The Weight Of God
April 28, 2018
Verse: Psalm 150:1
Christ Lutheran Church
April 29, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Weight Of God
Praise the LORD! Praise God in his Holy Place! Praise him the Expanse of his might! Psalm 150:1
We love found money. It makes our juices flow to reach into the pocket of something we have not worn for a long time, and discover a forgotten fold of bills.
There is found money today in Christ Lutheran Church. Many of you have gazed upon our altar statues your whole life. They have become part of the scenery, but today you will discover something new about them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ occupies central place because he is the One who loved us, and gave himself for us; the Lord of Glory who for our sakes became poor, so that by his poverty we might be made rich. (2 Cor. 8:9)
To the Lord’s left is St. Matthew, and to his right is St. John. Whereas many Lutheran churches have all four evangelists depicted with the Lord, Christ Lutheran Church has only these two. It’s a rare arrangement but there is a point.
St. Matthew represents the Lord’s humanity because of the genealogy with which he opens his gospel. He lists the Lord’s human ancestry back to Abraham. St. John, on the other hand, emphasizes the Lord’s divinity, showing him to be the Eternal Word of God, by whom all things were made.
Together, these statues are an artistic rendering of the doctrine of the Person of Christ. That he is as we say in our catechism: True God begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man born of the Virgin Mary. And so to that end St. Matthew holds the hand of the boy Jesus, highlighting his full humanity. But what is St. John holding?
It is a scroll!
But did you ever notice what is written on it? Take a look after Liturgy and you will see that it is today’s sermon text, which comes from today’s assigned Psalm. Psalm 150. “Praise the LORD! Praise God in his Holy Place! Praise him the Expanse of his might!”
Why did the sculptor associate that particular verse with St. John. Was it just an all-purpose verse of praise; or was it a case of brilliant theological insight? We will never know. But either way it works.
The Book of Psalms is the Old Testament’s chief liturgical text; and the 150th, the last of the Psalms, is the capstone of them all; exhorting all living creatures to Praise Christ the True Vine and source of our Life. But there is more.
Whether the artist was aware of it or not, let us learn today that the Holy Place (Sanctuary) the Psalm talks about – the place where our God is rightly praised –is not a place at all!
Not a place!
But a Person!
The Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. His blood, once shed upon the cross, but now graciously found in the Cup which IS the New Testament, he is the temple of God.
And so it is only in union with him, with Jesus, that the church rightly worships the Father … and no other liturgy that men offer to God is of any worth. But only that of the baptized in, with, and under Christ the True Vine, apart from whom we can do nothing.
And no one explains this Psalm, no one opens up its meaning better than St. John in today’s gospel where Jesus says, “I am the vine you are the branches, whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
What exactly is that fruit?
Often Scripture refers to the good works of the baptized as "fruit." Jesus says for example that, “A good tree bears good fruit.” (Matt. 7:17) And that is a part of it. But the Lord has something more in mind here. To abide in Jesus, to have our roots planted in him, so that this True Vine becomes the source of our very existence; that is to bear much fruit. But to have him abide, reside, and take up residence in us; that is to gain the weight of God!
And so for the sculptor of our dear statue to connect the 150th Psalm with St. John was a stroke of theological genius, inspired by the Spirit of God.
But now in an unusual ending to a sermon, your pastor has a motion to make. The statues that are part of the scenery of our blessed worship; and that artistically proclaim the doctrine of our Lord’s two natures; look good from a distance. But if you take a closer look you will notice that they show their venerable age of 129 years. The best information we have is that they date back to the altar of the first Christ Lutheran Church which began in 1889.
But we are most fortunate to be in Cleveland, because 10 minutes from our door, on Madison Avenue in Lakewood, is the Museum of Divine Statues. It is an organization whose work it is to display, restore and preserve church statues. There is a talented artist there who has dedicated his life to the restoration and preservation of statues just like ours.
The motion is this. That at the earliest possible date Christ Lutheran Church decide to make the needed sacrifice of logistics, time and money to have our statues restored to their pristine beauty. Further, that we officially begin the search to add to the beauty of God’s House with additional statues, and liturgical works of art.
The pulpit is not the time or place for details but if you, God’s people, will begin the discussion (our upcoming voters’ meeting is not too soon) - and if you will commit the needed resources for this exciting work, your pastor will show the way. So that future generations will enjoy the thrill of “found money” that we enjoyed today; and so that they, too, might “gain” the weight of God in this Holy Place. Amen.