Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homily for The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 16)


Luke 7:11-17; Ephesians 3:13-21; 1 Kings 17:17-24

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

Along with the Incarnation, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the fundamental mystery of the Christian faith. For, these three are intimately connected – the Son of God was conceived and born into human flesh so that He could die in human flesh, so that He could be raised in human flesh, so that all human flesh could be raised in Him. This was, and is, and ever will be the eternal will of God the Father. Before the foundation of the universe, before the creation of Adam and Eve, yes before their fall into sin, God the Father had a plan, an eternal plan, for the redemption of His people, for your redemption, in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of His Son. Thus, Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection are before, after, and underlying everything in between; Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection are the underlying realities of your present existence.

So, when Jesus says that He is the resurrection and the life, He is not using metaphor, simile, or analogy, but, rather, He is speaking an ontological truth and reality. Jesus literally is the resurrection of all flesh and the life of all flesh that will believe in Him. To paraphrase Robert Capon, that is why Jesus never met a corpse that did not sit up right on the spot at His word, presence, or touch – He has that effect on the dead. They rise because He is the Resurrection even before He Himself rises – because, in other words, He is the grand sacrament, the real presence, of the mystery of a kingdom in which everybody rises.

This truth is illustrated in iconography of the Resurrection of Jesus, where typically depicted are a man and a woman being raised from their graves or coffins. The man and woman, in such depictions, are none other than Adam and Eve, our First Parents. For, Jesus’ resurrection is their resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is the resurrection of all humankind. Jesus resurrection is your resurrection too, and not just at some time far off in the future, but Jesus’ resurrection is your resurrection now.

So, you’re not dying a little each day, because, you’re dead. You died with Christ long ago in Holy Baptism and you have been raised with Christ, not at some time in the future – notice the past tense “have been raised” – but you have been raised with Christ in the past, and you remain raised with Christ now. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Resurrection is something that happens now, not only in the future – it is a present reality rather than just a coming one. “You died,” says Paul to the Church in Colossae, “and your life is hidden with Christ”now.

The Holy Scriptures record Jesus raising three different persons from the dead: His friend Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the son of the widow at Nain in today’s Gospel. However, Jesus may have raised many others than these three, for, as John writes at the end of his Gospel, “there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” But, in each of the resurrection accounts, the raising of the dead is directly attributed to Jesus’ word and touch, and, in the case of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus’ word alone.

For, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh; He is the Word of creation spoken by the Father that brought all creation into existence ex nihilo, out of nothing. So, too, Jesus, the very same Word of God, incarnated in human flesh, brings life out of the nothingness of death by the power of His word, both spoken and incarnated, enfleshed, in His touch, His body and His blood. As He brought forth everything out of nothing, so does He bring forth life out of death. In fact, it is only the dead that can be brought to life.

Jesus teaches that to save your life you must lose it. This is nothing other than to say that you cannot save yourself, but you must be saved. You must confess, admit, that you are dead in sin, dead to God, and unable to right this situation of your own will and power, but trust in Jesus to right it for you, trust in Jesus that, by His incarnation, death, and resurrection, He has righted it for you. And, this is not only to your benefit at some time in the future, but this is the reality of your life now in the present.

Again, Paul says “You have died,” and “You have been raised – in Christ”. You have been called out of sin and death into the life of Christ by the Word and touch of Christ in Holy Baptism. All that belongs to Him is given to you now, today, tomorrow, and on the last day and forever. This is what is real and true, and this is what your enemy, the devil, would have you not believe. He will lie to you and deceive you so that you do not believe that you have died to sin and death and have been raised to life in Christ and that this is real and true and will not, cannot, be taken away from you. But the devil wants you to reject this for yourself, to believe that you don’t need that free gift of life because you’re not all that bad, because you’re better than most, or to believe that you don’t deserve that gift of life because you’re too bad, because you’re beyond saving. These are lies, the both of them! For, the reality and the truth, again, is that you have already died to sin and death and you live, now, in Christ, a life that will never die.

The question, then, is this: Because of the present reality of Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, “How, then, should you live?” Now, there are lot of churches, ministries, cults, philosophies, self-help and motivational speakers, psychologists, talk-show hosts, authors, and countless others who would love to answer that question for you, who, in fact, make a lot of money and achieve great notoriety from answering that question for you. Do not read, hear, mark, or digest any of it, but learn only from your Lord Jesus and His inspired apostles and evangelists who repeatedly exhort you to live resurrected lives, lives free from the fear of death, lives free from worry about tomorrow, lives free to live, love, forgive, give and share. In sum, for you to live is Christ; for you to die is gain.

The Son of God became man to die and to be raised for you. Receive His free gift of forgiveness and life. Receive sustenance in His life-giving Word. Receive nourishment in His body, which is real food, and His blood, which is real drink, acknowledging, believing, and receiving His real presence now, and when you leave this sanctuary, remembering that He goes with you, in you, and that He works through you for the sake of others to the glory of His Father.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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