A myHT Fortress

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Inconceivable?: A Homily on John 11

John 11:1-53

5th Sunday in Lent

10 April 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

"I AM the resurrection and the life." Doesn't Jesus realize how those are "fightin' words?" Bethany was in the inner ring of suburbs for Jerusalem. There would have been people from the priestly cliques, reporting back to the Temple. Jesus says He alone is the Way not to die, AND calls Himself "I AM!"

Jesus! That is blasphemy! You are giving them the words and deeds that they need to bring charges at the high council. They want You dead as it is!

And then, He does it. Amidst His tears over Lazarus, Jesus calls out to the dead friend lying in his tomb, and Lazarus rises!

Just moments before, Jesus was told: "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Both sisters greeted Jesus with this statement of faith, yet still not comprehending how Jesus was about to help them and witness to His Divinity. Now, out of great compassion and love, He bears witness to the Father in resurrecting His once-dead friend.

In the 1987 film classic, The Princess Bride, the hero, Westley, is tortured and presumed dead. His friends take him to some crazy magician named Miracle Max, who pronounces Westley, "mostly dead," and then produces a pill to save him.

Max ends up helping them, partly because it is for "true love," but even more so, to get revenge on the evil prince. Our Lord Jesus raises Lazarus entirely out of love for him, and knowing it would bring glory to God the Father. Pure love for His friend and mercy. No vengeance. No selfish reasons. No nagging wife chasing Him about, reminding him of his need for revenge against His enemies by raising someone "mostly dead."

It is precisely this kind of humor or lie that Jesus was avoiding in waiting so long. He could have arrived earlier, before Lazarus died, but Jesus delayed their arrival. There would be no question after four days in the tomb, wrapped in his burial cloths, and even "stinking" that Lazarus was completely dead. Our dear Lord shows that He is far more than some Miracle Max--far more than some cute and delightful con artist, or even more than a talented doctor in resuscitating people--this is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Resurrection and the Life Himself!

But the world is not ready for the Lord God to be raising completely dead people. They prefer the rational explanations, and in the end, so do you and I. We hear of a near death experience, and we "ooh" and "ahh." But to spend time pondering the gift of Baptism, and then realizing that it is far more miraculous and infinitely more important to that person's life, is not natural. We want excitement and adventure. But the Lord works through the simple means and washes life into you!

And here you sit. You smile through baptisms and think the little ones are cute. You think it's great when an adult is baptized but end up focusing on the individual coming here, and not the amazing miracle that God destroys the Old Adam and raises a new creature out of that font.

Yes, that little basin is the location of resurrection. The Holy Spirit calls you and gathers you into that water, where He has attached the Word of God to cleanse you into new birth. You die to sin there, and He raises you to life! And no. It is not "inconceivable!"

Your sinful nature does not believe in miracles. It denies resurrection. It thinks that there is nothing that could really be done with a valley full of dry bones. It credits Jesus at most as being a kind of Miracle Max. My friends, if that is the impressions you have of Jesus, you are headed for the real pit of despair with Satan himself.

Jesus Christ is your true hero. He has entered this earthly life, that you may have life without end. He claims you as His own, that you can be rescued, freed, and be carried away by Him to the never-ending wedding feast of Christ the perfect Bridegroom, and His Princess Bride, the Church.

But our precious Savior has reached out to you. He has baptized you and now speaks to you, reaching the ears of your new creature. He nourishes and strengthens faith, enlivening you with His Gospel! Jesus does not abandon you to your phony ideas of Him and His divinity. He does not leave you thinking He is merely a con-man.

Our dear Lord calls you to faith in Himself. What amazing joy is yours! You are baptized into Christ. He has raised you to new life through Baptism, and uses this to foreshadow that He will raise you, body and soul, at the last day to live with Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness! Even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

Yes, Jesus raised the completely-dead Lazarus to new life. He will raise you too, at the last day. And in the mean time, He prepares you for that resurrected life, as He feeds you His Body and Blood. Nourished by this heavenly food, He fills you with Himself, that you may live body and soul with Our Lord!

