For Our World in The New Year

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The Centre Cannot Hold

We know the story. We live in a world coming apart. Marriage is taught as if there is no real definition. The family is left in disarray, children often adrift. Private property and wealth are up for grabs. Neighbor is divided against neighbor.

W.B. Yeats (in “Second Coming”) gave it poetic description:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

The poet T.S. Eliot wrote of it as a Waste Land where the great civilizations—which he signified as “Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria, Vienna, London”—ended up as “falling towers,” so that at the end of the day nothing real stood.

For the Blessing of Family and Neighbor

But the Lord didn’t give it this way. He set it all in place to bring forth life. He not only created life, he established the institutions by which life would be continually created (procreation) and kept in health and wholeness. Institutions such as the marriage of man and woman, the family, property and wealth, were set in place for the blessing and benefit of all.

He spoke it all into being, speaking the words to set the heavens and the Earth in place. He founded all things of creation, the waters, the animals, the humans, our parents Adam and Eve, and he not only created these things, but he provided for their procreation and continued thriving throughout the years, into eternity.

To do that, God spoke the words instituting mothers and fathers, families and children, instituting the marriage of a man and a woman, setting in place all people as neighbors, in order that all might honor one another and rejoice in serving in our vocations to help and build up neighbor.

The Conversation Bestowing Life

God does it with words; it’s a on-going, life-giving conversation. It begins with words spoken between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:26:

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The Father sends forth his Son as the Word creating all things. The Holy Spirit is moving over the depths, over all creation, bringing the gifts of the Lord, having been sent forth from the Father and the Son. From the three voices we hear the conversation of life: “Let us make man in our Image,” man and woman created he them. From the three voices we hear all that is instituted for life and procreation and health and order.

The Protection of The Life-Giving Institutions

The voices of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit go out to the ends of the Earth, to the reaches of the sky and the stars of the galaxies, creating all for the benefit of man and woman and their families. Then, after our sin brings creation into jeopardy, this conversation of our God gives the Commandments to show our sin and to protect the life-giving institutions put in place in creation. Marriage of man and woman, respect of father and mother, gifts of family, the protecting of one another’s property so that our neighbor’s family and wealth are upheld, and all the matters of the peaceful ordering of society, are given as gift in the Ten Commandments.

We are given to find the words to recognize God’s works and to extol his ongoing gift of creation and the institutions he established for the children of Adam and Eve in the Psalms:

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours out speech,

and night to night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words,

whose voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out through all the Earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

[FROM PSALM 19, OF THE 3rdSUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY]

This creating, life-upholding conversation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, goes out over all the Earth. He wants his words to be our words, too, so he gives us the prayer to speak back to him:

Let the words of my mouth

and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

[PSALM 19:14]

The Conversation of Repentance and Faith

God’s words, though, are not our words, his thoughts not our thoughts, as we live in our sinful flesh. He knows the thoughts of our minds, the meditations of our hearts.

So, he gives us his words. By his Law (which always accuses) and his Gospel (which justifies and cleanses), he gives us the gift of repentance and faith. Then, in this life of faith, we take up the words our Lord gives us, praying that “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD.”

The Word of Grace

The Apostle Paul writes:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you.  [1 CORINTHIANS 1:5]

God’s new word is the grace given us in Christ Jesus. This is the Word of Gospel declaring us absolved of the thoughts darkening our minds. This is the word that by the blood of Christ Jesus, we are justified and cleansed of all the thoughts and words of our sin we have held onto and keep repeating over and over. By this Word of Gospel, we are given life and enriched by our Lord in all speech and all knowledge.

He enriches us by the testimony of the cross of Christ Jesus, by the declaration of absolution, by the forgiveness bestowed in the Body and Blood he distributes in the church. When this testimony of the Gospel is confirmed among us, we have no sin to hold against one another, nor any to hold onto in our minds.

All this comes to us as a gift from the conversation in Heaven—the conversation of the God the Son interceding to the Father with his own blood, of God the Holy Spirit bringing that conversation to sinners on Earth in the preaching of the Gospel, of the Church gathered to the Name of Jesus to be joined in the conversation.

Words for The Benefit of Our World

As we look around to see our world, and we see Yeats’s

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

and Eliot’s Waste Land, we do not despair. Rather, we join the conversation of Heaven. We give thanks that, even as we live in our sinful flesh, at the same time we live in our life of faith, living as those justified by the Word of Christ Jesus.

Having given thanks for this justification, we pray for neighbor and world.

We pray that our Lord’s institutions of the marriage of man and woman, of respect for father and mother, of protecting our neighbor’s home and property and wealth for the benefit of all families, may be upheld not only by those in authority but by ourselves and by all.

And we pray, chiefly, that the conversation of Heaven, the words of the Son interceding to his Father for the justification of the sinner, may go forth to be heard by all those yet living in the despair of sin and death, that they, too, would be brought out of the fear and division of the Waste Land into the joy and fellowship of the Gospel.

In the Name of Jesus.

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