December 2, 2017
Verse: Isaiah 64:1–64:4
Christ Lutheran Church
December 3, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence-- as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:1-4
The words we hear today were part of Israel's liturgy. These are the things the Old Testament church fervently prayed for and hoped for from their God. But why did they pray with such zeal? Because they had brought calamity upon themselves by their sins! They were suffering under God's judgment. But here they pray that God, who holds them responsible for their sins, would relent, and come to be their Savior instead. That is the kind of faith they had! So do we!
This is what we do in liturgy still today. We call upon God for salvation, but first we repent. First we admit to our sins. Not with the tattered, faltering apologies that people offer today when pressed to the wall: which they hope will get them off the hook, so they can go right back to what they were doing before. Christian confession is not that!
It is, instead, a true dread! and regret! on account of our sins because of the offense they are to our good God, and the damage they do to others. Because as often as we live like the devil, we dance with the devil. And there is nothing more hazardous to your health than that.
And so if you would like to know why your life, and the world around you, is marked by one trouble after another, look no further. It is because of your chosen life style. It is our sins that bring us down.
Is it any wonder, then, that the church should pray in today’s Collect: “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come, that by your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by your mighty deliverance.”
The penalty for sin is death. Death now, and death eternally. And so we must relent if we want to live, if we want to enjoy the Light, Peace and Joy that our Lord brings to us this holy season.
So let us flee evil thoughts, words, deeds, lusts and the opinions of the culture. Let us and seek aid and comfort from our God in Christ instead. And let us do good! Let us be Like God! And Live in his image, which is Christ.
That doesn't sound remotely like the world's agenda though, does it? Nor will you see any such admonitions in your FB feed this afternoon. Our sins put us in peril! And so today, 2,800 years after Isaiah wrote these words, we still pray them today:
“Rend the heavens and come down! Save us now, as you saved your people of old!”
It is a prayer that was answered on the First Christmas, when the Eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And again at his baptism when the skies were torn open and the voice of God declared, “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And it was supremely answered on the cross, when a Roman spear rent the Lord’s side, and salvation flowed forth: the blood of the New Covenant, and the water of Holy Baptism.
And it is a prayer that is answered today at the altar!
That's what we mean when we sing: Hosanna in the Highest. Hosanna means: “Save us now!” The "nah" on the end of the word is, in the Hebrew language, the desperate plea of a drowning man, for relief right now! Hosanna. Save us now!
It is no accident that the church places this very plea immediately before holy communion; wherein Christ our dear Lord tears open the heavens, and comes down to this altar, and from it gives himself to us to Save us.
Nor is the salvation we seek at the altar simply an idea that resides within our little grey cells. But here, before our very eyes, and within our hearing, Jesus mysteriously unites himself with the Bread and Wine – so that it is now his Body and Blood. Here he offers himself to us. We eat and drink, him! Christ is in us. God is with us (Immanuel) here and now to “Hosanna” us. Here he who is the Resurrection and the Life, enters our bodies, our souls, our minds and our hearts! His flesh mixes with ours. His blood flows in our veins.
That is what all the fuss is about. That is why we maintain this edifice at great labor and expense. It is why we set aside this hour as the golden hour of each week, and why we lay aside all earthly cares! So that we can enjoy Holy Communion with the King of Glory. So that we can call upon our God “with one voice” to “rend the heavens” and save us “from the threatening perils of our sins.”
In response to so great a salvation Isaiah exclaims: “What ear has ever heard or perceived, or eye seen such a thing? A God who acts this way for those who wait for him?” Dear Christians this is our God whose glory we behold every Sunday here!
If you are relying on any other god – on a vague god, false god or a foggy notion of “spirituality,” you will wait in vain. But if you “wait for the LORD,” all will be well. You will be well. Your children will be well. Your house will be well. God will rescue you from the “threatening perils of your sins, and save you by his mighty deliverance.”
But what does that mean to “wait for the LORD?” How does one do that?
You are doing it now. In this holy house. At this altar today. And so, take eat! Take drink! So that you may have remission of sins, life and salvation, now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.