Grace Beyond Measure…or, the Tamiflu Sermon

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,

  and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 

Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;

   put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; 

for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven. 

For God will give you evermore the name,

   ‘Righteous Peace, Godly Glory’. 

 

Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;

   look towards the east,

and see your children gathered from west and east

   at the word of the Holy One,

   rejoicing that God has remembered them. 

For they went out from you on foot,

   led away by their enemies;

but God will bring them back to you,

   carried in glory, as on a royal throne. 

For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low

   and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,

   so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. 

The woods and every fragrant tree

   have shaded Israel at God’s command. 

For God will lead Israel with joy,

   in the light of his glory,

   with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

– Baruch 5:1-9

Take off the garment of your sorrow. For some of us, already decking the halls with holiday spirit, this is an easy enough task. But we know for many others, the garment of sorrow is heavy and difficult to remove, especially during the holidays. Baruch’s charge to us is to stop dwelling on our sorrow and afflictions, which, for the people to whom he was speaking meant losing their homeland and their Temple and much of their very way of life. It’s hard to feel whole when you’ve been scattered.

And if one had to guess what would follow after this charge to take off the garment of sorrow, we would likely say something like “put on the garment of joy” or “put on the garment of thankfulness.”  But Baruch says something much, much bigger. He says “put on forever the beauty of the glory of God.” Put on forever the beauty of the glory of God.

This really shouldn’t surprise us, because God always lavishes us with far more than we deserve. Grace beyond measure, inestimable riches. But it does. It surprises us every time, because we cannot seem to get used to the idea that we are loved more than we can imagine possible by a God who has created heaven and earth. If we did know that, Baruch whose name means blessed would not have to tell us to take off the garment of our sorrow. We would have shed it long ago.

But Baruch is not finished. He then tells his readers to put on our head the diadem of the glory everlasting. Diadem is a bit of an outdated word so you may not know that it is a term of royalty. It is a royal crown that God wants us to put on our heads. Grace upon grace, immeasurable riches.

And once we have been so dressed, God will give us a name, and that name will be “Righteous peace, godly glory.” And God will show our splendor everywhere under heaven.

It is too much for us to comprehend. And perhaps God knew Online Pokies this too, because Baruch’s words to us are not yet complete. He says, “Arise, stand upon the height. look towards the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.”

Certainly we have heard this theme before. Isaiah says almost exactly this in chapter 40: “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

God seems to enjoy toying with directions- bringing what is up down and bringing what is down up. And certainly there is an aspect in Baruch’s book that meant a very real political struggle- mountains of oppression called the Babylonian Empire, valleys of sadness called exile. God is here to even the playing fields, to humble the mighty and to give might to the humble. But perhaps also God is here to even the playing fields even for us, whose feet seem to falter even when robed in glory and crowned with righteousness and named Righteous Peace and Godly Glory. Because despite all those lavish gifts we receive, our eyes scale up that mountain and we wonder if we have it in us. We wonder if God somehow may have made a mistake, giving all of this to us, when we clearly aren’t capable of anything near God’s declarations. What if we let him down? What if we lose our way? What if our hope falters?

And Baruch says to us again, take off the robe of your sorrow and affliction. Set it down. God is going to make a way so straight, so clear, so smooth, that none can falter, than none will fail, that not one will be lost. God is making a way for us to walk safely to him.

In this season of Advent, what we find when we arrive there is a baby born to a young maiden. The son of the Most High God who enters the world garment-less, vulnerable and exposed. The Messiah will face that which we cannot face, will endure that which we could not endure, because that is what God’s love looks like.

Grace upon grace, immeasurable riches.

So as my Advent prayer for all of us I echo what Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians: I pray that we may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Amen.

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