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“Seek the Lord where He may be found, call Him while He is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving. My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts.
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Next Sunday – the season of Advent begins. Unfortunately, Advent is one of those instances in which the Church has permitted the culture of society to take over the Church’s heritage. Advent is a penitential season – a season of calling to mind our sins and failures, and to look to the Christ Child as the Birth of our salvation. In America, the “Christmas season” began two days ago, and has the inappropriate name of “Black Friday” – which makes no sense whatsoever to those who understand the seasons of the Church Year.
Next Sunday, we will read Matthew’s Gospel, telling us about John the Baptist, and sing “On Jordan’s Bank, the Baptist Cries.” The rest of the words? “Announces that the Lord is nigh” – “nigh” meaning “near.” Why, that comes right from the opening of our lesson from Isaiah! – “Seek the Lord where He may be found, call upon Him while He is near!”
It is right there we see something of the quality and purpose of the book of Isaiah – his focus on the promises of God, and forgiveness. Theologians call him “the Fifth Evangelist” – the Fifth Gospel writer – he writes so much like the Apostles in speaking of sin and forgiveness:
“Seek the Lord where He may be found, call Him while He is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.”
Perfect Law and Gospel – right out of the Catechism we learned in Confirmation Class.
But who is this “scoundrel – this wicked one with his thoughts?” None of us are scoundrels, are we? Or wicked with wicked thoughts, right? Well, Isaiah is talking about each one of us – being scoundrels and wicked in thought, word and deed. That’s not the kind of stuff we want to hear, now is it? We tend to think of ourselves as “making a mistake here or there” – but a scoundrell? Wicked? Yes – that is exactly what Isaiah is saying, as do Christ and the Apostles in the Gospels and the New Testament. Consider the words of Paul:
Read Ephesians 2:1-10.
Or the brief but pointed words of St. John (I – 1:8-9)
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Those sound just like Isaiah, and they should, because we are all scoundrels, wicked and dead in sin. But God in Christ is rich in mercy – “generous” as Isaiah put it. In the preaching of the Word in every Divine Liturgy, these truths of the Word, as well as the Baptism of Jesus which we celebrate next Sunday, the Baptism of Christ into which we, ourselves were buried together with Christ, that as He has risen, so we, too, shall rise!
That began the earthly ministry of Jesus to go to the Cross to redeem the world, for He did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. And Jesus taught and preached the very same, all the while preparing the Apostles as his first pastors and preachers, of whom we in the Ministry are their Scriptural descendants, preaching the Word in season and out of season!
And the last He did before His betrayal and crucifixion, was to institute His Sacrament of His Body and Blood, for us to eat and drink for the complete forgiveness of sin. Again – Isaiah’s words hearken to us as we, the baptized, hear the Word of the Gospel, and receive His holy Body and Blood:
“Seek the Lord where He may be found, call Him while He is near.”
And here in this sancturary, at this pulpit and that font and especially, at that Holy Altar – He can be found here; He is nigh – near to us – as close as our ears and eyes and hands and mouths are tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, that He is found here and near to us always in our worship through the Liturgy – where He changes the scoundrels and the wicked and sinners – changes us – and makes us Children of God and His brothers and sisters for eternity!
With Isaiah, and all the Prophets and Apostles, and together with all the saints of whose number we all are –
“Let us always turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.”
In Christ Jesus –
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