Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Homily for Lenten Vespers in the Week of Invocabit, the First Sunday in Lent

John 9:1-7; 2 Corinthians 5:12-19; Isaiah 8:1-10

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus regularly commended those who believed the Word of the Lord without signs, even as He chastened those who demanded signs in order to believe. Nevertheless, the Lord often performed signs before the people, and, in some occasions, God the Father even commanded the faithful to ask for a sign. One such occasion was in Isaiah chapter seven where the LORD commanded King Ahaz to ask for a sign from the LORD to confirm what the LORD had promised in His Word. But, Ahaz refused. Ahaz did not fear, love, and trust in the LORD above all things, and so, even when the LORD commanded him to ask for a sign, he would not. Perhaps he believed that the LORD was trying to trick him? Perhaps he believed that the LORD could not help him? Perhaps he believed that prayers and devotion and the Words of Holy Scripture are useless in the face of real-life trials and tribulations, not to mention the fierce army of the Assyrians? For whatever reason, Ahaz refused to ask the LORD for a sign. Thus, the LORD gave Him a sign of His own choosing, “Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His Name Immanuel,” the sign of the virgin birth of the Son of God, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The LORD desired to bless Judah and Jerusalem, and still He would; but because of Ahaz’ lack of faith and trust, the blessing would come only after a chastening at the hands of King Rezin and the Assyrian army and Pekah, the son of Remaliah, King of Israel. The LORD said that Ahaz and the people of Judah had refused “the waters of Shiloah which flow gently and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah.” That is a symbolic way of saying that Ahaz and Judah had refused the blessing the LORD desired to give. Because of this, the LORD would still give His blessing, but now it would come following the invasion and devastation of Judah at the hands of the Assyrians and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Nevertheless, the LORD would bless His people, as Isaiah prophesied saying, “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”
“God is with us” is the very meaning of the name of the promised Virgin-born Son, “Immanuel.” God had promised Ahaz and Judah that He was with them. That is why He commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign from Him to confirm His promise. But, Ahaz refused in unbelief and lack of trust. Nevertheless, the LORD would keep His promise, in His own way. He would be Immanuel, “God with us,” even though His people disbelieved and did not trust in Him. Thanks be to God! Yes, thanks be to God, indeed, that God is with us still, despite our unbelief and lack of trust!
We might like to think that we are not like King Ahaz, that we would not refuse a sign from the LORD. And, yet, that is precisely what we do when we fail to make use of His Word and His Sacraments. For, these are miraculous signs from the LORD, every bit as wondrous as the Virgin birth, and yet we often take them lightly, treat them irreverently, or disregard them altogether, just as Ahaz and Judah disregarded the waters of Shiloah. We see these signs, these Sacraments, only according to their outward form: We see a sinful man spouting out lackluster words, ordinary water from the tap, tasteless bread, and cheap wine, even though the LORD has promised in them and through them forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Man looks on the outward form; God looks on the heart.
And so, the disciples saw only a man blind from birth. Thus, they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” But, what does Jesus answer? Jesus looks not upon the wretchedness of man or the uncleanness of sin, but Jesus trusts in the Word of the LORD. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of the God might be displayed in him.” This was, non-coincidentally, the same explanation that the LORD God gave to Job for his sufferings and loss, “… that the righteousness of God might be revealed.” What does this mean? How is the righteousness of God revealed in Job’s suffering and in the blind man’s blindness? Though Jesus does restore to the man his sight, it was not physical, but spiritual light the man truly received. Indeed, following his healing, the man continued to suffer as the Pharisees interrogated him and threw him out of the synagogue. We must not judge by what the eyes see or by what human reason and worldly wisdom determine reasonable and wise, but we must believe and trust in the LORD and His Word. The Word of the LORD alone is the light that scatters the darkness of sin and death, the light over which the darkness has not, and cannot, overcome.
