flesh and blood of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life into our dying flesh; and so obtain “the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Please note the definite article. It is not any old life that the church of the risen Christ confesses, but the life everlasting. The one fore-shadowed in the Law of Moses when Joseph is re-united with his father. The one delineated in the Psalms by King David when he sings: in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. The one disclosed by the Prophets as Isaiah here predicts the Messianic Banquet. But most fully the promise described in the Revelation of St. John in which countless people from every nation, tribe and tongue under heaven join in celestial praise singing Holy, Holy, Holy around the happy throne of God and of the Lamb, singing it like it was never sung before, because what we sing now in the Divine Liturgy is but choir practice which prepares us for the perfect joy and holy communion that will gladden us then and there.

 You will be there! You who believe in the resurrected Christ as Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and finally even Doubting Thomas did, because at the end of the day it is faith in the crucified and Living Christ that takes us there; not our putative good behavior, not our suffering, sacrifices, sincerity or happy spiritual thoughts; not our philanthropy, fond hopes or fervent devotion, but faith and faith alone; faith which sings, “Jesus lives the victory’s won, death no longer can appall me. Jesus lives death’s reign is done, from the grave Christ will recall me! Brighter scenes will then commence, this shall be my confidence.” (TLH 201:1)

Yes! By His mighty resurrection our Lord abolished death so that not a trace of its former sway will be left. He removes the cause as well as the outward symptom, the sin as well as the tears from all faces. By His glorious resurrection this same Jesus vindicates our faith, hope, patient suffering and perseverance in the face of all opposition so that not a trace of the world’s scorn will remain. Without doubt, Easter is the premier Day that the Lord has made, the Day He acted to give us “new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Let us rejoice and be glad in it, then, as we join the church of the ages and say of Christ Jesus, “Behold this is our God. We waited for Him that He might save us; this is the Lord, we waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Amen.

Rev. Dean Kavouras

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