Christ Lutheran Church
June 13, 2021
by: Rev. Peter Mills – Preached by Rev. Dean Kavouras
“We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked.” 2 Cor. 5:1-3
Man’s nakedness in a sinful world is our problem from the Fall.
When Adam and the woman sinned, they cast off their Divine covering. On believing Satan’s word, the man and woman were bereft of God’s righteousness and shamed in nakedness (Gen. 3:10).
To possess knowledge of good and evil apart from God, is to know of death inhering in us. This was the shame that drove Adam and the woman to hide from God in the Garden.
St. Paul says, our bodies are destined for destruction; he calls them an “earthly tent” in which we groan over what was lost. Christian and pagan art reflect man’s longing for restoration of spiritual innocence, through male and female physicality.
Michelangelo’s famous sculpture entitled, “David” captures our yearning and lost memory of what God intended for man’s physical form. “David” captured the fleeting beauty of man in stone, a frozen, single moment, envisioning Adam as intended for eternity.
Putting aside Michelangelo’s vision of “perfectly” proportioned, virile, handsome David in his youth; Scripture returns us to the reality of sin’s inheritance; the mocking shame of our nakedness destined for death’s bed.
In 1 Kings Chapter One we find David on display; an old and impotent man, bearing the ravages of time, war, and the sin in which he was conceived (Ps. 51:5). David’s fleshly “tent” was no longer vital or beautiful for seducing gorgeous Bathsheba to adultery. As David’s “tent” was unraveling, he was weak, pallid, gamy, wizened, and suffering poor circulation.
Israel’s elders searched-out a fleshly covering to comfort their dying king; they found Abishag, the Shunammite. The young woman reputed to be the most beautiful in all Israel; was recruited to lie beside aged David, infusing him with her warmth, and perhaps a by-gone memory of Adam, who named his beautiful young woman, “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).
But Abishag’s warmth could not prevent David’s death, or the shame of the grave’s dust cover. Neither did God spare Jesus, David’s greater son (Ps. 110:1), the shame of nakedness and destruction of his flesh on account of sin. Our sin, of course.
The cross draws our eyes to another vision from Michelangelo, “The Pieta”, Mary holding and beholding her dead son fulfilling God’s prophecy to the woman, “I will surely multiply your distresses and your moanings. In distresses you will bear children (Gen. 3:16).
But in heaven marble memorials of the old creation pass away, as will all art and imagination, that cannot compare to God’s “house not made with hands” (2 Cor. 5:1b; cf. 2 Sam. 7:11b-13), the resurrected flesh of Jesus, a Temple prepared by God for our eternal dwelling.
Our dwelling in the new creation coming into being, is the righteous covering in the flesh of the woman’s Seed, who on the cross crushed the serpent’s head; to be bruised for our iniquity (Gen. 3:15).
Satan lays claim on the world, and all in it, to be his house. Against this boast, Jesus declared himself, “Stronger-man” come to invade and plunder Satan’s stronghold; that he would bind Satan and release us from death’s house. Apart from Jesus’ Kingdom, escape from satanic bondage is impossible (Mk. 3:27; cf. 5:1 ff.).
We proclaim the good news of Jesus crucified and so in the Resurrection are baptized into Jesus’ victory, and binding of Satan, free now to honor and worship our rightful Prince. Yet as we look about, it doesn’t always seem so; sin and death appear to dominate.
In today’s parables Jesus explains by: “The Growing Seed” and “The Mustard Seed”. The church has one job only, and even that one thing is not the cause of our release from the Satan’s house.
We understand the church as envisioned by Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, the Woman bearing Jesus crucified; Word of God in her custody for casting into the world her seeming insignificant Seed.
Even as the church sleeps, suffers, is concerned for the gospel, her sown Seed germinates unseen in good soil; moving her word in the world to grow in stages of dominion over the house of Satan. Planted good soil produces automatically; first the shoot, next the ear, and finally the full grain in the ear; but like the farmer: we know not how (Mk. 4:27, 28).
If at this present time we are unable to plumb the Word’s miraculous growth; nevertheless, we discern God’s power in bringing his new creation to fruition on the Last Day when “the full grain in the ear” is revealed at the Judgment of Christ. In short, the reign of God comes of itself, without our prayer.
It may seem Satan continues to hold the children of men as his chattel, by sin. But Jesus, the Stronger-man, does not battle on the world’s terms. God’s dominion is by Jesus’ elevation on the cross; where utterly naked in shameful weakness he submitted to God’s will to be our righteous covering.
By his death Jesus fulfilled all the law’s demands in our place; Satan, the prosecutor from hell, is defeated and bound to destruction for his blasphemous false charges (cp. Mk. 3:29, 30). Sin, death, and grave are destroyed in Baptism’s water and Word. By Baptism we leave the dominion of darkness (Col. 1:13) and enter into Jesus’ death, a righteous covering before God.
Following King David’s death, Abishag the fetching Shulammite woman was betrothed to David’s son Solomon. The church is Jesus’ “Shulammite” clothed in the bridal dress of his righteousness, against whom the gates of hell will not prevail (Mt. 16:18).
The Reign of God, by a crucified and planted mustard Seed (cf. Jn. 12:24) is revealed to be the power of God and the church’s expansive outreach to cover the sin of the world. Amen.
Thanks again to Rev. Peter Mills, Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Akron OH, for this sermon. May God continue to bless him.