Jesus is the work and righteousness of God. Though He came in an outwardly unimpressive way, as a weak and tiny infant, conceived in a scandalous manner, in humility and lowliness and, perhaps, even poverty, the son of a carpenter from backwater Nazareth, He was the Light and the Life of God breaking into this world of His own creating to heal it, redeem it, renew and restore it. Jesus plunged Himself into the river with sinners so that, as they came up cleansed, renewed, and restored, He came up bearing their sin and uncleanness upon Himself so that He might take it to the cross and there suffer and die, the sinless for the sinful, the clean for the unclean, the righteous for the unrighteous, the Son of God as the Son of Man, that sons of men might become sons of God. He was Immanuel, God with us, in the water. And He is Immanuel, God with us, in the water still. Even as Jesus sent the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, the same waters of Shiloah refused by Ahaz and Judah, so He sends you to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, eternal life, and salvation in Him. He offers you, He gives you, He commands you to receive this sign.
The sign and sacrament of Holy Baptism is nothing other than the LORD’s naming you and claiming you as His own child in His Son Jesus Christ. Though, to fleshly eyes and ears, it appears to be but lackluster words and ordinary tap water, to the eyes and ears of faith, “it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” Moreover, it is a Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus, it is the entrance into the body of Christ, the Church, and life that never ends.
Indeed, the early Christian Church understood Holy Baptism to bestow five primary gifts: First, baptism cleanses from sin and sickness, washing away both external impurities and internal ones.  Second, baptism is an entrance into the Communion of Saints, the Church. In baptism, Christians are “born again” into a new family, the Church, and there are provided with spiritual nurture and support. Third, baptism bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit and His illuminating and sanctifying gifts, giving sight to the spiritually blind. Fourth, in being baptized, the new Christian experiences death to the self and rebirth. Finally, baptism proclaims the eschatological hope we share and confess for restoration in the new creation that will be ushered in when Christ returns.
In refusing the LORD’s command to ask for a sign, King Ahaz did not fear, love, and trust in the LORD above all things. Still, it was, and it is, the LORD’s will to bless His Israel, His Church. He has accomplished this by means of the incarnation, the Word of God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, and by fulfilling the Law for us, and by suffering and dying for our sins, and by being raised again to new life and ascending to the Father. Holy Baptism is the sign the LORD has given His Church that He is still Immanuel, God with us – through life, and through death, into life that never ends. Remember your baptism, and return to your baptism in daily repentance, for it is the work of God and the righteousness of God displayed in you to the glory of His Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Homily for Invocabit - The First Sunday In Lent

Matthew 4:1-11; 2 Corinthians 6:1-10; Genesis 3:1-21

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Both St. Matthew and St. Luke say that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. St. Mark, less gently, says that the Spirit drove Him or cast Him into the wilderness. Regardless, on this the three Evangelists agree: Jesus did not just wander into his confrontation with the devil.
Immediately after His baptism by John in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit cast Jesus out into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. Jesus was chrismated, was anointed by the Holy Spirit for that very purpose: As the new Adam, to resist and overcome the temptation of the devil by the Word of God; as the new David, to slay that demonic Goliath with the five smooth stones of the Word.
But, whereas Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden because of their sin, Jesus, who knew no sin of His own, was made to be sin for us. He was baptized in the sewer of man’s sin, but instead of emerging cleansed in Holy Absolution, He was made to be a curse for us. Nevertheless, His Father loved Him and was pleased with Him, because, though He was innocent, He laid down His life in sacrificial love for you. And, whereas David, a man after God’s own heart, abandoned the Ark of the Covenant on the battlefield, committed adultery with his commander’s wife, and then murdered Uriah the Hittite by sending him to the frontlines of the battle, Jesus is the express image of the heart of God and His glory.
In Adam, we see a man who was holy, free, and without sin deceived by the devil, trusting and fearing him more than God, and submitting himself to enslavement to sin and death. And, in David, we see a man, we see all men, conceived and born in sin, whose every inclination is to sin always. We have battled with the devil and have lost. We battle with the devil every day and succumb often. Thanks be to God that He drove His holy and sinless Son into battle with the tempter for us, carrying the burden of our sin, fasting from worldly sustenance, but finding His strength and placing His trust solely upon the Word of God to resist temptation and to overcome the devil for us and to seal the victory in His death upon the cross.
