Even the Sun Will Blush

I hope you had a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving time with your family. I know I did. I had a chance to play with the kids, do a little reading and writing, and enjoy the Christmas décor we managed to get into place the weekend before.

Speaking of reading, if there were ever a reason to read from Luther besides his theology, it would be because of his practiced handling of language. He sure has a way with words.

I recently read a small devotional portion from one of his sermons from 1532. In particular, he was dealing with the text of 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 in which Paul describes the resurrection at the Last Day:

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that was sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Luther said a lot of things about this text. Still, there were two parts that peeked through to the forefront. The first was the following:

“If we stand firmly in (Christ) and do not waver, our righteousness is so great that all our sins, whatever their name and nature may be, are like a little spark, and our righteousness is like an ocean…”

Did you catch that? He just set forth a most splendid image of what it means to be counted righteous before God at the Last Day because of Jesus. Imagine the ability of a tiny spark to maintain its life let alone grow to become a fire while the entirety of an ocean’s vastness is washing over it. That spark is anything and everything pertaining to your Sin. Covered in the ocean-sized righteousness of Christ, it doesn’t stand a chance.

Simply wonderful.

The other portion that resonated with me was this:

“Further, our shame which we shall bury so ingloriously is covered with a glory that is called ‘The Resurrection of Christ,’ and with this it is so beautifully adorned that even the sun will blush when it sees it and the angels will never be able to turn their eyes away from it.”

Wow. Even the sun will blush. Even the angels will be entranced, their attention held captive.

All of this matters to us as we come up and out of the Last Sunday of the Church Year in preparation for the holy season of Advent. Both of these have as their focus the return of our Lord in glory, but also the fulfillment of the promise that we, too, will see the resurrection of our bodies at the Last Day and will stand before the throne of Christ and behold him with eyes of flesh. Not with failing eyes, but rather with perfected and gloriously restored eyes. We will be united with our bodies that went into the ground, but in an instant, they will be changed and fashioned as unto the Lord’s own body for all eternity. Luther says that the glory of this event and all who comprise it will be an astounding emittance, a shining of magnificence that outpaces the sun in its brightness. Even the angels will be amazed.

Again, wow. Can you imagine it? By the inspired Word of God through Saint Paul we know it’s true. With Luther’s skillful help, we can almost see it.

I pray that this wonderful Gospel brings you peace as you enter into a time in the new Church Year designed to remind you of your salvation while at the same time setting your heart in anticipation of the coming Lord, not only in Bethlehem, but at the Last Day. I pray that your anticipating heart is filled with a faith that stands firmly in Christ and the knowledge of His immense love. I pray that by that same love, you will be stilled to know by faith you have a place with Him in the glories of heaven when your last breath comes.

We’re In This Together

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us? I can’t. It sure seems like yesterday my calendar was set to July, but now, a furious whirlwind having blown through, its pages are open to November—and December is beginning to flutter.

It’s dizzying.

Speaking of, I must confess something to you. It’s a little embarrassing. Although, having recently skimmed the introduction to The Merchant of Venice, which is somewhat built on the platform of embarrassment, I was enlightened to embarrassment’s teaching ability.

Essentially, the Sunday before last, I was (and I suppose I still am) dealing with a pretty bad cold. I woke up feeling terrible, and I think the potential for such a level of terrible was something shared with me on the homebound plane ride from D.C. the previous week. The person right behind me spent a good deal of the hour and half of the flight coughing. I’m almost certain I caught it. But anyway, right before the sermon that Sunday, I took two Dayquil liquigel capsules with the hope that they would help keep me on my toes through the rest of the service and the subsequent Bible studies afterward.

But I made a terrible miscalculation. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper I was most likely going to be finishing off the remainder of two chalices of wine. And as if that weren’t enough, earlier that morning I’d taken a Gabapentin for my back. Needless to say, by the time I got to the Benediction, I was starting to notice I was having some difficulties.

The first thing I noticed was that both of my ears began to ring while shaking hands in line. At one point, they were ringing so loudly it was difficult to hear what folks were saying. It subsided somewhat when I got into the Bible Study in that I only heard the ringing in my right ear. The next thing I noticed was that during the study there were a couple of moments when I found it somewhat difficult to breathe. Only maybe two or three times, but each time, I turned toward the doors of the ECC entryway to take a deep breath. The last, and perhaps the weirdest symptom, was that I had a hard time remembering any of your names. I don’t know if you noticed, but rather than calling on folks by name, I simply pointed. I did that because I just couldn’t seem to get the names to form. This all continued through the Adult Membership class that took place right after the Adult Bible study.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

I told Jen about it. She wasn’t too pleased with me. Her unhappiness, of course, was driven by concern.

“You should’ve said something,” she said, revealing her irritation. “You could’ve been having a stroke or something!”

“Yeah, I know,” was my reply. “But I just kinda kept on with stuff, anyway.”

Still, I haven’t even told you the awkward part of the story. What actually embarrasses me is that I made a poor decision and drove home while all of this was happening. I was just too busy “keeping on” with things to see that something was maybe more wrong with me than I was willing to admit. And therein lies the center of gravity to the point I want to make by all of this.

In 1 Corinthians 11:31, Saint Paul wrote, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” I read that in a devotion that very same morning before worship. What Paul means to say is that as sinners, we have a hard time looking at ourselves and seeing that something is wrong. We have a tendency to employ our constricted points of view in ways that see the trouble with others but doesn’t really see the trouble within ourselves. In other words, if we are to be the judges of ourselves, we won’t come under judgment. That’s just a bad way to live.

Still, God knows we do things this way. That’s one reason why He places us into the context of a worshipping community. He sets us down into the midst of a people gathered together by objectively true things. All of us are in it together, and in part, all of us are enabled to continue in it for service to one another. And as a family, it’s supposed to be somewhat natural for us to encourage and build one another up, to reprove and rebuke in love when we’re traveling a road that could be dangerous, and to keep an eye of care turned to one another so that we can be ready in times of need to help. As members of this fellowship of human need, the last thing we want to do is to hide behind a façade of “I don’t need help from anyone. I can do this alone.”

We need each other around here. I need you to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m okay. And you need me to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. We’re in this together. We’re family, and we shouldn’t be so embarrassed to say, “Hey, folks, I think we’re going to just cancel Bible Study today because, well, I’m in some sort of a mind fog and I honestly don’t recognize any of you.”

Well, maybe I wouldn’t say it that way. But, hey, you know me.

In summary, don’t feel as though you must go it alone. You don’t have to. Look to your Christian family. Trust them enough to know that they love you and will be ready to help.