Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Sermon: Wednesday of Laetare (Lent 4) – 2014

2 April 2014

Text: Isa 66:10-11, Ps 122

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

This week in Lent is known as Laetare, that is “Rejoice!” –
which is one of the last messages the prophet Isaiah has for us in the sixty-six chapters of His book.  “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”  For Isaiah has written prophetically, proclaiming good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah informs the children of Israel of the promise that their time in exile will end, and the blessings of eternity, as conceived as a New Jerusalem, an Eternal Zion, the City of God, is coming upon the Lord’s beloved chosen people as the Messiah is coming.  And He comes not to punish sin, but rather to forgive transgression. Not to seek justice against Israel, but to atone for her.

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”

In this week of Laetare, the prophet’s call to rejoice is woven together as an antiphon with King David’s great hymn to the New Jerusalem, the Eternal Zion, the City of God – the 122nd Psalm, which was sung as the people of God ascended higher and higher as they walked to the House of God to worship.

“I was glad when they said to me,” says King David, says the people of Israel, say the Church of every time and place and age, singing with great rejoicing: “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”  For here, dear friends, in this holy house, we experience this New Jerusalem, this city of peace where God and man have been reconciled, where our sins have been forgiven, where God Himself has given us hope, joy, and a reason to live.  God Himself has poured out upon us His grace, His mercy, His peace – through the atoning blood of our Lord upon the cross.  And what’s more, dear friends, this peace, this atonement, this life itself is here fed to you, as a mother satisfies her children “with the consolation of her bosom” in a holy meal of the Lord’s body and blood.

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”

For the name Jerusalem, symbolic of our New Jerusalem, our Eternal City, our City of God is embedded in the name of our own congregation, Salem, chosen by our forbears as a reminder that we are part of this New Creation undertaken by God in Christ, a city not built on a river but on a baptismal flood, a city not protected with walls, but shielded by angels, a city not governed by a mayor, but overseen in love by the King Himself.  Salem is Shalom, Salem is peace, Salem is that reconciliation between our righteous God and us poor, miserable sinners, a reconciliation based solely upon Christ, given to us by grace, through faith, and secured by the Word of God and His holy sacraments.

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”

King David implores us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” not only the earthly city of brick and mortar, but the eternal city of the living stones of the people of God.  We wish to have peace among those here in this sanctuary, peace between all those who are members of this congregation, peace between all of our brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe, peace between all people of every land and language, and peace between God and man in the cross of Christ.  “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.  For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’”

That peace, dear friends, that reconciliation, the ending of the war that we started with God in the Garden of Eden, the endless bloodshed between brethren of the human race, the interminable squabbles between brothers and sisters within the Christian Church, that peace that passes all understanding, is indeed what our Lord won for us at the cross, and what He has given us at the font, at the altar, and at the pulpit.  It is that Word of reconciliation that makes Jerusalem not only the great city, but the very city of peace, a peace which has no end.

So let us rejoice, dear friends.  Even in the midst of our sorrows, even as we still live in a world riddled by sin, a church torn by schisms, a planet ablaze in conflict, a body still plagued by death, and a life on this side of the grave still suffering the effects of sin.  Even in the penitential season of Lent, let us rejoice, dear friends.  Let us rejoice because we know where we are headed – to the cross and to the empty tomb.  Let us rejoice like the ancient Jewish pilgrims making their way with gladness to the City of Jerusalem, knowing that they were going to the house of the Lord to find eternal peace.  Indeed, let us rejoice in the New Jerusalem, the Eternal Zion, the City of God.

“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her.”  Amen.


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