15 February 2013

Fasting for and Feasting with the Bridegroom

The heavenly Bridegroom has come, and He is here for you, with or without your prayer and fasting.  But He calls you to repentance, to fast and pray, that you might receive Him in faith and rejoice in His salvation.

For He comes to seek His Bride, to woo her to Himself, and to make her beautiful by adorning her with His own perfect righteousness.  He is, in this same respect, the Good Physician, who does not avoid or keep His distance from those who are sick, but He draws near to them, and exposes Himself to their illness, in order to heal them.

So does He also come to help and heal you.  And to that end, He calls you to give up and leave behind everything that you have clung to and relied upon in the past; which has less to do with your possessions than with your self, your old Adam, your sinful flesh and covetous heart.

When you, yourself, have been converted, from the inside-out, then He shall make you brand new, and all things in heaven and on earth shall be made new for you.  Then you shall divide your bread with the hungry, and welcome the stranger into your home, and clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned.  Whether with much or little, you will begin to share your hospitality with Jesus and His disciples, even as He welcomes you into His Banquet Hall to share in His Wedding Feast.

This is the real righteousness that is your life and health and strength in the presence of God; namely, that Christ Jesus calls you and brings you, in repentance, from sin and death to Himself.

It is already accomplished and established in Him, who has perfectly fulfilled the Law, on the one hand, but has also borne and satisfied its condemnation and punishment of sin on the other hand.  In keeping company with sinners, including you, He has taken all their sin, their sickness unto death, upon Himself.  Thus has He entered the badlands, the dead zone, the quarantine, in order to defeat the disease, and death and the devil, by laying down His Life and pouring Himself out.

Once for all He has done it.  But His call to repentance, to leave your sin and death behind and follow Him, to receive His righteousness by grace, through faith in His Gospel, that is a daily and ongoing call.  Daily He returns you to your Baptism, to die and rise with Him to newness of life.

It is for such repentance that you now fast and pray, that you might also feast in the presence of your Bridegroom.  For He shall never leave you nor forsake you; although you are frequently taken away from Him by the appetites of your old flesh for the fruits of the old evil foe.  That remains a constant temptation in this life on earth, which you will not escape by your own efforts.

You shall not heal yourself, nor shall you justify yourself by your own piety.

And yet, the heavenly Bridegroom has come and sought you out, and called you to Himself to be His holy Bride.  He has cleansed you, inside and out, with His forgiveness of your sins; and He has clothed you for the Wedding, and for the Wedding Feast, with His own holy righteousness.

Indeed, He has saved the best Wine, surprisingly, for now: His holy and precious Blood, which has burst the old skins of the Law, and is poured out, for you and for the many, in this New Testament.

Here, then, is your great and joyous feasting, even in the midst of your fasting and repentance.  For here, indeed, your Bridegroom is with you — forever and always, even unto the close of the age.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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