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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vespers Homily - Week of Lent 3

Oculi (Lent 3) - Vespers Homily 14 March 2007

Ephesians 5:1-9
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth).

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

"Now you are light in the Lord." These words to the church at Ephesus are why Paul makes such a big deal about issues like "fornication" and "uncleanness" and "covetousness." There are two realities going on at the same time. One is that you are beloved children of God because Christ loved you and gave Himself for you as "an offering and a sacrifice to God." The cross is His sacrifice for you. Here is the "sweet-smelling aroma" that your heavenly Father smells when He sees you His children, who He calls "saints." The other reality is that you still have your human nature, that, without the benefit of God's Spirit, can and will lead you to desire and do the same things that are seen in those who do not know God. Therefore, the Apostle writes these words so that you who "are light in the Lord" will not come under the wrath of God and fall away from the inheritance that is yours in the kingdom of Christ and God.

It is not something you did that made you "light in the Lord." Rather, by God's grace you were taken out of darkness. "Darkness" is another way of saying that one does not know God or what is pleasing to God. "Darkness" is the blindness of seeking one's own way without God, of doing what is pleasing only to one's self. In other words, without God we cannot understand or do what He commands. Rather than fear, love and trust in Him above all things we are inclined to put our full trust in our desires and in things. The Apostle repeats what he wrote in the previous chapter, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Eph. 4:17-19) You have heard this before. In his Gospel, John the Evangelist writes this about the "Word" - "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." (Jn. 1:4,5) Being in the darkness means that one is "alienated from the life of God" and unable to "comprehend" the "light." This leads to blind and hardened hearts and sinful deeds and idolatry. Yet, in Christ "was life, and the life was the light of men."

"Now you are light in the Lord." This means that you are "in Christ." In place of the deeds of darkness you are given over to good works. These works reflect the mercy of God and the "life and light" of God which is yours in Christ Jesus. Those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death and resurrection. They are a "sweet-smelling aroma" to God. By faith they know God and know what is pleasing to Him. As the Apostle writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." "Now you are light" means the situation has changed. You still have to fight the sin of your nature, temptations and attempts of the devil to lead you away from God. During Lent we remember how Jesus battled the temptations of the devil in the wilderness. We do not have the same success; this is a daily fight. This is a matter of confession and absolution. This is the reality of the forgiveness of your sins. If "you are light in the Lord" this means that, though you sin, you are no longer under the control of the power of sin and death because sin and death no longer control Him. We now live in the reality which is the gift of life as "light in the Lord." We are "children of light." By faith we do good works. God supports us as He supports the wicked with the things that we need to live here on earth. He supports us in this life of light with the holy food of His Word and the Sacrament of the Altar. "In addition to showering upon us both temporal and eternal blessings He has given His own self; He has completely poured out Himself for us, with all He is, with all He has, with all He does . . ." [Luther, Lenker VII:151] By faith we say with the psalmist, "My eyes are ever toward the Lord." (Ps. 25) Amen.

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

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