Invocabit Midweek Vespers

gate-of-heaven-violet-1024x1024Invocabit Midweek Vespers

March 13, 2019 AD

Psalm 141
Matthew 26:30-56
In the ancient Church, these forty days Of Lent were a time for the final instruction of those who would be baptized at Easter. And so Lent has been a season in which the Church was occupied with the Catechism. Lent is also the time of year when the Church meditates on the passion of our Lord. And so this year, the theme of these Wednesday evening Lenten services is “The Ten Commandments and the Passion of Jesus.” We will see how in His passion (as in His whole life,) the Lord Jesus perfectly fulfilled the will of God, kept the Law of God perfectly, suffered and died for all our sins of thought, word, and deed.

Now we remember how God first revealed His Law to Moses in written form, the Ten Commandments on the two stone tablets. But long before that, in fact from the very beginning of the human story, God’s Law was written on the heart of every human being. Saint Paul puts this so clearly when he writes in his Letter to the Church at Rome, “When the Gentiles which have not the Law do by nature what the Law required,…they show that what the Law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.” And so we see that God’s Law is written not only on two tablets of stone but also on the heart of every human being. And this Law of God is no arbitrary code but simply reflects the way we’ve been fashioned by our Creator.

An illustration I often use in confirmation class is this, that God’s Law is like the little manual that comes with a new car. It tells you what to do and what not to do if you don’t want your car to become a wreck! The owner’s manual isn’t arbitrary but comes from the company that made the car and knows what needs to happen if the car is to be in good running order. Well, you might say that the Ten Commandments are something like your car’s owner’s manual. God is our Maker and so He knows how we are to live if we are to avoid all kinds of trouble, even disaster.

This evening we consider the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods” which means “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things” and the Second Commandment, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” which means that “We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

“You shall have no other gods…” We remember how our first parents and we like them really want to be our own God, ourselves the arbiter of good and evil, right and wrong. Saint Paul tells us that our Lord did not think of equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking on the form of the perfectly obedient Son and Servant of the Father, humbled Himself even to the death of the cross. The words of the psalmist were perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. The psalmist sings, “Then said I, ‘Lo, I have come to do THY will, O God’… and by that WE have been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.”

God cares about His name as we learn in the Second Commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” and God-in-the-flesh taught us to pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” a prayer which may be paraphrased as “May Your name be kept holy, May Your name be held in reverence.” But to listen to people talk today – to say nothing of the blasphemies regularly heard on television and in the movies, patterns of speech which even pollute the lives of our little children – you would think that the Second Commandment has become nothing more than an empty form.

It is both amazing and saddening how widespread the misuse of God’s name, even the holy name of Jesus, has become even among professing Christians – all this a symptom of the collapse of any real sense of the majesty and holiness of Him who made and redeemed us. A wise pastor of the Church had this to say: “God’s name must not be profaned in speech… We cannot drag God’s name in the mud of our dirty discourse without undermining in ourselves, and in those who hear us, reverence for God Himself.” There is much to ponder here and perhaps much to repent of.

Jesus is the perfectly obedient Son of the Father. During His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane He prays, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not MY will but THINE be done” and then goes forward to His bitter passion, the perfectly meek and humble Lamb of God, the perfectly trusting Son of the Father, praying with His final breath, “FATHER into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Jesus’ whole life had in fact been an expression of His dying words, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” “Father, I place my life in Your hands.” He did not curse those who betrayed Him, arrested Him, unjustly condemned Him, flogged Him, and crucified Him, but instead prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He continues to call upon His heavenly Father both in Gethsemane and on the cross.

And all of this He did and suffered for you. He did suffered for me. HIS obedience makes good for OUR disobedience. HIS perfect love makes good for OUR imperfect love, HIS perfect trust makes good for OUR imperfect trust. His HOLY life He gives in exchange for OUR sinful life. And so nothing stands between us and the judgment of God. In His suffering Christ our Lord has suffered the judgement of God for all our sins and so we live in the happy freedom of those who know that “There is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.”

The whole human race fell in Adam’s fall, the whole human race is restored through the perfect obedience of Him who is the Second Adam. Says Saint Paul, “As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one Man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all.” And that acquittal is yours and mine not through any effort on our part but through simple trust in God’s sure promise that this is so!

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