Sundays:  Pastor's Class 9:00 AM (Ephesians)
               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

Wednesdays: Pastor's Class 10:00 AM (Psalm 119 deep dive)
                    Divine Liturgy 7:00 PM

Ash Wednesday:

Imposition of Ashes 11:00 AM
Divine Service with Imposition of Ashes 7:00 PM



Spiritual Autumn

November 24, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Lloyd Gross

Verse: Psalm 126:5

This morning we come to the close of another year of grace. For 52 more weeks God has put up with us. He has endured the disrespect of most of the world, the wickedness of His creatures, once again postponing the Day of Judgment. Autumn reminds us that life is short. For that matter, the whole of human history is short compared to eternity. All flesh is mortal and must return to the dust from which it was taken. Today, behold the message of the changing seasons - that we should humble ourselves before God, and depend on His mercy.

Autumn is also the time of the harvest. Our Blessed Savior referred to the Day of Judgment as the harvest of souls. But this Reaper is not grim. In fact, whenever the Bible mentions harvest, it is always a joyous occasion. Jesus is coming to be the Happy Reaper. Our text is a happy text - Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Not only is it a happy time for the Reaper, but for the sheaves as well. When Jesus takes us to Himself, we will be fulfilling the purpose for which we were created. We were made to be harvested that way, not to be consumed, but to enter freedom and rest. We can identify with that smiling farmer in our text as He finishes His fieldwork and strides toward the barn, cuddling in His arms the sheaves He planted, watered, cultivated, fertilized, and harvested. The return of Christ is not grim. Life in His barn is far better than life in the field.

Notice, the sorrow comes at the time of sowing -- the burial of earthly remains of those we love. The reason for the sorrow is sin, sin that cursed the ground, forcing the children of Adam to plant in sorrow. But God reserved the worst of it for Himself, so great was His love. In the fullness of time He planted His Son in this world. He took upon Himself the grief of all the sinners in the world. Isaiah assures us He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He allowed Himself to be plowed and broken by human evil. In His holy Passion He sowed Himself as the Seed of new life for all. As He ate with His disciples and broke the matzah He said, "This is my body." That was a token of what He would do the following day, when He fulfilled all righteousness, and be placed in the silent tomb, becoming the Bread of Life. So many who think they are enlightened do not understand Jesus at all. He did not come into this world to teach us precepts. He came into this world to feed us with His flesh, because of the depth of His love. Then He became the Firstfruits of the dead, rising again in glory, showing us that He had accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. As the first shoots of Springtime mark the resurrection of the grain, so He gives us His promise of the greater resurrection yet to come.

Sowing is the first step in preparing for the harvest. The young crop also needs to be watered. Jesus provides the bath of life, the Sacrament of Baptism. This He also performed in sorrow, for the cleansing water is His blood where sins are forgiven. Without the water of forgiveness we would dry up and harden into brick. From birth we are constantly under the influence of the devil. The only natural softness about us is the weakness of the flesh, which becomes the devil's doorway to dry us out from the inside, so that we produce nothing for the Lord. No field yields a harvest without water, and no man yields service to God without forgiveness. So thank God for the water of life, and for God's cultivating. Jesus proclaims the Law to us to pull out the weeds. The Church preaches the Law to lead us to repentance. Life also preaches the Law to us, as we experience the consequences of what we have done. When we have youth and health we abuse them by trusting in the gifts instead of the Giver. So God removes these weeds by the inexorable working of His Providence. In time, life must have its autumn. Meanwhile the Church urges us to deal with the sin that is in us. We would be a bumper crop for the Lord, not yield Him a harvest of death. While the Law might make us angry, God has to take that chance, for unless we are aware of the weeds we cannot repent of them.

When the weeds are gone, God would not leave us empty. When the Farmer takes away the weeds, He puts good fertilizer in, as Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, who prepares us for the Great Harvest, searching the thoughts of our hearts, reconciling us to God in heaven and our brothers on earth. In the Church, the Spirit proclaims the Gospel, always finding new and pertinent ways to tell the story of the cross. He gives you the power to pray, the power to repent, faith to believe the promises of Christ, and hope to endure when the weeding becomes painful. Holy Communion and Christian preaching are special fertilizers that nourish us with grace. God's forgiveness is complete, His promises are sure. With our salvation already certain, there is no self-love in any of our works, thus we can be profitable servants. Jesus refers to this as "remaining in the Vine." Through the Church we stay connected to Him, showing fruits of humility, obedience, charity, and every virtue. These are things God is doing right now, changing us from one degree of glory to another.

So who did all the hard part? The Lord did the sowing, watering, cultivating, and fertilizing. What remains now is the harvest, the happy time, as Jesus returns to gather the sheaves He labored over in deepest sorrow, bringing us to the barn for which we were created. The Bible describes this as a wedding and a banquet. Earth marriage is a copy of the genuine thing, the joy of heaven. The next life is also a meal, for not only in parables, but even in plain speech Jesus refers to it that way. After His resurrection He always appeared to His disciples at meal time, not because He was hungry, for He knew no sin and therefore would not need to be nourished. It was the happiness and fellowship of meal time that made it the best time to visit. The victory of the Lamb is certain, finished. The Messianic Banquet is a Thanksgiving Banquet, for God no longer remembers our sins, but always remembers our salvation. The time of fulfillment is the time for enjoying God's love forever.

Autumn is a happy time! Our spiritual autumn is a time of great hope, because our