Thanks be to Jesus, who works true miracles and gives everlasting life, all out of His true love for you! Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Rejoice! : A Homily on John 9

John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39

Laetare/4th Sunday in Lent

3 April 2011

St. John's, Chicago, IL

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As a child, I can remember the "Mr. Magoo" cartoons on WGN. Mr. Magoo was a carefree and happy man who was most certainly visually impaired. While not blind, he was so nearsighted that he was constantly getting into funny or dangerous situations due to his poor eyesight.

Granted, this was a cartoon, and so the story lines were light hearted and humorous. But the reality is, most who suffer from visual impairment are not laughing. In this corrupted, sin-filled world, it is more often understood as a burden, suffering, and hardship to live one's life in darkness.

In a city such as ours, it is difficult to imagine such darkness. Even in the middle of the night, many of our homes have bright street lights near them, so there is always light to see. If one looks up in the sky, it is often difficult to see stars, due to the amount of electric lights around us.

The point is, many of us cannot even imagine the lonely darkness that this man experienced. And this man never had the joy or pleasure of experiencing sight before he lost it. He had always been blind. Add to that the miserable -- and false -- suspicions of his neighbors that particular sins caused his ailment, and we see an even sadder existence.

But don't be too quick to judge the disciples for their question. You ask the same thing. She is such a good person, why does she have to suffer with cancer? What did he ever do to end up this way? And it's not always about others, but you still ask it. "What have I done to deserve this?!"

That is not something to take lightly. At those times, you are judging God! You puff up with devilish pride and think you know better than the Almighty. You stubbornly cling to your blindness, in the face of our all-seeing God.

Still, the answer is, God is not zapping you to punish you for anything in particular. Yet you are a poor, miserable sinner, who deserves no good thing, and receives good only by the grace and mercy of God. You are born in the blindness of sin. By nature, you cannot see the Lord, or recognize any good work that He does. And Old Adam actually wants to "keep God in the dark."

That blindness warps your understanding of health and life, just as the disciples' view was warped. In 21st century terms, they would remark about this man's "quality of life." Society has grown cold toward many who suffer, and you hear phrases like, "I wouldn't want to live that way," or the gruesome joke, "If I ever get like that, take me out back and shoot me!"

How awful! How cold and sinful! Life is a gift, and as God's creatures, you never have a right to take that gift away. You are not to be the judge of any such "quality." Your own sin blinds you as to how the Lord is showing His glory and bestowing His mercy in the lives of those suffering, and those to whom they are witnesses. Jesus is sustaining them, and bearing witness to the love, mercy, and care of God through us all.

Today, our dear Lord says, "Rejoice!" Yes, here in the middle of a season of repentance, Jesus gifts you with rejoicing. Even though the world may be dark and lonely for you, rejoice, because Jesus has come to give you sight. Although you have remained "in the dark," persuaded by the devil to enjoy it, our dear Savior has journeyed to the cross, where He gives you salvation to rejoice over.

Rejoice, for He has opened your eyes to your sinful self. The Lord has given you to see you have been convicted and crushed by His Law. He shows you the devastation of life without Him. But rejoice that He has given you new sight, so you can "see that the LORD is good." He displays His perfect love and forgiveness and mercy that renew you and give you life.

Rejoice, because He takes your ailment on Himself. "Who is blind, but My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as My dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD? (Isaiah 42:19). Everything tough in this life is taken on by Jesus. At the cross, Jesus has taken on every burden and hardship and handicap. He receives your blindness and deafness as His own. And rather than something that is spiteful of our God, that ends up a blessing to rejoice over!

And now, it is not that He turns a blind eye to your sin, but He diverts His attention in His mercy. Your heavenly Father looks at you, yet observes His Son. He beholds you and admires His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. And so, the Lord God in His mercy, gives you the image of His Son as you stand before Him. Rejoice, you were born blind to His goodness, but He has healed you and given you sight. Thanks be to God for His holy and merciful vision, given to you! Amen.