Christ Lutheran Church
February 12, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Deliver Us From Evil
O God, graciously hear the prayers of your people that we, who justly suffer the consequences of our sin, may be mercifully delivered by your goodness, to the glory of your name; through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.
Prayer is a wonder to behold, that a person should turn outside himself, to a God he cannot see; but whom he believes to be good, gracious, merciful, and ready and willing to help. And today’s Collect is an especially wonderful example of such prayer.
In it, as in all Collects, the baptized “collect” their deepest desires and grandest hopes into one distilled prayer, that they offer to their God “with one voice,” because they know that to pray is to participate in divine Life! And there is nothing better than that.
In today’s Collect we are reminded of four important theological facts.
First, that to pray is a religious act, and confession of faith. Many people pray uncertainly, or even ignorantly, and their prayers are more a matter of hope than faith; because they have never been baptized, or catechized in the holy Christian religion. As a result they have only a “natural knowledge” of God, but that can take a person only so far.
They know that God exists based on reason, conscience and the splendor of the created world; but have never been exposed to the self-revelation of our glorious God and Savior Jesus Christ from the one reliable source. From the pages of Sacred Scripture as it is heard and taught in the church, for the redemption of the world; and for deliverance we pray for in today’s Collect, from the consequences of our sins.
But while many have a vague knowledge of divine things, we who are baptized and instructed; and who celebrate the Holy Mysteries at God’s altar each Sunday; are blessed with bright and glorious knowledge of God that calms our souls, sustains us in temptation, and cleanses us from our sins; so that we stand justified before our God, by faith in Jesus Christ.
The second thing today’s Collect confirms for us is that the troubles we do suffer are the: just consequences of our sins. Living in denial is the national religion, if not the national psychosis in America today. But not so in the church where we are realistic. Here we believe, teach and confess that we are the sinners, who are always crossing the divine line. We openly admit in the confession of sins that we are selfish and spoiled children, who care only about ourselves. Who abuse the gifts God entrusts to us, and use them for our own glory rather than his; and for our own advantage, with no thought about the needs of our neighbor. REPENT OH Christians – these things ought not so to be.
As Christians we know that there are consequences for our sins: namely the entire menu of things that we suffer in this world both personally and in society at large. Our trouble-filled lives. Our burning, poverty-stricken, drug-addicted and crime-ridden, dark and hopeless cities. These are but a few of the products produced by our sins. But there’s more, because as St. Paul reminds us, “ … we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:10)
The third thing today’s Collect does so well is to preach the Gospel. It reminds the church that, “Jesus is the Lamb of God, who removes sin from the world, extinguishes its fire, and thus makes us free.”
It interprets today’s Old Testament lesson for us so that we understand that the lamb each household was commanded to slaughter, and to eat, was a prophecy and type of Jesus on the cross.
A prediction of him who “suffered trauma for our lawlessness” (Is. 53:5 LXX); who suffered oppression and judgment on our behalf. Of him who was “cut off” so that sinners should receive the blessed inheritance. (Is 53:8). Of Jesus whose soul is the only Offering that can cleanse the human soul from the encrusted stains of its sin. It was a prediction of him whose flesh we eat, and whose blood we drink every Sunday of our lives, so that we might share in divine Life and divine Love with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Lastly we should remember that today’s Collect is prayed in light of Easter. Today is “Septuagesima” Sunday, the 70th day before Easter. Septuagesima means 70th. It is the day the church begins her countdown to the memorial of the Lord’s Resurrection; when he who “made his grave with the wicked” was mightily restored to life from the dead. Not just restored, but made glorious so that when his dearest and closest followers saw him on the first Easter they could not recognize him at all! All signs of his suffering for our sins were gone! Even as our own frailty, and the accumulated scars that sin leaves on our bodies and our souls, will be gone! Will be remembered no more! That is the holy Christian faith!
Yes, we pray this Collect in light of Easter. “The Passover of Gladness, the Passover of God” as St. John of Damascus wrote in his hymn 1300 years ago, and that Christians still sing today (TLH #205). Where the blood of the Lamb was painted on the cross, to open heaven’s doors to sinners, so that death and judgment should Pass Over us, and fall on Jesus instead. A feast that evokes the church’s greatest joy, highest praises, and most exhilarating song!
But Easter Day is not only a memorial of the Resurrection, it is the Sunday of Sundays! The “Day the Lord has made” in which the baptized come as close as earthly possible to the solemnities and glories of heaven’s liturgy, which is the real answer to today’s Collect. For there, in heaven, gathered around the Throne of the Lamb we will be mercifully, fully and finally delivered from the consequences of our sins. And so the church counts down, and awaits the Great Day, with baited breath. Amen.