I think that we are tempted to downplay the humanity of Jesus, to think that resisting the devil’s temptations was easy, child’s play for Him. But, that’s not what the Scriptures teach about Jesus, and that’s not what we confess with the whole Church about Jesus in the Creeds. Jesus is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father; and He is man, born from the substance of His mother. He has a rational soul and human flesh just like you. But the key thing that we must understand and confess today is that our Lord is not a mishmash of divinity and humanity, that is, Jesus’ divine and human natures are not confused or comingled in His person; this is to say that there is not a scrap of human nature in His Godhead, and there is not a smitch of deity in His manhood, any more than there is in yours or mine. Jesus came to save us, in our nature, not to put on some flashy, theandric, superhuman performance that would be fundamentally irrelevant to our condition. Jesus faced the tempter, the devil, in hunger and thirst and in physical weakness, as a man, just like Adam, even more just like David, and even more still just like you.
Jesus resisted the devil’s temptations, not by summoning up His divine power and glory – that’s exactly what the devil wanted Him to do! – but by finding strength and counsel, and by placing His trust in the Word of God, just like you do. The devil tempted Jesus to use His divine power and turn stones into bread that He might eat and satisfy the desires of His flesh. But, Jesus refused, trusting that the LORD would provide all that He needed to sustain His body and life. Then the devil tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, quoting the Scripture saying that angels would bear Him up, lest He strike His foot against a stone. Again, Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation and put His trust in the LORD and in His Word. Then, a third time, the devil tempted Jesus to take for Himself earthly power and glory, and Jesus resisted Him again by putting His trust in the LORD and in His Word.
If Jesus would have used His divine power, He would have blown it for us all. But, because He suffered the devil’s temptations as a man, as one of us, and resisted, placing perfect fear, perfect love, and perfect trust in God alone, he remained innocent, sinless, and holy and He could take His innocence to the cross, bearing your sins, bearing my sins and the sins of the world, and die, the sinless for the sinful, thus breaking the curse of death that hanged over us. And, on the third day, He was raised from the dead, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep.
The devil began his tempting by challenging Jesus’ divinity saying, “If you are the Son of God….” The devil knew full well who Jesus was, but he wanted Jesus to act like Superman rather than like Clark Kent. But, if Jesus were to have used His divine power to resist the devil’s temptation, then that would have done nothing for all us Clark Kents who do not have such power. Jesus is not Superman, but He is the perfect Man, the fullness of what God created Man to be, for you. Though He demonstrated that Adam could have withstood the temptations of the devil if he had placed his fear, love, and trust in God and His Word, He also demonstrated that sinful David, and sinful you as well, can face Goliath-like temptation and overcome by fear, love, and trust in God and His Word. But, more than either of these, Jesus has resisted and overcome the devil for you and has died for you to set you free from his tyranny. So, now, there is nothing to fear from that liar and deceiver. The emperor of this world has no clothes, and his kingdom is slipping through his fingers. The gates of hell are overcome by the Church of Christ in water, word, body, and blood. For, though He would not use His divine power to do what the devil tempted, Jesus uses it now to provide the bread of His body to feed and strengthen you, to call upon all the angelic host to guard and protect you in all your ways, and to exercise His divine power and authority over heaven and earth by forgiving your sins and giving you eternal life.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Homily for Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21; 2 Peter 1:2-11; Joel 2:12-19

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a forty-day period of preparation for The Feast of the Lord’s Resurrection, Easter Sunday. The forty days of Lent are patterned after Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness, resisting the temptations of the devil by His trust and reliance upon the Word of God. Thus, you already begin to see what your preparation is to be like. For, you also must learn to trust and to rely upon the Word of God and not your self or your own works. Indeed, your Lord’s Word to you this day is “Beware,” “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.”
