Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sermon: Wednesday of Oculi (Lent 3) – 2014

26 March 2014

Text: Psalm 25

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.”
This week is known by the Latin name “Oculi,” which means “eyes” – our eyes which are “toward the Lord” according to Psalm 25. 

So what does it mean to have our eyes “toward the Lord”?  Can we see God?  God is a Spirit, and moreover, God’s presence was withdrawn from us at the fall.  We are warned over and over in the Holy Scriptures that if we see God’s face, we will die.  Our Sanctus hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” was sung first by the prophet Isaiah, as he lay in terror on His belly before the presence of Almighty God.  “Woe is me,” he bellowed, “I am undone.”  Isaiah would never have dared raise his eyes “toward the Lord.” 

And we today can look up, down, left, and right, and we do not see God.  We do not have the beatific vision, we do not gaze upon the face of the Almighty as Adam and Eve did.  We don’t even get a brief glimpse of the Lord’s back, as Moses was allowed to do.

And yet, dear friends, as I entered the chancel in a priestly way on your behalf, we all sang together that our eyes are indeed “toward the Lord.”

In the beautiful poetry of King David’s Hebrew, our gaze is a symbolic one.  We are not able to see God, but we are able to look toward Him, as a sheep looks to his master, as a child looks to his parents, as the friends and foes of our Blessed Lord Himself were able to look to Him to address the charges that He was a demon.

We look toward that which is important.  Our eyes flit to what draws our attention.  We gaze upon that which we consider worthy of our time and notice.  And the Psalmist understands that it is the Lord who has rescued him, like someone releasing an animal from a trap, it is the Lord who is worthy of his attention and gratitude.

For we live in a broken, fallen world.  We are surrounded by traps and snares of demons and devils, by temptations and distractions, by the glitter and glamour of the world’s illusory and counterfeit glory.  The devil will not save us, but would rather destroy us; the world will not redeem us, but would have us weak and distracted; our sinful nature will not release us, but would see us curved in upon our sinful selves.  And any and all of these false gods would ensnare us in the net and drag us into the pit.

Dear friends, with King David, we confess that we are “desolate and afflicted.”  We know our condition.  We know that we have failed to keep the law.  We know that we are turned this way and that from focusing on the Lord who saves us.  We know that we are mortal.  We are as good as dead.

And we pray with David: “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed…. Bring me out of my distresses!  Look on my afflicted and my pain, and forgive all my sins.”

“And forgive all my sins.”

This, dear friends, is why our eyes are ever “toward the Lord.”  For who else can forgive our sins, cleanse our guilt, restore our souls, redeem our sinful flesh, and release us from the net of sin, selfishness, suffering, and death itself?

And we have an advantage that King David lacked, dear brothers and sisters.  For we can lift our eyes toward the Lord.  The Lord Jesus has come in human form, to live among us, to preach and teach, and to die and rise again.  We can look to Him in the way that He has promised to be with us, in the most holy sacrament of His very body and blood.  When the holy elements are lifted high, we gaze toward Him in His royal majesty, which is at the same time, in His humble nearness.  For our eyes are ever toward the Lord in His Word and in His sacraments, releasing us from the net, and liberating us to serve Him without fear.  We look to the cross, the atoning blood, the sacred iron-clad declaration of absolution from the Lord Himself.  We lift up our eyes and our ears, and He takes away our desolation and our affliction.

Dear friends, there is no other place to focus our eyes, no other presence in this universe worthy of our gaze.  For there is only one hope of being released from the net, and that is Him who filled the nets of St. Peter with fish and promised that he would catch men in those nets. 

The Psalmist concludes confidently: “Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”  Amen, Amen, may it ever be so!

“My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.”  Amen.


on the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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