Our God is a God of peace. We sing it each week: Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. That angelic Christmas hymn is one of the many reminders in each Divine Service that Jesus has come to bring us peace, to restore communion between God and man. All of those works which He does to restore that peace are His natural works. This is what we prayed about in today’s Collect, confessing that God’s almighty power is shown, first and foremost, in His mercy and pity.
Sadly, our God also has alien works, things that are foreign to His nature. Those alien works are the bringing of anger and wrath in the place of grace and peace. This is necessary because of mankind’s sinfulness. When man rejects what makes for peace, wrath follows. Although He came in peace to the City of Peace, Jesus did not give peace to those who were buying and selling in the Temple. The Messiah came, but they did not know the time of their visitation.
This is why Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. He isn’t crying like a two year old having a temper tantrum; He is weeping as a jilted lover. All He gave was love, but Jerusalem insisted on committing adultery. He killed the fattened calf, set the table, and poured the wine, but Jerusalem went to her boyfriend’s house and spent the night. Jesus doesn’t want to perform His alien work. He wants to bring peace, to speak tender words, to rejoice in forgiveness and reconciliation, but they reject it. Just like Jesus says in Matthew’s recording of this same incident: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the Prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Mt. 23:37)
We must pause; we must reflect. Jesus is not only speaking to the city of Jerusalem, to the Jews who rejected Him and insisted on a different Messiah, one in their own image and likeness. He speaks to all of us, weeps over all of us. How often have we all chosen our own path? How often have we preferred the sinful ways of the world and gone off to do exactly what God commands that we not do? How often have we forgotten that we as Christians are called to be salt and light in this world, to live in a way that people will see our lives and conduct and glorify our Father in heaven? How often do we, intentionally or unintentionally, forget the day of His visitation, that He will come again to judge the living and the dead? Beloved in the Lord, repent, lest the wrath of God be poured out on you for your sin!
And when you repent, know that there is full forgiveness for all your sin. Though you have, with Jerusalem, gone off after other lovers, the Lord welcomes you back. He does not hold His anger against you, nor does He keep a record of wrongs! His weeping turns to tears of joy because He is able to return to the work He loves to do, the work He came to do, to give His forgiveness to you, to bring you back to the Father blameless and holy. His rejoicing joins with the whole company of heaven who rejoices over one sinner who repents.
That repentance brings joy because it is always and immediately followed by forgiveness. The One who wept over Jerusalem was delivered up and made the once-for-all sacrifice on the altar of the cross. In that sacrifice all your sins are atoned for. And because you are marked with His Blood and the Triune Name in Holy Baptism, you are marked as one redeemed by Christ, one for whom He has cleared away all sin.
So as the Lord entered this temple this morning, He found a house full of forgiven, reborn saints, His beloved brothers and sisters, those whom He has redeemed, those to whom He has given faith in Him. And because in His great love for you He has given you His Holy Spirit, you are made one with Him and one with each other, one communion with Christ, your Lord.
The same Lord that entered the Temple in Jerusalem is in our midst this morning. God in the flesh is among us, just as He has promised to be! The same Body and Blood that cleared the Temple and taught His Word is here on the Altar, given to you to eat and to drink, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
So for you God does the work that is natural to His being. God brings peace. He is the God of Love. It is in His nature to bring love and peace, comfort and holiness to His people, which is to say, He brings a bit of heaven to you. Here you experience heaven on earth as you receive a Foretaste of the Feast to come, united with the whole company of heaven, the angels and archangels and all the faithful who have gone before you and now rest from their labors. Today He brings to you the things that make for peace. In faith, you know this is the day of your visitation, because here in this place God has visited and redeemed His people, declared you righteous and holy, at peace with Him today and forever.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.