But, what does Jesus mean? Truly, we often hear of our being made righteous by God’s decree on account of the innocent shed blood of Jesus, but what does Jesus mean by “practicing your righteousness?” Well, just as no one will call you a runner if you do not run, and no one will call you a singer if you do not sing, so you are not righteous if you do not practice righteousness. That is to say, if you do not bear the fruit of righteousness in your life, words, and deeds, then you are not righteous. That is what St. James means when he says that “faith without works is dead.” And, that’s what Jesus means when He says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And then, Jesus goes on to exhort you to three very specific ways in which you practice your righteousness: Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These have come down to us as the traditional Three Pillars of Lent.
Now, typically, Protestants, and even some Lutherans, have been quick to call the observance of the Three Pillars man made Roman Catholic tradition. While it is true that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church are the largest Christian fellowships that still encourage and practice the Three Pillars, it is simply false to conclude that the Three Pillars are merely the doctrines and traditions of men. They are not, but they are Biblical, even taught by our Lord Jesus Himself, which you heard for yourself in today’s Gospel. Additionally, Jesus doesn’t make these disciplines optional. He doesn’t say, “If you give to the needy,” but He says “When you give to the needy,” “When you pray,” and “When you fast.” However, while they are not optional, Jesus also teaches that they do not constitute righteousness, but rather, they are the practice of righteousness. Thus, you do not give alms, pray, and fast in order to earn or merit righteousness – for, you could never give, pray, or fast enough to make even a small movement towards righteousness – but you give alms, pray, and fast because you are declared righteous by God in the innocent shed blood of Jesus Christ.
That is why Jesus warns you to “Beware,” “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them.” But, note, the warning is not to beware practicing your righteousness, but the warning is in regard to the reason you are practicing your righteousness. If you are practicing your righteousness in order to be seen by other people so that they will think you righteous, then, Jesus says, you already have your reward; you have the admiration and praise of men. In that case, even though your righteousness comes from God alone through Jesus Christ, you give men the impression that righteousness comes from yourself, or from other men.
And, so, you can easily see why giving alms, praying, and fasting have become traditional Lenten disciplines, for, they are selfless acts, that is to say, they are not turned inward upon oneself, but they are turned outward towards both God and neighbor. Moreover, these disciplines place you in a receptive mode, in a mode in which you are receptive to what God freely provides and gives to you. These works of yours are not your righteousness, for, that comes from the LORD alone, but they are the fruit of your God-given righteousness and, thus, the practice of your God-given righteousness.
The Lenten disciplines serve to reorient you to the two tables of the Law and the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” For, you cannot obey the second table, about loving your neighbor, until you obey the first table about loving God. Consequently, if you obey the first table, then, consequently, obedience to the second will follow naturally as fruit. You will, without even having to work at it, be laying up treasure for yourself in heaven. And, where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
God knows that you have strayed. I have strayed too. But, do not despair. Rather, take heart and return to the LORD. For, your LORD still says to you, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and nor your garments.” “Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” Truly, this is what Lent is all about – repentance. Repentance means, “to turn back,” and repentance, turning back to the LORD, is what it means to prepare for Easter. Lent is an opportunity to reorient yourself in relation to your God. It’s a First Commandment opportunity to return to having no other gods before Him, not even yourself, and to fearing, loving, and trusting in Him above all things.
For, the LORD remains jealous for you. He will not share you with another god, not that there is another. Therefore, “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” In fact, what He desires for you is “that you may become partakers of His divine nature.” Thus, because you could not become what He is, divine God, He became what you are, a human being, in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ – God became man, that man might become God. And, the Lenten disciplines of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, along with other forms of selflessness and self-sacrifice – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love – “keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But, you must practice these disciplines, and do so with this promise, “if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Yes, practice righteousness, but always recognize and remember that righteousness comes from outside of you, the free gift of God in and through Jesus Christ. So whatever you give away, whatever you pray, and whatever you abstain from, do these things, not because you believe that they please the LORD or merit His favor, but do them because of the righteousness you have received as a free and perfect gift in Jesus Christ. Sacrifice yourself now because of the sacrifice God has made for you in His Son Jesus, who gave up all things rightfully His out of love for His Father and for you, believing, knowing, and trusting that the LORD who made all things and who gave us life is able and willing to give you all things.
