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               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM


Right Side Up

August 25, 2018

Verse: Psalm 14:7

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
August 26, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Pentecost 14
Right Side Up

“Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” Psalm 14:7

Beloved in Christ you are Jacob, you are Israel and so hear the Word of the Lord: Rejoice and be glad today! Rejoice and be glad because your God comes to you in the Word and Sacrament to put your life right side up, and to fill you with fresh joy.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth the sea and all that is in them. He fashioned all that is and added this benediction to it: ”God saw all that he had made and behold it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

That Divine assessment, “very good” is what set all things into glad and glorious motion. The Living God was on the move, doing what the Living God does: creating living beings to fill the earth and vast universe with life, you are that life! “Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”

But nor are we unaware of the fact that God’s work was turned upside down by his own creation, his own children, who succumbed to the sweet-sounding lie of the Serpent. The Potter was judged by the clay. It said of its Maker: “he did not form me,” and “he has no understanding.” (Is. 29) Or in the words of Shakespeare, “the oats have eaten the horses.”

But what could account for such a reversal?

Believe it or not the love of God, in as much as God allowed his children to rebel though he undoubtedly could have stopped them. Because what is life or what is love if it is not free? And so he allowed them to spit in his face! (Luke 18:36) But only so he could win us back by overwhelming devotion, by “love unknown”. Love so unimaginably broad and long and high and deep that the wisdom of the wisest among men, and the discernment of the most discerning among men, shrivels  and disappear and becomes nothing before it.

Love enough to purify us of our dark misdeeds. Mercy enough to draw us like a mighty magnet to Jesus the crucified and resurrected “Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.” (1 Peter 2:25) Goodness enough to make us rejoice and be glad though we are beset by sin and suffer its consequences each day.

But as St. Paul writes, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

And so hear the Word of the Lord, “Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad” because Jesus died and rose again to cleanse us of our sins, and betroth us to himself in love.

As sin turned everything upside down Jesus turns everything right side up. But it does not look that way from our perspective because for sinners up is down, and down is up.

When David prayed God to restore the fortunes of his people (Ps. 14:7) he was predicting the Great Reversal that the Lord’s death on the cross would bring about in the “fullness of time.” (Gal. 4:4)

When Isaiah sees a day in which the deaf shall hear, the eyes of the blind see, and that the poor among mankind exalt in the Holy One of Israel (Is. 29) – he was predicting the time when all things, ruined by sin, would be turned right side up again by Christ. He was forecasting the advent of the Lord of Life who was crucified, died and was buried for us men and for our salvation. But who was also raised again on the third day “by the glory of the Father so that we might walk in the newness of life. (Romans 6:3 ff). And so walk in the newness of life today!

In today’s gospel we find Jesus doing precisely what was predicted of him. He turns everything upside down which is to say, right side up.

The Jews turned the grace of God given in Old Testament revelation into a burden. They replaced the commands of God with the words, decisions and preferences of men. But as Charlotte Bronte writes in her novel Jane Eyre: Conventionality is not morality, and self-righteousness is not religion.

“Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”

St. Paul does the same in today’s epistle, he stands human behavior on its ear. Since the Fall it is the desire of the woman to possess the Office of the man. To tame the male creature; in our day to feminize him so that she can manage him, and ultimately reign over him. That is sin!

But Paul turns things right side up when he says: “Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife in the same way that Christ is head of the church, his Body and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ thus also wives to their husbands in everything.”

“Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”

He likewise turns the power of the man upside down. The man has always abused the physical advantage he has over the woman. That is sin!

And so St. Paul turns things right side up with this Divine Word, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her and cleanse her by the washing of water through the Word; so that he might take the church to himself in splendor free of stain or wrinkle or any such thing; that she might be holy and without blemish. In this same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; for no man ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it, and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church.”

“Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.”

When St. Paul preached the gospel in Thessalonica the local Jews made this accusation about him, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6)

Today the gospel continues to turn the world upside down which, in God’s sight, means right side up. Your life stands so turned by baptism. Your sins are replaced by Christ’s righteousness. Your poverty by his riches. Your death by his life. “Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” Amen.