O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
God's Love Covers You with Christ
"God's Love Covers You with Christ"
December 1, 2010
Fellow baptized saints, God loves you dearly, and that is shown most clearly by His desire to come and save you. Advent means "coming." The Lord is coming, and always with your salvation in mind. During Advent we joyfully relive the countdown to Bethlehem, waiting for the perfect timing of our God to send us our Savior as Mary's son. We also rejoice that the Lord comes to us here and now in His forgiving ways- through the Gospel, Baptism, Absolution, and Christ's body and blood. We might call this current coming of our Lord through His forgiving ways - His second advent.
But we also wait for another coming of our Lord- His final advent. On the Last Day Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. How can you be sure you are prepared for that day? How can you be sure you will be found righteous, innocent, pure, and holy? God has promised through His prophet Jeremiah that Christ will be your righteousness, that out of His great love for you, you are covered with Christ. Because "this is the name by which Christ is called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.' "
"The LORD is our righteousness." There can hardly be better news than this, for we are certainly not good enough in ourselves. Let us use an interesting illustration as an example.
There was a man who grew up on a farm in Iowa. His family had a loyal farm dog. The dog was a tame, helpful, protector of the chickens and the sheep. He was a joyful dog. His whole back end would swing as he cheerfully greeted his master. But this dog had a dark secret, a hidden double life. At night he would catch up with a pack of wild dogs and hang out. They didn't smoke and play cards. They would track down helpless sheep; sink their canines past the wooly fluff right into the flesh of the lamb. One morning the man caught his loyal dog sneaking home at sunrise with some lamb caught between his teeth.
Fellow Christian, you are living a double life too. On the outside we look so tame and domesticated, pious little Christian family dogs. But there is a battle going on inside me, inside you. Wild dog thoughts race through our fevered minds. Animalistic instincts leap within us, seeking to be free. Free to sink our teeth into our best friend's reputation by barking out cutting words. Free to wander off wherever we want, with whomever we want, running with packs of darkness. Free to stare our sharpened eyes on what the Lord does not want us to see, leering into the glowing computer screen, panting in the dark corner. Free to abandon our loving Master and be our own masters as we sink our teeth into the flesh of rebellion. Oh sure the loyal dog inside seems to gain control for awhile, but as St. Paul laments, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." We have divided hearts and split minds. We are caught in a double life. We're tame on the outside, but wild on the inside. "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
Dear Lord have mercy on us! Hosanna, that is, save us! Deliver us from ourselves, for we wild dogs are covered in dirt and fleas! Yet even before you cry out, He has already come. For God loves you dearly. He saw your need before you were even born. Before Christ comes to judge you for your wild ways, your Lord comes twice to save you from them-first, through His birth at Christmas where His coming as a man was the beginning of the new creation. And now, through His spoken Word and His visible Sacraments - Christ comes to deliver His new creation directly to you. These first two advents cover you with the righteousness of Christ that at His final coming you may stand with confidence before His throne. Christ comes to cover your dirt and your fleas with His love. His forgiveness is like one of our recent snowfalls here in Winnipeg that cover all of the slush, and the dirt and the grim. For "the LORD is our righteousness." As the prophet Isaiah writes, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;?though they are red like crimson,?they shall become like wool."
Like the dog with the double life, God may catch us sneaking home at sunrise with innocent lamb caught between our teeth - the crimson blood of our prey drying on the side of our mouths - but it is here that we realize who that poor Lamb truly is. It is here we realize who we are truly biting and rebelling against. It is here that we realize how His crimson blood can make our sins become clean like wool. For Christ has given Himself into our snarling mouths so that He may become our righteousness. Christ has put Himself in our mouths so that we may be forgiven. So that His blood may cover the dirt on our wild faces. So that we may truly come to His table here - and chew the flesh of the innocent Lamb of God for our forgiveness. So that what started as a rebellious bite into a helpless lamb, may end with a dog bowed down begging to finish the meal of forgiveness.
So, repent. Fess up. Yes, I am a poor, miserable, wild dog of a sinner. But when my Master sees me coming home, walking through the doors of the church with innocent lamb between my teeth He rejoices. And His angels rejoice. Welcome home. Eat the Lamb of God's flesh and drink His blood - for it feeds you His righteousness and it strengthens you for your daily battle against your wild dog flesh.
Abide, that is, hang out, stick around with, Christ and His Word. Abide, hang out, dwell in the Church, the veterinary hospital for dogs infected with mad dog disease. Live in the covering of your Baptism. You are God's own child-covered in Him, even as the war in your body continues. And on that last advent, the Day of the Resurrection, covered in Christ you will be completely free, no more double life, no more hiding, no more struggle between the loyal dog and the wild dog inside. Then, you will know the peace and joy of eternal righteousness.
Until that final advent, return to the new life God gave you in Baptism. Hear your true Master's voice. Confess the truth God's Scripture gives you: I am a sinner. I deserve eternal punishment. But the Lord is my righteousness.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr