Thursday, June 2, 2016

No longer Jews and Gentiles, but one to live in the house of Wisdom

RECONCILIATION


Wisdom has built her house, she has established her seven pillars.  She has sacrificed her animals.  She has mixed her wine.  She has furnished her table.  She has sent out her young women to cry out from the towering heights.  "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!"  To the person who has no sense she says, "Come!  Eat my bread, and drink the wine that I have mixed."  Leave your simple ways and live, and walk in the ways of blessed insight.  Proverbs 9:1-6

CHRIST is the Wisdom of God!  He is the Father's House, the Father's temple, the place where He is to be sought and worshiped, and the place where His much-needed mercy is found.  If you see Jesus, you have seen the Father, and have free access to His right hand, the place where true joys are found.

All that humanity has ever hoped for or dreamed of is found, will only be found, in the things that God promises to those who love Him, so let us stop being side-tracked by cheap thrills and the passing pleasures of sin that never give what they promise.  They are all lies, mirages, Eve's tempter, doing to Eve's children what he did to their mother.  Let us instead wake up from our slumber and learn to watch with Christ.

Yet the blessings Wisdom promises today can only be realized in union with Jesus, so what St. Paul says in today's epistle lesson is golden:  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments ... that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, He might reconcile us both to God in one body, through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Paul's subject matter here is reconciliation, making peace between warring factions; not nations v. nation or debtor v. creditor, but reconciliation between holy God, Who dwells in unapproachable light, and sinful man, who staggers and stumbles about in thick darkness like a thousand drunken sailors.  By His death on the cross our Lord abolished the commandments that convicted us of sin, and remanded us to death row.  He answered for all sins, felt the pain of each one, and dissolved them all however egregious, by His blood on the cross, but that is not the end of the matter!  If the world has been thus reconciled to God by Christ, then other reconciliations must needs take place.

St. Paul specifically calls for the end of the centuries-old hatred between the Jews and the Gentiles; these ancient enemies who woke up one day to find that they were both children of the one God by faith in Jesus Christ and did not know what to think!  So the teacher of the Church explains the facts of life to them:  that Christ has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between them in His body on the cross, that those who were once far off are now near, those who were once strangers to the promises of Israel are now One New Man, One New Temple which is the flesh of Christ, our foundation and cornerstone.

Neither is that the end of the matter, because Christians are never done with their work until all people are reconciled to one another in Christ:  husbands to wives, parents to children, brothers to sisters.  Wherever enmity exists, the wall of separation is to be torn down by the flesh of Christ, sacrificed on the cross, and now given for us Christians to eat and to drink, for Jesus is the sacrificial lamb in today's Old Testament lesson and the Sacrament of His body and blood, the bread and the wine the church invites us to receive.

This divinely commanded unity is not only something the church teaches by word, but her architecture as well.  There are two parts to the traditional Christian church, the nave which represents earth, and the chancel which represents heaven, but unlike Israel's temple where a curtain divided the two to keep sinners at a safe distance from God, in the New Testament the dividing wall has been torn down; torn down by, and replaced by the flesh of Christ!  Not imaginary, or symbolic flesh as if our religion were but a charade; it is not!   But by the flesh and blood of the Man Christ Jesus, whose cross breaks down the wall of enmity, and whose resurrection reconciles us to to our true Father, and to one another.

In the Old Testament the high priest was allowed to go into the holy of holies but once a year to meet with God and make atonement for the people's sins, but because of our Great High Priest who entered heaven by His own blood, we enter every Lord's Day.  We leave the earth and enter into heaven to commune with the Living God, through the body of Christ that makes us all one.  As there is no more curtain, there is no more fear, shame or guilt because our wrongs are fully forgiven, and we are reconciled to our God by Christ.

By the same token, let us understand what happens when in the Divine Service the pastor says, "The peace of the Lord be with you always,"  and the congregation answers, "Amen."  These words are a remnant of the ancient rite where those communing would share the kiss of peace as a sign that those who are reconciled with God through Christ, are also at peace with one another, and thus truly one in the Christ they are about to partake, so let us be sure to learn the lesson the church teaches us on this 2nd Sunday after Trinity; that we are at peace with God by the cross, and so it is the goal of our lives to be at peace with one another; to be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.  God grant it!  Amen.

~  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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