The prophet urges us to return to the God of our salvation today. God is jealous over His people, Jews and Gentiles alike, for He has made them and they are His own. God is a God of justice and righteousness. He comes to His people and if His people depart from them he punishes, disciplines, and corrects them. Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; He hath smitten, and he will bind us up. (Hosea vi. 1) His medicine is difficult to digest. The flesh of His only-begotten Son has been torn in order to heal us. He smites the Shepherd and the Sheep are scattered. But He will draw us into His sheepfold again. He will bind up the wounds of our sinful state once we confess our guilt. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. He will begin to awaken us out of our sinful death in order to make us alive once again. He shall raise us up in Jesus and we shall live in His sight once again. Tonight, we shall be buried. But beyond this night of death we shall have life, and have it more abundantly.
Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.
Not only shall we live but the nature and quality of our lives shall be transformed. He shall come to us like the rising Sun intent upon cultivating and growing the seed of His Word in the soil of our souls. The rays of His sun shall generate new life in us. But they shall combine with the rains that germinate and fructify the seed that is made to be perfected. So He shall perfect His image and likeness in us. The latter rain brings us into death to sin. The former rain is the original rain of the Creation now made new in the coming times of Pentecost.
And despite this truth, God cries out unto us this night because of our insouciance and negligence:
O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.
Why do we backslide so continuously? Why do we fail to multiply the talents that God has given to us and rather bury them so that they might remain dead? Why do we fail to labor while it is light? Why is seed of God’s Word choked in the soil of our soils by the cares and riches of this world? God plants a good seed in us and yet we neglect, ignore, and leave it to perish. We live in an age of too much material comfort and ease. We are smothered by the false gods of mammon.
We say that we do not love money, but we are absolutely dependent upon it in ways that would shock and appall our forefathers.
Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and my judgments are as the light that goeth forth.
We must begin to awaken to ourselves. Some years ago, Sidney Lanier Wrote had this for the famous men of all times:
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total lustre blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largesse so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.
Most men know, deep down, that they are sinners and that they need the forgiveness of their sins. No man blazes with a total lustre. Every man has some heinous freckle upon his shining cheek. The mist of defect characterizes us all. Ony arrogance and insecurity prevent man’s admission of it. We must pray that their souls will be broken open and felt truly. We must pray for our own self-conscious unholiness. We must pray that we too will need God, need His Son, and need His Son’s Death so that we might find the new life that leads home to our Heavenly Father.
If we shall not go to Christ’s cross to die and be made alive, we shall have judged that Christ is not God’s Word made Flesh who shall judge us. Moses and the prophets shall condemn us with God’s Word.
If we not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will we be persuaded though one rose from the dead. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
Jesus Christ is God’s Wisdom and Love for us made flesh. God desires our salvation and reconciliation with Himself. Jesus the Son knows what He must willingly do to make this possibility real for all of us. To discover the need for the forgiveness of sins will bring us into the reception of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ. Knowledge of God yields confession of our sin and guilt.
Our good works avail us nothing. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to His own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is. liii. 6) But Jesus knows this very fact. This is why He dies for us. He takes on our sin and even faces it in the innermost reaches of His Being. He brings it and death to death. He conquers Satan and forever relegates him to the realm of absurdity and meaninglessness…if only we shall accept this gift of Christ’s loving death. Jesus dies for us. And yet He lives. The pattern and model of the way back to the Father begins today, in death, the One Death, Jesus Christ’s Death. This is the day on which Death is transformed and redeemed. Death now is a moment. Death is a moment, in Jesus, on the way back to God’s Kingdom.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons