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Archive for March 31st, 2015

 

COLLECT OF THE DAY:

Almighty and everlasting God,grant us by Your grace so to pass through this holy time of our Lord’s passion that we may obtain the forgiveness of our sins; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS:

Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14;  1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (26-31);   John 12:23-50


  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”-John 12: 32

Reflection:  Congregations, churches, pastors, priests fret over the question:  how do we attract new members?  What is our “draw”?  I have  asked that question and that is more than a simple admission, it is more like a confession.  Is it our choir? Our youth program?  Our peppy service?  Our warm and welcoming people?  Our meals on wheels?  etc. etc. etc.  All those things can be fruit of the Gospel but they are not the Vine from whence comes the fruit, see John 15:5.  There is only one “draw” in the Church, for the life of His world and you in His new creation:  Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “draw” is figurative of the pull on a man’s inner life, usually called the soul, the heart, the mind, that is, body and soul.    The Greek word in it’s more pedestrian sense means to haul, drag, draw something, such as a sword.   The crucified true man and true God compels, draw forth men and women to Himself.  Sadly, many will simply walk away from the crucified Lord, thinking they can get by.  But to those who confess they are dead, Christ gives life to those in the tombs .  Jesus had said to Nicodemus that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so will the Son of Man be lifted up,John 3:14. The Israelites were biting and devouring in each other and complaining against God and His anointed, Moses.  God appointed poisonous snakes to bite and devour them, as an outward sign of their inward, soul sin.  Moses prayed.  The Lord said take a bronze serpent and lift it up in the middle of the camp and whoever looks upon will be healed.  If you were dying this would be compelling and draw you forth.  The bronze serpent was not magic but God attached His Word of promise to that snake.  Upon the Cross it was the Word made flesh, nailed to the Cross, Incarnate and the beginning of the fulfillment of the Incarnation to draw off the poison of the dying.  Compelling.

“When I study God’s Word, I find that Christ not only has the form of a serpent without venom;  but I also feel a power in Him which will cure me of venom…Even a cow could stare at the serpent—but how could that help her?…It was not an angel, a principality, or any of the world’s mighty who became incarnate and died for us—no, both the angelic and the human nature would have been too weak—but it was the divine nature that assumed humanity. It was Christ who adopted our flesh and blood that we might be saved through Him.”(Luther)

In the verse John 3:14 and in this one for Holy Monday, Jesus used the word “lifted up”.   People manufacture “worship experiences” to give an emotional “lift” in order to “draw” people to church.  From what I have seen, read and heard, the centrality of the Crucified is diminished and can disappear. Christ Jesus can no longer draw people to Himself.  This is not Biblical.  It is written that our preaching IS, not “was”, Christ and Him Crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).  H0ly Baptism is into His Crucifixion and Resurrection (Romans 6:2-4 ; Colossians 2:10-12 ).  Holy Communion is the preaching of the Lord’s Death (1 Corinthians 11:26). In His Body given unto death is our life:  ALONE.    The Cross stands at the center, radiating out, Christ Jesus embracing us in His forgiveness.  And so the Christians from almost day one would trace the Sign of the Cross over their bodies.  And so the cathedrals in Europe were cross-shaped.  Crosses and crucifixes hang about our necks and adorn our walls. He draws us with our heavy hearts, hearts burden with cares and worries, with iniquity.  Lift up your hearts. We lift them up unto the Lord. He who was lifted up can lift us up in, by and with  the utter grace of His forgiveness.   He is the Draw Who alone saves.

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.”By Your struggle-unto-death and Your bloody sweat, help us dear Lord God.” (Pr. and Prof. Johann Gerhard)

O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the One who became a curse on the timber-trunk of the cross for us. Make us partakers of this divine blessing. Let Your holy blood flow over us so that we thereby are washed of our sins and are given to drink of eternal life. O You eternal High Priest, let Your intercession redound to our good, so that in the power of the same we may benefit from Your holy suffering and may obtain forgiveness of sins. Amen.

(Prayer by Johann Gerhard)

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