And, so, when you give, pray, and fast, you lose nothing at all, but you gain more of what your LORD graciously desires to pour into you. But, He will pour into you and fill you to overflowing so that you will have much to share. Thus Jesus teaches “when,” not “if.” “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” This is true all the year round. But, during Lent, it will be a blessing to you to be intentional about believing and trusting in the LORD and His Word. He desires to bless you. May you receive His blessing and be a rich blessing to others to the glory of His Name.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homily for Quinquagesima

Luke 18:31-43; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 1 Samuel 16:1-13

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Ok, so yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so how many of you took your beloved to see 50 Shades of Grey? ZERO! Good! That’s what I wanted to see [hands covering eyes]. That’s not what love looks like. That’s what lust looks like – and manipulation, and power, and greed, and fear, and hatred too. So, what does love look like? Well, our culture tells you that love is mostly sexual attraction and maybe warm feelings, happiness, a contractual agreement to share your money and possessions, etc. But, that’s not love either. Thankfully, today you heard the timeless and perfect description of love from the words of St. Paul, inspired by God the Holy Spirit: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Sounds just like 50 Shades of Grey, right? Um, no.
Unfortunately, because of sin, we have a real hard time knowing and understanding what love looks like. In fact, when it comes to knowing and understanding love, we are pretty much blind. And so, St. Paul’s description of love strikes us as odd, poetic, archaic, or worse. Still, it does mention the word love several times, and so we are obliged to have it read at our weddings. And, though it’s somewhat ironic, that’s actually a good thing, for, if we are ever to truly understand God’s purpose in the institution of marriage, we are going to have to better understand the true nature of love.
And, here it is: Love is sacrifice – period. What else does Paul mean when he describes love as patient and kind, but not envious, arrogant, rude, irritable, or resentful, but that love is selfless, self-effacing, and self-sacrificing? That is to say that love simply isn’t concerned with the self, but love is concerned only with the other, with the beloved. And thus, St. John teaches us that “God is love.” Now, there’s a profound statement! To many, God is mysterious and unknowable, but here we have a simple description and definition of God in a simple, logical proposition: “God is love.” Or course, the problem is, as I stated earlier, we don’t understand what love is! If we could truly understand love, then we ought to be able to better understand God. So, St. Paul teaches us that love is sacrifice. Therefore, if love is sacrifice, and God is love, it follows that God must be sacrifice. But, does this pan out? Does Scripture teach this? Yes, it most certainly does! In fact St. John records for us our Lord Jesus’ teaching about love saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man would lay down His life for His friends.” What does this mean? Well, essentially, Jesus is saying that there is no greater possible love than self-sacrifice for a friend, a brother, a neighbor, the beloved. And then, your Lord Jesus commands you, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you also love one another.” What does this mean but that you are to sacrifice yourself for your friend, your brother, your neighbor, and your beloved? No, truly 50 Shades of Grey is not about love. Much of our Valentine’s Day tradition is not about love. And, because our culture does not hold this understanding about love, too often our marriages and our relationships are not founded in and ruled by this understanding of love.
Our failure to love carries over to our life as the Church, the body of Christ, outside of these walls, when we leave this place and witness to the world, in the world, but not of the world. Too often we are like Jesus’ disciples and the crowds following Jesus who, with their fleshly eyes, saw only an irritating, blind beggar along the roadside pestering their Rabbit and Master. They tried to shut him up and to shut him out. And yet, this blind beggar saw what the seeing did not see, that Jesus was not merely a Rabbi or a Master, but the Messianic Son of David promised by God from of old. The blind man cried out for mercy from the Man he recognized to be the love of God incarnate, but the disciples and the crowds did not love – they were not selfless and self-sacrificing – and, selfishly, they had no mercy for the blind beggar and, hypocritically, they thought they were serving their Master by casting away this man who called upon His Lord in faith.
