24 November 2013

The Green Tree of Paradise

When you see these things happening, know that summer is near.  For now the Tree of Life is green, its branches heavy with the Fruits of Christ; its wood is wet with the waters of His Baptism, and with His Blood, poured out for you and for the many.

He brings the whole Tithe of His Body and Life into the Holy Place.  So shall His Father surely open the heavens to pour out a blessing upon His beloved Son, and upon all who belong to Him.

He does not save Himself, but He has numbered Himself with sinners in order to save them.  He has taken His stand with all the sons and daughters of Adam, in order to redeem them from sin and death, and to bring them safely into the peace and rest and everlasting life of His Kingdom.

He does not save Himself, because He trusts in His God and Father to provide for Him, to satisfy Him with all that He needs forever, and to save Him from out of death.  Therefore, Jesus lives by faith, and He prays at all times and in all place, and He proceeds in love — for His Father, for His friends, but also for His foes, and for all His neighbors — even to His death upon the Cross.

It is for this that He was baptized, and for this that He has entered His holy city; that He might be enthroned upon His Cross, and reign in love over all the nations with His Word of the Gospel.  Here, then, He enters into Glory through His suffering on the way of sorrows.

The rulers of this world, and their soldiers of fortune, “just doing their job” in ignorance, and all those who die in their sins — none of them are able to recognize or know what is happening here.  You are in the same boat, and under the same condemnation, until you are brought to the fear of the Lord and to faith in His royal clemency.

You gaze upon the spectacle of the Cross, and perhaps you also bear its weight and violence, but it appears to you a tragedy, a farce, and a lost cause.  You mock and ridicule the Lord, in order to hide and protect yourself in your own miserable self-righteousness.  Or you taunt and heckle and cajole, as though you could spite God Himself with your bravado.  And, still, you die.  Which is what you rightly deserve for your misdeeds, and for all that you have failed to do and accomplish.  It is what you deserve for presuming to be your own god, and for living unto yourself.

What, then?  Is there no hope?  Must you die in your sins and be damned for your transgressions?  No.  It is not too late.  But, do not kid yourself.  It is that serious.  Therefore, even now, repent.  Return to the Lord your God, and find that He has turned toward you in mercy.

Behold the Man: The King of the Jews.  The promised Seed of Abraham.  The serpent-stomping Seed of the Woman.  Great David’s greater Son.  Here is the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace, who shall be seated at the Right Hand of His Father henceforth and forevermore.

He has done nothing wrong.  Nor is He undone by the wrong that others do to Him.  But, why, then, is He there upon the Cross?  He suffers and dies, not for any sins of His own, but for the sins of the world.  In this you know the Lord’s compassion.  By His Cross you are called and brought to repentance, and to the prayer of faith.

The other criminal, crucified with Christ, confesses what is true, for you as for him; and he prays, as you also are taught to pray, that God’s Kingdom would come, and that He would forgive.

In the face of death, it sounds so feeble, so futile.  The criminals still suffer and die, on the right hand and on the left.  There’s no time left for them to mend their ways.  They cannot make up for all of their past mistakes.  Nor can you undo the wrong that you have done.  You cannot take back the harmful words that you have spoken.  You cannot stop or even slow down the ravages of time upon your mortal flesh.

And yet, the Father vindicates the Son who serves Him.  For He is the Chosen, whom He loves, and He is well-pleased with Him.  So shall the Father raise this same Jesus from the dead, and every knee in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, shall bow in reverence before Him.  Even now, by the way of the Cross, He comes into His Kingdom.

Not for nothing does He do this.  Nor for His own advantage and benefit.  But in mercy, and for love’s sake, He suffers, dies, and rises, that He might be the Firstborn of many brethren.  In Him, the Father has been pleased to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through His Blood on the Cross, and raising Him from the dead for the justification of the ungodly.

He has made things right, in order to save you.  Behold, He makes all things new.  His Body is the Firstfruits of the Resurrection, that you might belong to His harvest, to be with Him where He is.

Do not weep for Him, dear child of God, as though He were tragically defeated, done for, and done away with.  Not at all!  But hear and believe His Word, and call upon His Name, and find in Him alone your salvation, both now and forever.  For He and His Sacrifice are your Redemption from sin and death, and His Resurrection is your Righteousness unto the life everlasting.

The Tree of His Cross is green and ripe with His own Body and His Blood, given and shed for you.

Suffering and death do not and cannot destroy Him; rather, from these He brings forth abundant fruit for the life of the world.

If your tree, then, is dry — and you are “ripe,” not with fruit, but for kindling and fire — by all means, repent, and return to the waters of His Baptism.  Repent, and be baptized, you and your children; or, remember that you are baptized, and what that means.  Be drowned in the death of Christ, that you may rise with Him in His Resurrection, and live with Him in His Kingdom.  Weep and mourn, not for Him, but for your sin; and rejoice in the Gospel, the forgiveness of His Cross.

It is by the Cross that He separates the righteous from the wicked, and spares those who fear the Lord and call upon His Name.  It is by the Cross of Christ that God the Fathers calls you out of darkness into Light, and transfers you through death and the grave into the Kingdom of His beloved Son.  For Christ is the Head of His Body, the Church, and where He is, there His members also shall abide in Peace.

Today, even here and now, and in the neverending Day of His Resurrection, you shall be with Him; for here He is with you.

Beloved, He remembers you: “Take, eat; this is My Body, which is given for you.”  “Drink from this, My Cup, the New Testament in My Blood, which is poured out for you.”  Here is the forgiveness of all your trespasses and transgressions.  And here His Kingdom comes to you, by His Word and Spirit, that you might enter with Him into His Royal Garden.

For here are the branches of His Cross, His Tree of Life, in the very midst of Paradise.  The wood of this Altar is alive with the Gospel of Christ.  It bears for you the life-giving Fruits of His Cross.

Here behold your King, who saves you.  That is true.

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