The Name By Which We Are Blessed
January 2, 2022 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Christ Lutheran Church
January 2, 2022
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD cause his face to shine upon you, and be merciful to you. The LORD lift up his countenance upon you; and give you peace. Thus shall you place my Name upon the sons of Israel, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:24-27)
Beloved in Christ may these words never be denied you!
May they be with your spirit continually!
May you hear their sweet melody in your ears every day as you arise, and every night as you retire!
May they be the last words you hear as your eyelids close on earth, and open in heaven, where you will find out what they really mean; the Love that they convey, the Grace they express, and the gladness that they bestow. You cannot know that now anymore than your gerbil can understand Shakespeare, though it listens to people speak English all day long.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, like the burning bush, was able to contain the “mighty God” in her womb without disintegrating. Human flesh contained the God/Man in the incarnation of Christ that we celebrate for 12 joyous days. And the consecrated Bread and Wine are able to become the “medicine of immortality” for us, and transmit “abundant life” (Jn. 10) to us.
But the glory that this BENEDICTION bestows cannot be grasped even by our enlightened minds; much less by the “children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2) But understand or not, we can be convinced by faith that it is so. That what Sacred Scripture teaches is the ultimate truth; and that whatever happens in the world is not the final story, but that there is a New Creation awaiting those who belong to Christ; you are those people.
The churches Liturgy and Blessed Sacraments can communicate Goodness and Beauty to us, but until we see our God face to face; until we “know, even as we are known” (1 Cor. 13) we patiently await redemption, to wit the resurrection of the body (Rom. 8); and by faith we gladly receive this blessing that Aaron placed upon the sons of Israel, and that our High Priest places upon us at the close of the Eucharistic feast to send us on our way in safety and peace.
For contained in these words is boundless BLESSING that: no eye has ever seen, no ear ever heard, and which has never entered the heart of man. (1 Cor. 2:9) Or as the Psalmist prays, “Such knowledge is too high for me, I cannot attain to it.” (Ps. 139).
And so for now may we be content with the Golden Rays of Sunshine that our God sheds upon us – even if at this time we are unable to stare into the source lest we should become blind. But also know that the reality will be more – even as the sun is greater than the rays it sheds.
Now what was said in today’s Old Testament lesson is fulfilled in today’s gospel where we find that Jesus, by his circumcision, validating every previous circumcision ever performed, and was formally named ”Jesus,” which means Savior. It is his name that is placed upon us in baptism, which replaces circumcision.
Instead of having foreskin cut away, and blood shed, by circumcision; by baptism we are clothed with Christ who offered his flesh and blood on the cross to cleanse us; to render us pure; without spot, wrinkle, blemish or any such thing (Eph. 5) even as he himself is pure. And we are, moreover, fed with his resurrected Flesh and Blood at every Eucharist so that we might live as he lives, and be carried on eagles’ wings from here to eternity. (Is. 40)
Jesus himself is the FAITH that St. Paul refers to in today’s epistle. For as often as St. Paul uses the word “faith” he doesn’t mean mere religious thoughts, but he means Christ, his cross, his grave, his brilliant resurrection and his sweeping ascent into heaven.
Before Christ came God provided Torah, the Law, to be our navigational beacon. To serve as a curb that kept people within the “paths of righteousness,” and kept them from straying into deadly waters. Sadly that curb and guide has been expelled, spit upon, and crowned with thorns, and we are all paying the price, the just along with the unjust.
But when faith came, that is to say, when Christ came into the cosmos to be our Savior the Law, including circumcision, was taken out of service; and replaced by the New Covenant in the Lord’s blood – even as Jesus says:
“this CUP is the New Testament in my blood.”
And so to have Faith in Christ is not merely a mental exercise where we learn a catalog of doctrines, and give our assent to them - essential as that is! But that is only the beginning, not the end.
Because faith means baptism. And baptism daily repentance, and the baptismal life that we learn in the gospel. Not an “alternate lifestyle,” but the life that is fixed on God and on nothing else at all. The life that says “no” to ungodliness, the urgings of the flesh, and the allurements of the Old Serpent that come to us courtesy of the woke-but-actually-comatose world about us.
Faith means that we altogether empty ourselves of ourselves and become “poor in spirit,” because Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt. 5:3)
It means leaving the world behind every Lord’s Day and entering into communion with God the Father Son and Holy Spirit where we get a “foretaste of the feast to come.”
And though the reality will be infinitely more grand … than what we can experience even here in God’s house, it is enough for now – more than enough to give us what the world does not posses, and so cannot give: the peace of God which surpasses understanding. For God is able to do more than we can ask or even think!
He is the one who places his blessing upon us this day. Amen.