They say that love is blind. Well, that’s true if we’re talking about being blind to outward appearances. For, indeed, love does not judge a person by what the eyes see alone; love does not judge at all. This is why love is the fulfilling of the Law of God, because love does no wrong to a neighbor. It’s safe to say that, if you are doing the loving thing, the truly loving thing, you are doing good, you are obeying God’s command. But, you can’t do the loving thing simply by trying harder or by being intentional about it, because you simply don’t have it in you. What I mean is, God is love, not you, and so, if you are going to love, you are going to have to love with God – you are going to have to love with God’s love. That means that God’s love has to be upon you. God’s love has to be in you. God’s love has to flow through you. Well, God is love – that’s the truth. And, God loves you – that’s the truth too. And so, God’s love is there, but, will you permit it to fill you and flow from you? Or, will you reject it, or selfishly keep it for yourself? Either way, you risk losing God’s love for yourself by hardening your heart so that it cannot enter therein and bear fruit.
We do not love, in part, because we judge by what our physical eyes see. But, this is blindness. As the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on [a man’s] appearance or on the height of his stature, …. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Both Samuel and Jesse failed to consider lowly David because he had not the appearance and stature of a man they thought could be king. Likewise, Jesus’ disciples and the crowds that followed Him judged the blind beggar unworthy of the Master’s time and attention. And yet, David was the anointed of the LORD, His chosen king over His people. And, that blind beggar could see what the seeing disciples and crowds could not see with their healthy and fully functioning eyes, that Jesus was the promised Son of David, the Messiah, and the true King of the Jews. The blind man saw with eyes of faith, while the disciples were blinded by human reason and wisdom and by the sins of the flesh.
Likewise, we can be blind when we look at our Lord Jesus with only our fleshly eyes. Our fleshly eyes see only a pitiable figure who made great claims, yet was unable to keep Himself from being arrested, tried, convicted, and executed as a common criminal and rabble rouser. We must have the eyes of faith, and such vision is a gift of God the Holy Spirit, by grace alone. Indeed, this account of the blind man who could truly see and the seeing men who were blind follows directly on the heels of Jesus’ teaching about His coming Passion, death, and resurrection on the third day. Jesus taught them saying, “See – we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over the to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.” But, they did not see. In fact, “this saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” That Jesus’ teaching was “hidden from them” is a clear indication that it can only be seen, it can only be comprehended, through the eyes of faith – a kind of sight that is not natural or fleshly, but spiritual; a kind of sight which must be given and received as a gift of God the Holy Spirit by grace through faith.
The blind beggar could see Jesus for the incarnate God and Savior He was. The blind beggar saw Jesus’ love. He knew that Jesus had come to have mercy and compassion upon sin-fallen and broken humanity, and so he did not boast of any works or place his trust in his faith or obedience, but he opened himself up to Jesus that he might be filled with His love and mercy. The disciples and the crowds, who could not see as the blind beggar could, had other ends in mind: manipulation, power, greed, fear, and hatred too. They had not faith as the blind beggar and so they could not see God’s love incarnate there in their midst. They had not love, because they were not open as the blind beggar, and so they could not be filled with Jesus’ love and mercy. Thus, the love that the Lord would fill them with, the love that He would have flow through them, and overflow out from them, was inhibited and fruitless. As St. Paul teaches, even holy works such as tongues and prophecy, knowledge of divine mysteries and miraculous powers, done without love are as useless and fruitless as noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Even bodily sacrifice, without love, gains nothing. However, on the other hand, even the humblest works and deeds done in love are glorifying of, and pleasing to, our Lord and God.
And so, you are an emissary of God’s love, which has been poured out for and upon you, which fills you until you are full and overflowing with the love of God in Christ Jesus. But, be careful not to be deceived by the outward appearance, but trust in the Word of the Lord who sees a thing, and who sees the heart, as it is, remembering that there is no law against love, but love is the fulfilling of the Law of God. Truly, against such things as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control there is no law, but these are the fruits borne in you by the Spirit of God. Now, come and be filled with the body and blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who is the fruit of God’s love poured out for you, that you may be filled with His love and bear the fruit of His love in sacrificial love and service of others in the world, but not of the world, to the glory of His Name – love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – love that never ends.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.