Friday, May 22, 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ezekiel 36:22-28)

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.” It is not for your sake that I will act, O people of God, it is not for your sake. I do not act in salvation because you are so worthy, because you are so righteous, because you are so special. There is nothing in you that makes you worth saving, that demands my action on your behalf. No, I do not act because your holiness compels me; quite the opposite. I act for the sake of my Name, I act for the sake of my promises, I act because I AM who I AM. Cast out any thoughts of entitlement, any ideas that you are worthy, any notion that I have to act because of how important you are. Those are the thoughts that doomed you to destruction in the first place, that made you unworthy, unholy, unrighteous. Do not demand salvation, but receive it as grace. My actions are not predicated on anything in you, but everything in me. I am love, I am compassion, I am mercy. It is because you are not entitled to anything that I give you everything, it is because you are unworthy that I make you worthy, it is because you are unholy and unrighteous that I act in salvation. I act for the sake of my Name, not for your sake; my holiness, my promises, will endure, and on the Last Day no one will ever doubt again that I AM who I AM, the God of salvation, that the One who created all things has now redeemed all things.

If I acted on the basis of the worthiness of human nature, I would never act, I would never save. You have forfeited any right to demand anything from me when your first parents tried to make themselves worthy on their own terms. “You shall have no other gods,” I taught Moses on Mount Sinai, and I wasn’t only referring to blocks of wood and stone. Your first idol is always yourself. “You will be like God,” the serpent said, and like your first parents, you believe him. You grasped after my throne and lost everything. My Name was upon you; you had everything, but you sullied that Name with your sin. So I cast you from the Garden into the wilderness, I placed creation itself under a curse, and death entered into the world I created to be abundantly filled with life. Cancer, heart disease, poverty, lost jobs, oppression, violence, tornadoes and floods; all of this came as a result of the sinfulness of man. And you cannot go back; Eden is barred to you.

You cannot save yourselves, though Satan would teach you otherwise. He who led you into sin in the first place now fancies himself a peddler of salvation, and you are still listening to his lying words. Great ladders are lifted up, trying to climb the walls of Eden: the ladder of morality, piling up good works to impress me, the ladder of reason, attempting to use knowledge to reach the heavens, and the ladder of mysticism, trying to reach me through an emotional connection. Each of these ladders ignores the barrier that stands between me and you: sin. Until your sin is removed, you cannot have fellowship with me; I am holy, you are not. You cannot remove that barrier, you cannot reach me on your own. You have defiled my Name through your sin, you have made my Name a sign of reproach among the nations. Your actions, tainted with sin, can do nothing; but I will act—not for your sake, but for the sake of my Name. “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”

They will all know that I AM the Lord, the only God of heaven and earth, when through you, O my people, I vindicate my name. Not because you are worthy, not because you deserve it, but because I AM who I AM will I act. For the sake of my Name, which has been profaned among the nations, which is held in disrepute by all, I will act, I will save, I will bring you out of the wilderness and back into Eden. “I will take your from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.” In the Day when I act, the nations will know that I AM the Lord, for I will act in salvation, I will deliver my people. You cannot act, so I will, according to my promise, not for your sake, but for the sake of my Name.

You cannot climb up to me, so I will come down to you; I will send my Son into the flesh to bear your sin. His coming will destroy every ladder, for by Him alone can anyone have access to me. In Him my justice is fulfilled, for I judge Him guilty for the sin of the world; He will allow Himself to be nailed to the cross in your place, bearing your sin, your defilement of my Name. He who bears my Name, who is God of God and Lord of Lords with me, will vindicate my Name, He will fulfill my justice, and through Him I will show mercy and love to the nations. Not because you are so worthy does He suffer and die, not because you are entitled to His redemption, but because you are unworthy and unrighteous does He give up His life into death for you. Not because you are clean but to make you clean does He suffer, not because your heart is healthy, but because it is hardened is He crucified. Through Jesus, my Son, all that you cannot do is done, and you are saved.

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.” I cleanse you through the blood of my Son, purifying you from all the filth of sin that you have covered yourself with. Your idolatry, especially the idolatry of self, is washed away in the tide flowing from His pierced side. When you were brought to the font, I washed you in the blood of Jesus, sprinkling pure water upon you, the water joined with my Holy Word. You who were unworthy are now worthy, you who were unholy are now holy, you who were unclean are now clean. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Behold, I make all things new! Your sinful nature, your corrupt flesh, cannot be tamed, it cannot be reformed, it cannot be trained. Radical surgery is needed, and at the font, I perform it. Your heart of stone, a heart that stubbornly opposed me, is removed and cast away, and a new heart is put in its place, a heart that is united with me and will be forever, a heart that delights in me. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” My Holy Spirit comes and dwells within you, and through Him you serve me by serving your neighbor. The scar tissue still remains, you will still struggle against your sinful nature, but the victory has been won, and the Holy Spirit dwells within you to daily put the old man to death through repentance and raise up the new man in faith.

And on the Last Day, even the scar tissue will be removed, as the radical surgery of your baptism is fulfilled in the resurrection of all flesh. On that Day I will fully vindicate my Name; on that Day “the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” The world despises my Name as my saints lay in the grave, defeated by death, as the world despised my Name when my Son rested in the tomb. But on that Day I will be vindicated, my Name will be exalted before all the peoples. For as my Son was raised up in victory, to the glory of my Name, so on that day the bodies of my saints will be raised up from the exile of death to live with me forever. “You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people and I will be your God.” You were barred from Eden by your sin, but cleansed and restored to me, the new Eden will be yours for eternity, and there I will be your loving God, and you will be my beloved people.

It is not for your sake that I act; cling to these words of Gospel, O my people! If I waited until you were worthy to act, my Son wouldn’t have taken flesh, suffered, died, and rose again for you. But I act for the sake of my Name, for the sake of my promises. I promised salvation to your first parents, and I keep my promises, all of them; they are all ‘yes’ in Jesus, my Son. All of those promises became yours at the font, and I will fulfill them, I will bring you out of this wilderness of sin to the Promised Land of the new heavens and the new earth. You will be my people, and I will be your God, bearing my name in holiness, in worthiness, in righteousness, forever. Amen.

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