Last Sunday after Pentecost, Nov. 24
The prophet speaks the word of the Lord: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they will be fruitful and multiply. … I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 23:3,5). Christ the King has come, and in the dangerous shepherding of his people he espies on every side the power that holds them captive. To rule he must set them free. To reign he must confront the devil and all his infecting legions.
Jesus sees unclean spirits as the agency of disease, destructive compulsion, and madness. We see the matter differently, turning to the science of our doctors and therapists. But even the doctor and therapist will admit that business is good because human beings are remarkably adept in the cause of self-destruction. “The good which I would do, I do not do. And the evil which I would not do, I do.” In this regard, nothing has changed. Hostile powers are at work in us no matter how we explain them, and we are far less in control than we would like to believe. Indeed, “we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves” (BCP, p. 218). Our situation is that desperate.
“Oh God, make speed to save us!” would be the empty utterance of a lost soul but for the miraculous truth that there is a God ready to hear, ready to save. God comes in the person of Jesus Christ to defeat sin, the flesh, and the devil, a trinity but one horrific substance. The target is evil itself, but the cause of the invasion is love. In all his life and ministry, and preeminently in his suffering and death on the cross, Jesus Christ is breaking the grip of the enemy. Even as he is ridiculed and tortured he prays, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In a sense, of course, they know exactly what they are doing, carrying out the orders of legitimate authority, but they cannot know that they are acting against the Lord of all life, nor can they know that in mounting the cross Jesus inaugurates a decisive victory. Languishing, he is a torrent of love. In Jesus, humanity is delivered from the gloom of sin, the bonds of death and hell are broken, and wickedness is put to flight. In his resurrection, innocence is restored, and joy, peace, and concord are brought forth (Exsultet).
Jesus Christ “has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). The good news is that we have been transferred from one kingdom to another, a kingdom altogether different in which God is the king and shepherd of his people. In the kingdom of the Son, God is pleased to “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).
The Christian is not merely associated with Jesus by allegiance; the Christian is mystically and truly wedded to the life of the one who has reconciled all things in himself. Thus, the Christian has all things: all things ordered in Christ to their proper and glorious end. Believing this, we endure all things with patience, “giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:11-12).
Look It Up
Read Canticle 16 (BCP, p. 92). Freedom requires a mighty Savior.
Think About It
The problem with self-help: it does not work.