Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Homily for Lenten Vespers In the Week of Laetare - The Fourth Sunday In Lent (Lent 4)
John 2:1-12; 2 Peter 1:2-11; Genesis 18:1-15
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We worship a God who is, at once, far off, and very near. Truly, He who made the heavens and the earth, and fills them, also contains Himself within the bread and the wine that you eat and drink in Holy Communion, that He may fill you and enliven you as your own flesh, and as the life-giving blood that courses through your veins. Yes, our God, who is the source, origin, and sustenance of all things, deigns to commune with you in a one-flesh union of holy love and holy life.
The Holy Scriptures are truly a love story, displaying, again and again, and in many and various ways, the God who loves you drawing near to you to commune with you, and doing what was necessary to restore you to holy communion with Him. And so, the Angel of the LORD and two angelic companions – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – visited Abraham and Sarah to communicate God’s Word of promise, that aged, barren, and hopeless Sarah would conceive and bear a son through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. Yes, your LORD God Himself is involved in matters so personal, and so intimate to you, matters such as the pain of childlessness, the miracle of conception, knowing the darkest places of your despair and hopelessness, and showering them, and filling them, with His life-giving presence and light.
The LORD knew how Sarah’s pain in barrenness would make it difficult for her to believe, therefore, He visited her personally to proclaim the good news that she would indeed conceive and bear the son of promise, just as He invited doubting Thomas to touch and to handle His wounds, just as He invites you to wear His righteousness in Holy Baptism and to touch and handle His wounds, to eat and drink His body and blood, in Holy Communion. Likewise, an intimate meal was central to this angelic visitation. Abraham washed the visitors’ feet and made them comfortable, while Sarah prepared unleavened cakes for the guests, along with curds and milk and the meat of a calf Abraham had prepared for the occasion. Indeed, fellowship at the table is central to the intimate communal relationship your God desires to have with you, His body, His Bride, His Church. Through this Holy Communion meal, your LORD joins you into Himself, and all the love He has for you is communicated to you personally and intimately. Your God, who is far off, is so very, very near to you.
Similarly, He, in whom the fullness of the deity dwells bodily, Jesus, was present at a common wedding in nearby Cana in Galilee. He was a guest and an intimate part of the fellowship of that seven-day wedding feast. However, on the third day of the feast, they ran out of wine. This would have been a great social embarrassment for the new family, their parents and extended family, and even the community itself. For, in a culture in which family name, dignity, and respect are of central importance, this seemingly small inconvenience, by our modern standards, was similar to the shame and despair that Sarah, and Elizabeth, and countless other Hebrew women experienced in being barren and unable to conceive.
When Mary brought their distress to His attention, Jesus replied, seemingly in rebuke of His mother saying, “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? [Or, literally, “What does this have to do between you and me?”] My hour has not yet come.” Mary, too, knew the Holy Love of God that had visited her when she, in her virgin barrenness, was made to be fruitful and conceived by the Holy Sprit of God, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Love of God incarnate. With God, all things are possible. Jesus is the living fruit and proof of that Truth, even the Word of Life become flesh, having made His dwelling amongst us. And, though it was not His time – that is, the time of His Passion – He had compassion upon this new family, their parents and extended family, and the guests invited to the wedding, and He visited them in their barrenness and unfruitfulness, in their hopelessness and despair, turning water, intended for the purification of the people from their sins, into the finest wine of hope, and life, and joy.
Yet, His time would come. And, when Jesus took up His throne upon the cross, it was the ultimate expression of His love for you, and for the world, and for His Bride, the Church. Greater love has no man than this, that He would lay down His life for His friends, even for His enemies, and for you. Yes, Jesus’ Passion and Death was an act of love, the greatest love imaginable. It was also a wedding, as in the death of the Holy Bridegroom, His harlot bride was reborn, recreated, holy and pure in the purifying and cleansing Holy Blood and Water from Her Bridegroom’s, Her Adam’s, pierced side. And, He made this barren one to be fruitful and to multiply, His lifeblood flowing through Her, His Spirit-breath animating Her, granting Her vitality and vibrancy. For, now, out of Her once-barren womb, springs new life in those children of Christ born again in Holy Baptism, nourished, sustained, protected, and kept alive for everlasting life in His life-giving body and blood in Holy Love and Communion.
Your life is in Christ. And, yet, your enemy tempts you to find your life in other places, persons, and things, even in your self. Thus, St. Peter exhorts you saying, “[Jesus’] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.” “Partakers of the divine nature” – that means participants, members, koinonia, fellowship. That is intimate, body language; that is communion with Jesus, with God, and with His Holy Love.
Your life is in Christ. That means that, you do not live alone. Your life is in Christ. Your life comes from Him, in communion with Him, His life flowing through you, and out of you in fruitfulness, giving life to others. Just as, apart from the vine, a branch is not fruitful, so, apart from Christ, you can do nothing. Therefore, you must continually draw your life from the True Vine, Jesus Christ, and remain in Him, that He will remain in you, and that you will be fruitful. This, too, St. Peter exhorts you to saying, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God has visited His people in Jesus Christ. He has made the barren to be fruitful and has blessed us with hope and joy and life. “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.” In Holy Love, Christ has brought you into Himself, into the Communion of Saints, with the Father and Holy Spirit, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.