Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trinity 10 (Luke 19:41-48)

A bride stands upon a hill, radiant and beautiful. She is adorned with gold, with costly jewelry, with clothing white as the driven snow. She is the picture of youthful exuberance, of joyful expectation, of long years of waiting. She has been patiently prepared for this moment, for this time, the hour that is now upon her. Ever since she was a girl, her Father has been protecting her, keeping her safe, training her for the time when her Bridegroom would come for her. There were times when it seemed that she would not survive, that her Bridegroom would find clothes of mourning instead of wedding garments, but at each turn, her Father delivered her. She fell into bondage, and He saved her, with His mighty outstretched hand. She was threatened by enemies again and again, and He delivered her from their clutches. At times she rebelled against her Father, as many daughters do; she spurned Him, and then felt the penalty, dwelling in exile far from home. But He still loved her, and He brought her back again, taking her from the land of exile as He had taken her from the land of slavery. In His love He restored her to her home, and gave her glory and beauty once again. At every moment, every time of trial and of joy, He repeated the promise to her, the promise He uttered to her when she was still young: your Bridegroom is coming, He is coming soon. Be patient, wait for Him, and He will give you joy that you have never known. Look for Him, keep watch, for He will come when you do not expect, but He will come, that is my promise to you.

Now the time has come, the promise of her Father has been fulfilled; the moment long prepared has arrived, the event that every second of patient waiting was pointing toward. Her Bridegroom has arrived. His visitation has come. He visits to claim His bride as His own, to take her to Himself in love. The Father’s plan has come to fruition, the time prepared by everything that happened to her, every word of promise that was spoken, has come to pass. The Bridegroom visits His bride to fulfill all the promises, the Bridegroom visits His bride to give her joy, the Bridegroom visits His bride to give her a wedding feast that will never end. Every other wedding in all of history has simply been pointing to this one, the big one, the union of this bride with her long-awaited Bridegroom.

He visits to bring an end to her strife, to speak words of comfort, to give peace to a bride who only knows of tragedy and conflict. He comes speaking words of peace, telling her, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” He will defeat all of her enemies, once and for all, He will deliver her from the clutches of those who have tried to destroy her from her birth. Her Father protected her all these many years so that the Bridegroom could one day come and put an end to her enemies. “Take heart,” He tells her, “I have overcome the world.” He comes to tell her that her warfare is over, her iniquity is pardoned, that He will give her peace, true peace, peace that will endure though all else pass away. She has waited for Him so long, and now it is with joy that He tells her He is here, He has come, as her Father always promised. What greater gift could be given to the radiant bride than her long-awaited bridegroom?

But at this moment, the moment she has long been waiting for, with her Bridegroom standing before her in joy, she scoffs and turns her head. Who is this man, claiming to be her Bridegroom? He stands before her in the clothing of a peasant, a sharp contrast to the radiant robes that she wears. His words of peace, His claims to be what she has been looking for these many years, fail to move her. For the truth is, she has found her own peace in this world. Her Father and His promises have become little different than the air she breathes. His protection is essential to her life, and deep down she knows it, but she rarely thinks of Him. Most days she doesn’t think of Him at all. She goes through the motions, honoring Him with empty words, while her heart is far away. 

She thinks she has it made; that she can have peace with her Father and peace with the world. As long as she does what is required, as long as she gives her Father the honor He is due on the day it is due, she can live however she wants the rest of the week. She has found many other lovers to occupy her attention, and when she does what they ask, she has peace, peace and comfort to go with the pleasures they offer. Her clothing is radiant, she has all the jewelry she could want, and while her lips say that she awaits her Bridegroom, in her heart, she is happy with the status quo. She is comfortable with her sin because she assumes her Father’s favor, she takes it for granted. She can do what she wants because she is His daughter, because she honors Him with her lips. Now this man, claiming to be her Bridegroom, has come to disturb that peace, to disrupt her carefully constructed alliance with the world. She rejects Him almost out of hand, almost casually; she has strayed so far from the Father’s promises that she cannot even imagine them coming true.

The Bridegroom came to her with joy, but that joy quickly turns to weeping. He, who wished to speak words of comfort and love, who visited her to bring her salvation, now instead utters words of woe. “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” He came to give her peace, but she did not recognize the One she had waited so long to welcome, and rejected Him instead. She chose the fleeting peace that her lovers offered over the eternal peace brought by her Bridegroom. And her Bridegroom is sorrowful beyond measure; He weeps over His callous, rebellious bride, prophesying her destruction. Only He can save her, but she has rejected Him. “They will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

He goes into her Father’s house, not welcomed as the expected Bridegroom but condemned as an invader, and He cries out against her, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” Too long has she dwelt in self-confidence within its walls; too long has she arrogantly pursued her lovers while paying lip service to her Father. In desperation He tries to call her to her senses. “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before [your Father] in this house, which is called by [His] name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ —only to go on doing all these abominations?” But these words of condemnation do not move her to repentance; if anything they incite her. The bride has her Bridegroom arrested and condemned to death by her lovers; rejection of her Bridegroom is only the start—she will not stop until everything He predicted against her happens to Him. His words become a prophecy of His own death. “The days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children with you.” The Bridegroom was surround on every side by His enemies, with His bride looking on and giving approval, even calling for His death; the Bridegroom who came in joy to greet His bride on Sunday was torn down to the ground by being lifted high upon a tree on Friday.

The Bridegroom wept when He encountered the rejection of His bride; He wept because she would one day weep. For she continued in her sin, eating and drinking, buying and selling, until she arrogantly rebelled against her lovers and found her Bridegroom’s words proved true. Barricades were set up, she was hemmed in on every side. There would be no deliverance this time; what she did to her Bridegroom was visited upon her own head, with one difference; her house, the temple she called her home, was razed to the ground, never to rise again. But her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, who called Himself the temple, was rebuilt, in only three short days. Her Bridegroom rose to replace the bride who had rejected Him with a new bride, a faithful bride. This bride recognizes her Bridegroom, she receives Him in faith; where Jerusalem rejected her Bridegroom in stubborn unrepentance, the Church recognizes Him with humility, confessing her sin and clinging to His mercy and peace. “No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” Jerusalem revealed that she did not have the Spirit when she cursed her Bridegroom, condemning Him to death; the Church reveals that she has the Spirit when she confesses her Bridegroom as her Lord.

She does this with great joy, for she knows what her Bridegroom has done for her. His death at the hands of the Romans, incited by Jerusalem’s jealousy, was not simply a miscarriage of justice, but the very means by which the Bridegroom would win all that He had promised. True peace comes from the violence that was inflicted upon Him. On the tree, He ended her warfare, on the tree, He pardoned her iniquity, on the tree He gave to His bride as a dowry double grace for all her sins. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are the wedding gifts to His bride, won by His shed blood, and when He rose on the third day, He invited her to a wedding banquet that will have no end. By His stripes His bride is healed, and she is given the gift of peace. Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that made for peace!” The difference between Jerusalem and the Church is not that one bride is sinless and the other sinful, but that one repents while the other refuses to do so. The Church, His bride, you and I, know what makes for peace: our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. His death, His resurrection, make for peace, for His shed blood covers every sin, reconciling a rebellious people to His Father and presenting us as a radiant bride, more radiant than the earthly Jerusalem ever was. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Blessed indeed is the bride, cleansed by Christ, who will celebrate with Him on the day of His final visitation. In His Name, Amen.

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