A Plaintive Cry
November 28, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Isaiah 64:1
Christ Lutheran Church
November 29, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Plaintive Cry
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down! (Isaiah 64:1 ff)
If you want to know why you never need worry about the future it is because God is already there with his righteousness and salvation. Case in point: today’s Old Testament lesson!
The Prophet Isaiah wrote this desperate and passionate prayer for a national tragedy that was still 150 years in the future. Generations would be born, and live, and thrive and die before this prayer would be needed, but there it was ready to be prayed.
No it would not be needed for another 150 years. But O how it WAS needed, WHEN it was needed. And O how we need it today, because in many ways we resemble the Old Testament church.
They were waiting for the coming of Messiah, the Christ, the One Anointed and dripping with the oil of God’s Holy Spirit to perform the Glistening Sacrifice that would renew the face of the earth. They were waiting for the one who, in today’s gospel, comes to the Mount of Olives (Olive Mountain) which is no minor detail for it is symbol of the oil of the Holy Spirit who both inspired this prayer, and anointed Jesus as the Christ.
In our day the Advent that they were waiting for has already occurred, 2020 years ago, when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14)
Nonetheless, liturgically, we still look forward to the coming of Christ during Advent and celebrate it for 12 full days. Celebrate what?
The Christ Mass of course! The greatest gift the world has ever received. The only Enduring Gift, the Pure and Holy Gift, the Lamb of God who avails for us always.
The Old Testament church, however, was not praying for a distant future salvation but for an immediate one, even as we do. They did not clearly understand that the Eternal Word of God would be made man.
They did not comprehend the cross, a victory gained by the humility and death of our Lord. But they were praying for “shock and awe” against their enemies, instead. A redemption of “biblical proportion,” if you like, that would burn their mortal enemies to a crisp, and restore every blessing lost to them by sin.
Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, of course, we easily see the fulfillment of every Old Testament type and prophecy in the One we hail as Hosanna, the Blessed One who comes to us in the name of the Lord.
We see Isaac bound to the altar of the cross. We see Isaiah’s Suffering Servant despised and rejected of men on Calvary. We see Jonah swallowed up by the whale of death, and rising up again on the third day. We see the Man of God’s right hand (Ps. 80) leaving his heavenly Father, his earthly mother, and going to the cross where he would enter into the deep sleep of death; where his side would be opened by a Roman spear, and his Bride the Church emerge spotless and without blemish.
You are that Bride!
But, still, like Israel we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, to wit: the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:23)
But unlike them we have obtained the full grace of God in Christ. We live in our new baptismal skin. We have hope in the darkest night, and pray at every Holy Communion that God would tear open the heavens and come down now, just as he did 2020 years ago.
And he does!
Graciously! Miraculously! “In with and under the bread and wine,” which by his mighty Word becomes for us the “pure and fresh,” Virgin born flesh of Jesus that makes us Pure and Fresh as well: like no eye has ever seen, nor ear ever heard.
But the mercies of our God do not remain in the church, but go with us into the world each day so that our Lord walks “with us” through “the valley of the shadow of death.”
And so as we encounter every temptation, danger, loss and sorrow; as we regret every sin and the weakness of the flesh, we legitimately pray this prayer that God put on his church’s lips by the prophet Isaiah:
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” A prayer which he will always answer for us in the affirmative, for:
He is “Our God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.”
He is Our Refuge and Strength, a Very Present Help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though: devils all the world should fill all eager to devour us, we tremble not we fear no ill they shall not over power us. (Ps. 46 & A Mighty Fortress)
And he will, moveover, according to S. Paul: sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. For God is faithful, by whom you were called, into the communion of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:8)
And finally, he will come again in great power and glory to judge the living and the dead. At that time all the graves will be opened, and all men will stand before him. (John 5:24 ff)
It will be a bad day for all who hate Christ, reject his Word and disregard his commandments. But for those: who love his appearing there is stored up a crown of righteousness which the Righteous Judge will award his Elect. (2 Tim. 4:8).
You are those elect.
And so however wounded your sacred head might be today from many thorny crowns, you will wear the Royal Diadem with Christ, and live and reign with him in glory unto the ages of ages.
And thus we joyfully proclaim the words of today’s Gradual:
Behold! Your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation.
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
And so now let us lift up our hearts! Let us lift them up to the Lord who has torn open the heavens to come to us in his blessed Word and Sacrament this day. Amen.