Monday, October 13, 2008

A Feast of Life.

Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 25: 6-9
Bror Erickson

[6] On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
[7] And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
[8] He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:6-8 (ESV)

And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples,
The veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever.

What wondrous language. The covering that covers all people, the veil spread over all nations, death. He will swallow up death forever, on this mountain, where he makes for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
Death, a cover, a veil that covers all people. We know death. We know it. It waits for us. It covers us. No one gets out alive they say. We fear death. We dread death. Oh we put on a brave face. But in the end we fear it. Life would be much better if we didn’t die, if there was not death. Can you imagine what that would be like? Life without death.
Of course there is part of me that never really wanted to live past thirty. Part of me says are you sure 80 sounds fun? Who wants to spend twenty years in the old folks home, having nurses change your diapers? I don’t know maybe I will find something to live for when I can no longer chase dogs across desert mountains, and enjoy a glass of scotch. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll be honest, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of getting old. But then that is death. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about living forever without death. Growing old, life support, old folks homes, that is all the result of death, slowly taking over our bodies, slowly but surely gaining the upper hand. Who am I kidding? It isn’t slow. It comes on fast, faster for some than others, but it is death, the result of sin. It is always there, right around the corner. I want life without death, without sin. And I can’t imagine what that would be like.
Life is good. I like life. I get glimpses of life every once in awhile and they intrigue me. A day spent doing much of nothing with my wife. That is life. A day fishing with my son. Wish I had more of those. That is life. Scotch and a cigar on the back porch. That is life. Exploring some part of God’s world, art museums in Europe, a sidewalk cafĂ©, meeting new people. That is life. A Sunday morning worshiping and communing with God, amidst my family and friends at church. The joy of seeing a prodigal return and be forgiven. That is life. An evening spent with friends, a good dinner, maybe a Jaeger Schnitzel covered in a gravy made of marrow, and a bottle of wine, after a day’s hunt. That is life.
I think I could explore life like that for an eternity and not get bored, not get tired. We think men like Hemingway lived life to the fullest, bull fights in Spain, rhino hunting in Africa. Perhaps he lived it to the fullest of what this earthly life has to offer, but he still lived under the veil of death. The veil of death doesn’t let us live life, not to the fullest. It suffocates us, sucks the life out of our lungs, chokes us so we begin to despise life, cripples us in time. From the moment we are born we fight with death, we wrestle with it, trying to hold on to what little life we have. Death assaults us time after time, at first it comes with a cold, or an ear infection. We live through it we beat it back. It comes on again, cancer, aids, a car accident. We might beat it back but it leaves us scarred, jaded. It takes our parents, maybe our spouse, it grabs at our children and sometimes snatches them. Life becomes miserable, perhaps lonely. Depression sets in, we lose creativity, we lose the lust for life. Oh you’ve seen it in the older of your friends, as they waste away looking out some window of a nursing home. The lust for life gone, they suffer death with every breath. Or perhaps like Hemingway they just end it. Life was never to be that way. We were created to live forever without death, without this veil suffocating us.
God says on this mountain I will swallow up that veil, I will conquer it. I will swallow up death forever. And so He does on a mountain. A mountain right outside the city gates of Jerusalem, Golgotha. There God swallowed up death, that you might live life, eternal life, without death. On that mountain He prepared for us a banquet of life, with the forgiveness of sins. His body a rich food, his blood, in an aged wine well refined, the forgiveness of your sins. There He died that you might live. There He died to give you His life, so that you might live forever.
Oh we still have death in this world, but it has no power over us. God swallowed it up. It still comes on and attacks us. But it has no victory. God died that you might have life. And He has given that life to you now. Life. Real life, enjoyable life.
Too many are waiting to live that life, a life they can enjoy. Too many Christians who believe in Christ, still walk around captured by guilt and doubt. Don’t let death do it, don’t let the devil do it. You have been forgiven, you have life, in Christ. Christ didn’t die on the cross for you to go around feeling guilty all the time. Repentance has its place. But it is followed by forgiveness. And in forgiveness you have life, so live it. Those days when you catch the glimpses of the good life, with your son fishing, with your friends enjoying dinner, or hiking the hills. That is the life God wants for you. You will have those other days, the ones suffocated by sin and death. They are part and parcel of this world for now. But even then you can remember that life to its fullest for all eternity comes when we are taken from this valley of sorrow to our Lord in heaven. And there in heaven we will learn to enjoy life to its fullest. There we will live eternally in that sublime joy of life. There we will know the fullness of that joy that comes when we worship and commune with God amidst family and friends, and rejoice with the prodigals for our salvation, the swallowing of death. In the meantime we have the foretaste of the feast to come, the feast of rich food, and well aged wine, and with it forgiveness of sins, and victory over death, in the one who now lives though He once died, who sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. And on that day you will be the living.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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